Did you know?
- Vespa is an Italian brand of scooter manufactured by Piaggio.
- The word Vespa means Wasp in both Italian and Latin!
- There has now been 138 different versions of the Vespa since production began.
- When Vespa celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1996, more than 15 million of the scooters had been sold worldwide, making it the most successful scooter of all time.
Piaggio & The Vespa
Piaggio is founded in Genoa by 20 year old Rinaldo Piaggio as a luxury ship building company that expanded into producing rail carriages, automobiles, marine craft and later aeronautics
Enrico Piaggio and his brother Armando inherited the family engineering business on their father’s death in 1938. Enrico decided to move the business from aircraft to scooter production after the end of the war as there was a need for low cost transport.
This proved to be a prudent move as the company would eventually become one of the biggest manufacturers of two-wheeled vehicles in the world and in fact The Piaggio group is now Europe’s largest manufacturer of two-wheeled vehicles and the world’s fourth largest motorcycle manufacturer by unit sales. The group own 7 companies. Piaggio, Aprilia, Moto Guzzi, Derbi, Vespa, Gilera and Ligier.
The Vespa was introduced by Piaggio to the post world war 2 Italian market. The 98cc scooter was actually invented by Corradino D’Ascanio. Later this same year the 125cc Vespa model was also introduced.
In 1950 Piaggio opened a factory in Germany and a year later in the UK (Douglas of Bristol). The Vespa was soon manufactured in 13 countries and sold in 114!
In 1952 The European Vespa Club is founded in Milan to bring together the clubs of Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland, Holland & Belgium.
Although the Lambretta was starting to gain popularity in the 50’s by 1956 Vespa had still sold over 1 million vehicles.
The Italian Government makes it mandatory for all vehicles over 50cc to have license plates.
As a result of the MOD subculture that developed in the 1960s, the United Kingdom has become Vespa’s second largest global market
In 1978 the Vespa PX is born.
In 1984 Piaggio marks its 100th Anniversary and by 1988 sales had exceeded 10 million.
A new lifestyle evolved from the UK mods of the 60’s and by the late 80’s/90’s thousands of ‘Scooterists’ attended national scooter rallies held around the UK each year. Although with a smaller attendance level these still happen today.
When Vespa celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1996, more than 15 million of the scooters had been sold worldwide. Other companies vied with Piaggio for market share, but none came close to emulating the success—or romance—of Vespa.
The PX returns… Update to this story coming soon!
Douglas of Bristol
Douglaswas a British motorcycle manufacturer from 1907 – 1957 based in Kingswood, Bristol, owned by the Douglas family, and especially known for its horizontally opposed twin cylinder engine bikes and as manufacturers of speedway machines.
Brothers William and Edward Douglas founded the Douglas Engineering Company in Bristol. Initially doing blacksmith work, they progressed to foundry work, and then acquired the flat twin design of W. J. Barter, the founder of Light Motors Ltd. Barter had produced his first single-cylinder motorcycle between 1902 and 1904, and then a 200 cc horizontal twin called the Fair but the Light Motors Ltd. failed in 1907 and was taken over by the Douglas family.
The company manufactured and sold the first Douglas 350 cc version of the horizontal twin motorbike.
The engine was placed lengthways in the frame with belt final drive, and electric lighting. During WWI Douglas was a major motorcycle supplier, making around 70,000 motorcycles for military use.
Douglas built the first disc brakes, and had a Royal Warrant for the supply of motorcycles to the Princes, Albert and Henry. Douglas motorcycles also became popular in dirt track racing
They were in difficulty and were taken over by BAC, Bond Aircraft and Engineering Company. Motorcycle production continued into WWII and was extended to generators.
Not long after the war, Douglas was in difficulty again and reduced its output to the 350 cc flat twin models.
The MD Claude McCormack caught sight of a Vespa whilst on holiday in Italy and almost immediately made arrangements with Piaggio to build it under licence in the UK. A Piaggio built machine first appeared on the Douglas Stand at the motorcycle Show at Earls Court in 1949 but production did not start until April 1951.
Struggling again the 350 cc Douglas Dragonfly was the last model produced. Westinghouse Brake and Signal bought Douglas out and production of Douglas Motorcycles ended in 1957.
Vespa production ceased with 126,230 units being completed. The company then decided to import Vespa’s instead of manufacturing them.
Douglas ceased importing Vespa scooters into the UK.
The Vespa Club of Britain
In May 1952 with the start of Vespa production in the UK the first branch of the Vespa Club of Britain was formed in North West London by Mr William (Bill) Mitchell Bond.
By 1957 Bill had established a secretariat in Finchley Road, London.
By the early 60’s there were a number of rallies being held. Eurovespa Rallies were held annually with Britain hosting the 1960 Annual European Regularity Championship. They also organised an Annual Super National Rally with branches organising many national rallies. A total of 13 regions & 140 branches were in place by this period.
The VCB moved its office to the Douglas works in Bristol in 1961 and had a few years of glory before the cost of Vespa’s and Insurance increased and car prices decreased causing membership numbers to begin to fall.
The VCB became self sufficient and continued to organise rallies through the 70’s & 80’s.
1996: 50th Anniversary of the Vespa was celebrated by a rally held at Billing Aquadome, Northampton
2006 saw the last Eurovespa held in Turin, Italy and then the following year saw the first Vespa World Days held in San Marino.
Membership of the club is now growing again and we are seeing a large number of 80’s & 90’s Scooterists returning to the scooter scene.
Vespa World Days are now held every year and 2012 sees The Vespa Club of Britain celebrating its 60th Anniversary by hosting the Vespa World Days event in London, UK.
