#1368? Eighty years… young and counting!!

By Pascal Ollier | Travel Photography

Jun 28

Have you ever heard of the town of Pontedera? Ponte whatttt?

Rest assured, until recently, I had not either.

You may recall that a while back, our automobile museum here in Brussels, Autoworld, celebrated the 75th anniversary of the most famous Italian wasp, the Piaggio Vespa.

 

Well, it is indeed in Pontedera that it was born, a small (and, unusually for Tuscany, somewhat unremarkable) town located between Florence and Pisa, right after the second world war, and, more importantly, after the rubble above was taken out of the Piaggio factory.

Italy being defeated, the array of products coming out of said manufacturing plant was strictly limited (no more aero engines etc.).

 

While the Autoworld exhibit concentrated mostly on “conventional” motorcycles like this one (please pardon the language!), the museum offers a wider variety of vehicles coming from the Piaggio engineers’ imagination.

 

Yes, Piaggio also made cars.…

However, when they looked at what they could come up with around the Vespa moped, they seemed to be unstoppable.

 

This is a racing version where the “driver” lies around the bodywork to reduce drag.

 

Yet another track model, I guess comfort was not lying (?) on top of their priorities…

 

While Piaggio also produced aircraft, the engineers also did some research around the Vespa…Not sure I’d be willing to fly one of those…

Apparently, a sort of military version was also contemplated.

 

I can’t really imagine how they dealt with recoil…

 

You had to be long-armed to drive this one…

 

Close to eighty years down the road, the original Vespa remains the most famous product ever sold by Piaggio, from the early models,

 

which had a two stroke engine, a foot brake, a manual gear change,

 

to more recent versions, endowed with environmentally friendlier four stroke engine (or even electric power), an automatic gearbox all the way to ABS disc brakes.

 

 

 

There is always a Vespa to suit your mood…

 

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  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Considering the sheer simplicity of the machine, that’s an amazingly varied selection, Pascal. And an interesting account of the history of the company’s products.

  • Ian Varkevisser says:

    A fascinating pictorial history of some quirky variants down the years. Well documented in splendid imagery.

    • Pascal Ollier says:

      Thank you, Ian ! It was an interesting visit, as the Vespa is absolutely everywhere to be seen in Italy; young, old, men, women, all users, when prompted, have their tales about their own experience, it’s a club! Thank you again for your kind comments.

  • Philberphoto says:

    There was once a book (T. Kidder, 2000) called “the soul of a new machine”. This, is “the soul of an old machine”. How well you have captured not only how it looked, how it could be made to look, or what it did and what it could be made to do, but its soul. Total fan of your post. Congrats!

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