Vespa has evolved from a single model motor scooter manufactured in 1946 by Piaggio & Co. S.p.A. of Pontedera, Italy -- to a full line of scooters and one of seven companies today owned by Piaggio -- now Europe's largest manufacturer of two-wheeled vehicles and the world's fourth largest motorcycle manufacturer by unit sales.
From their inception, Vespa scooters have been known for their painted, pressed steel unibody which combines a complete cowling for the engine (enclosing the mechanicals and concealing dirt or grease), a flat floorboard (providing foot protection), and a prominent front fairing (providing wind protection) -- into a structural unit as well as a singularly endearing and enduring shape.
As the first globally successful scooter, the Vespa has enjoyed tremendous prominence in popular culture -- and has become a symbol of stylish personal transportation.
The name Vespa
The first prototype was given the initials MP5 and baptized "Paperino," the Italian name for Donald Duck, a nick-name given to it by the workers because of the strange shape it had. Enrico Piaggio did not like the design and asked D'Ascanio to redesign it - which he did with a more aeronautical-derived aerodynamic look.
When the second prototype called MP6, was shown to Enrico Piaggio and he heard the buzzing sound of the engine he exclaimed: "Sembra una vespa!" ("It reminds me of a wasp!") The name stuck.
Vespa is both Latin and Italian for wasp—derived from both the high-pitched noise of the two-stroke engine, and adopted as a name for the vehicle in reference to its body shape: the thicker rear part connected to the front part by a narrow waist, and the steering rod resembled antennae.
Vespas were imported into the United States and sold by Sears Roebuck through their catalog and in stores from 1952 till 1965 and sold under the Allstate brand. In 1966 they sold two models, the Vespa Sprint and Vespa Smallframe 125, commonly referred as the "Blue Badge" models.
Cushman sold the Vespa 125 and GS 150 models for a short period of time.
Maker of one of the world's most popular scooters, the Vespa P Series, which has been in production since 1977.
Vespa currently sells new scooters in the United States that retain the originals' steel pressed frame, but now have automatic engines (save for the PX150). Initially Vespa sold them exclusively through "boutique" dealerships, which sold Vespa branded shirts and handbags in an "upscale" setting alongside the scooters. (see Modern Vespas)
Vespa is also casually used by non-scooterists to refer to any scooter, regardless of make.
The Vespa is remarkably well-suited to long distance rides. See Touring
The Vespa is remarkably well-suited to being a fashion accessory. See Vespa as Fashion Accessory
- Paperino - the original prototype made in 1945 at Biella
- AMCA Troupes Aeról Portées Mle. 56 - A Vespa modified by the French military that incorporated an anti tank weapon.
- VNC Super 125
- VBC Super 150
- VLB Sprint 150
- VBA Standard 150 (3-speed)
- VBB Standard 150 (4-speed)
- Grand Turismo 125
- VNB Standard 125 (4-speed)
- Vespa U - U is for utilitaria (English - economic). 1953 model with a price of 110 mila Lira, 7,000 were produced
- Grand Sport 150
- Super Sport 180
- Grand Sport 160
- Standard 90 (3-speed)
- Standard 50 (3-speed)
- Super Sprint 50 (4-speed)
- Super Sprint 90 (4-speed)
- Grand Lusso 150
- 90 Racer
- TS 125
- 100 Sport
- 125 GTR
- 150 Sprint Veloce
- Super Sport 180
- Rally 180
- Rally 200
- Primavera 125 also ET3 (3 port version)
- PK 50
- PK 50 XL
- PK 50 Roma (Automatic)
- 50 Special
- 50 Special Elestart
- 50 Sprinter / 50 SR (D)
- 50 Special Revival (Limited to 3000 Italy-only numbered units, released in 1991)
- Cosa 1 - 125cc, 150cc, 200cc
- Cosa 2 - 125cc, 150cc, 200cc
- P 80 / P80 E (France)
- P 80X/PX80 E (France)
- PK 80S / Elestart
- PK 80S Automatica / Elestart
- PK 100 S / Elestart
- PK 100 S Automatica
- [[PK 100[[ XL
- PK 125 XL / Elestart
- PK 125 S
- PK 125 E
- PK 125 automatica (automatic transmission)
- P 125 X
- P 200E
- PX 200EFL
- PX 200 Serie Speciale (Limited to 400 UK-only numbered units)
- T5 / Elestart (5 port engine 125cc P series)
- T5 Classic (5 port engine 125cc P series)
- T5 Millennium (5 port engine 125cc P series) (Limited to 400 UK-only numbered units)
- ET2 50 - 2stroke
- ET4 50 - 4stroke
- ET4 125 (Euro Model)
- ET4 150 (Euro Model)
- ET4 150 (US model)
- PX 200
- Vespa S 50 and S 125 (new model 2007, introduced at Milan Motorshow November 2006
- GT 60° 250cc Limited Edition. 999 produced worldwide and unique with the front fender light and each one receiving a commemorative badge, personalized with the owner’s initials.
- LX 50
- LX 125
- LXV 125 (60th anniversary variant of LX 125)
- LX 150
- GT 125
- GT 200
- GTS 250
- GTV 250 (60th anniversary variant of GTS 250)
- GTS 300 (Super - larger capacity variant of GTS 250)
- GTS 300 (Super Sport - variant of GTS 300)
- PX 125
- PX 150 (reintroduced to US and Canadian Markets in 2004)
One-offs and special machines:
- Montlhéry - produced in 1950 to break world records on the French Montlhéry circuit of the same name, it very smashed 17 records in 10 hours
- Torpedo - 1951 125cc special with counter-opposing pistons, Dino Mazzoncini set the world record on the kilometer at an average of 171 km/h
Vespas sold under other marques
Vespas also typically have Nieman fork locks.
These companies produce performance parts for Vespas:
- Official Vespa site - all the models and a complete history section
- Vespa at the Piaggio Museum the official factory museum
- Dolce vita on a Vespa - summary of Peter Moore's travels in Italy on a Vespa
- The Vespa Diaries - cultural exploration on a Vespa