The Club would like to thank all staff and members past and present who have helped with all their hard work and dedication over the years.
See some of these people listed below:
The late Mr William (Bill) Mitchell Bond (General Secretary 1952-1960; President 1961-1963)
The late Mrs Doreen Behan (Secretary 1952-1952)
Mrs Janet Jones (Asst General Secretary 1952-1952)
The late Miss Margaret Farquhar (General Secretary 1952-1961, Vice President 1995-2009, Honorary Vice President 2009-2014 )
Mr Claude McCormack (MD of Douglas Kingswood Ltd) (President 1952-1960, Patron 1961-1964)
Mr Gerald Newton (General Secretary 1961)
Mr David Pullom (General Secretary 1962-1965)
The Late Erik Brockway (President 1964 – 1994)
The late Mr Ian Kirkpatrick (General Secretary 1965- 1974)
The late Mr Charles Caswell (Vice President 1966–1994, President 1995-2001,
Honorary Life President 2001-2012)
Mr Clive Mills (General Secretary 1991-1995)
Mr Leslie Smith (Vice President 1995-2000, President 2001-2005)
Mr Barry Baker (General Secretary 1995-1997)
Mr Robin Quartermain (General Secretary 1997-1998)
Mr David Best (General Secretary 1998-2005)
Mr David Burley (General Secretary 2005-2006, President 2007-Feb 2013)
Mr Mark Freer (General Secretary 2006-Feb 2013)
Mr Alan Stevens (Vice President 2007-Feb 2013)
Patrice Baxter (General Secretary 2009 – 2011)
Mr Robin Quaterman (PresidentMarch 2013-present)
Vespa Cog Badges
Since the 1st Vespa Club annual rallies metal COG badges have been produced to commemorate the event.
These are one of the most desirable items of Vespa memorabilia and have generally remained the same size and material since the fifties to the present day.
Badges were produced for rallies, regional branches and individual Vespa clubs.
For more information go to:
For more information on cog badges and the history of the VCB go to:
Vespas are often split into 2 categories
Small Frame & Large Frame.
The Small Frame are the 50cc-125cc versions, all using an engine derived from the 50cc model of 1963.
The Large Frame are the 125cc-200cc displacements using engines derived from the redesigned 125cc engine from the late1950s
These range from a 50cc up to a 300cc. All have electric start and are twist & go’s although a new revised verion of the old PX 125 which is a geared model has been released in 2011.
List of Vespas
Paperino – the original prototype made in 1945 at Biella
Vespa 150 TAP – A Vespa modified by the French military that incorporated an antitank weapon.
VNC Super 125
VBC Super 150
VLB Sprint 150
VBA Standard 150
VBB Standard 150
Vespa U – U is for utilitaria (English – economic). 1953 model with a price of 110 mila Lire (about US$175), 7,000 were produced
Standard 90 (3 spd)
Standard 50 (3 spd)
SS50 (4 spd)
SS90 (4 spd)-90 SS Super Sprint
150 Sprint Veloce (Vespa Sprint)
180 SS Super Sport
125 Nuova (VMA-1T) – Prelude to Primavera
Primavera 125 also ET3 (3 port version)
PK 50 XL
PK 50 Roma (Automatic)
50 Special Elestart
50 Sprinter / 50 SR (D)
50 Special Revival (Limited to 3,000 Italy-only numbered units, released in 1991)
COSA 1 – 125 cc, 150 cc, 200 cc
COSA 2 – 125 cc, 150 cc, 200 cc
P 80 / P 80 E (France)
P 80 X/PX 80 E (France)
PK 80 S / Elestart
PK 80 S 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
PX 125 E/Electronic
P 200 E
PX 200 E FL
PX 200 Serie Speciale (Limited to 400 UK-only numbered units)
T5 / Elestart (5 port engine 125 cc P series)
T5 Classic (5 port engine 125 cc P series)
T5 Millennium (5 port engine 125 cc P series) (Limited to 400 UK-only numbered units)
ET2 50 – 2-stroke
ET4 50 – 4-stroke
ET4 125 (Euro Model)
ET4 150 (Euro Model)
ET4 150 (US model)
ET8 150 (Eastern model)
GT 125 (Granturismo 125)
GT 200 (Granturismo 200)
GTS 250 Super – Only briefly sold in the US where the 278cc engine as used in the 300 Super had not yet been approved for use. Quickly replaced by the GTS 300 Super.
PX 150 (reintroduced to US and Canadian Markets in 2004)
2008 Vespa LX150
LXV 50 (60th anniversary variant of LX50)
LXV 125 (60th anniversary variant of LX125)
GT 60° 250 cc Limited Edition. 999 produced worldwide in unique colours and each one receiving a commemorative badge, personalized with the owner’s initials. Features the front-fender-mounted headlight, shared only with the GTV 250.
GTS 250 ie abs
GTS 300 (2010)
GTS 300 Super (2008)
GTV 125 (60th anniversary variant of GTS 125)
GT60 (60th anniversary limited run variant of GTS 250) Features the fender mounted headlight as a tribute to the original Vespas.
GTV 250 Standard model based on the GTS250ie. Physically similar to the GT60, but available in a choice of colours.
PX 30 125 (A limited edition, only 1000 produced to celebrate the 30 years of the P range
S 50 and S 125 new model 2007, introduced at Milan Motorshow November 2006
S 150 (2008)
Zafferano 50 cc and 125 cc (A limited edition, only 200 produced)
PX125 Reintroduced in 2011
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