This is not a story of a scooter. This is the story of a legend.
Just being aboard a Vespa is like riding a hugely outstanding and colourful piece of two-wheel history… history which early in its being, moved into the realm of art and good design.
A Vespa of 1955, regarded as the best looking scooter in the world, is proudly displayed in the permanent collection of New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), and In the World Industrial Design Day of the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design the Vespa was named one of the most significant and successful ideas that have marked industrial creativity in the last century.
Recently, we at Motor were fortunate to meet with this one-of-a-kind design and we bring you images and our impressions of that meeting. Be warned, though: In the space we have, we can present a few images only; the Vespa must be seen in the flesh, really.
To personally see the Vespa reviewed here, and its siblings, visit the Vespa showroom at Colonial Motors PLC in Colombo and the Vespa Dealers in select towns around the island.
The Vespa Elegante 150 is our test bike. Its Vespa siblings are the LX, the VXL and the SXL (Sport version; also with square headlight). Prices are from Rs 325,000 (LX), through to Rs 430,500 for the top of the range Elegante 150.
Of course, these prices are at the upper end of scooter prices in Sri Lanka. Vespa is more than just a commute. Vespa is a lifestyle. Vespa is exclusive. Vespa is a conversation opener, in any social company.
While doing the photoshoot of our Vespa we had young motorcycle and scooter riders look on with hugely happy faces, bubbling over in delight at the sight of the Vespa you see here. They stood there taking in the Vespa, and asking us countless questions about this “sweet thing”, this “cute scooter”, saying that more than any other bike on the road “this scooter is the nicest”. Their aspirations (in terms of “my next bike”) were, no doubt, instantly enhanced and solidified, for the Vespa is an influencer.
The Elegante 150 is one from over 100 models produced along the 71 year history of the ‘Wasp’. Today’s Vespa is built on the world famous tried-and-proven stamped-and-welded (monocoque) steel bodywork process, and uses the same aircraft inspired and derived front suspension system of single arm with helical spring and shock absorber, both bodywork and front suspension being of the original 1946 Vespa layout.
Talking with that two wheel enthusiast Michael Ferdinand who lives his passion working with scooters (at Colonial Motors) I asked him for his impressions of the Vespa on the weekend’s scooter Club get-together and road ride. “My experience of the Vespa on last weekend’s scooter run was of the comfortable suspension and the perfect balance of the bike. The brakes are great especially as the auto transmission means that when you shut the throttle to slow down, a free-wheeling effect comes in at low speed, and the brakes of the Vespa are really superb”. Michael adds that the Vespa from India is styled and designed by Vespa Italy and produced at the Company’s plant in India strictly to Vespa’s quality standards.
Yes, you are right, dear Reader, those are the statements of the Vespa/Piaggio Works Manager and naturally he could be speaking extra fondly of the bikes in his care. But we had already tried out the Vespa Elegante ourselves, and had already found that the scooter was so well behaved on the mixed road surfaces of our test, and we were impressed by the strong front disc brake assembly and the rear drum working in perfect cohesion one with the other.
The Elegante 150 comes with the traditional split saddles you see here while its siblings come with the long saddle. The visor/windscreen seen here is an extra sold and marketed by Colonials for the Vespa and available for purchase by Vespa owners for their scooters.
The fuel tank filler cap is under lock and key in that the saddles have to be un-locked and raised to gain access to this area. Here also is the large stowage bin. The glove box on the front inner apron/shield of the Elegante 150 is so clean that not even its key switch mars its perfect lines. In a clever design, the main switch of the bike is pressed to unlock the glove box flap.
Styling and smart design is in the Vespa’s DNA and another clever bit of thinking is that the headlight/handlebar paneling is clean and streamlined so that the reservoir for the hydraulic fluid for the front disc brake is concealed within the bodywork and a small unobtrusive peep hole in the right handlebar bodywork is the inspection point for the oil level check. Check it out. See if you can spot it.
Aesthetics run through every aspect of the Vespa. The minor controls are so cleanly crafted while being so easy to use. The Vespa has the AHO (Auto Headlight On) feature and is sensitive to greening the environment so the engine is designed for Bharat Stage (BS) IV / Euro III reduced emissions standards. The analog speedometer and the inset digital fuel and odo/trip meter are simple and easy to read, and once again, aesthetic.
Back in the mid-40s the Vespa was designed around the needs of the user and for the human form, what some marketers today may term consumer-centric. The design brief was that it must be affordable, reliable, easy to maintain, must provide a shield from weather, and keep rider and pillion free of oil, grease and dirt. And, of course, Italy being Italy, you could not keep style out of the equation.
The Vespa met the brief; Italian ladies could board the step-thru scooter conveniently, the scooter was easy to ride, the in-body engine and the weather shield meant that the ladies’ pretty clothes remained clean and fresh. This was the start of feminine emancipation in personal mobility. The Vespa was an immediate success. Then movie actors Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck and their 1953 Vespa enjoyed an exuberant ride within Rome in the movie ‘Roman Holiday’. The movie, Hepburn, Peck and the Vespa, became instant star icons.
The Vespa remains today easy to use, and clean, and fun to ride, and stylish. You’d love to have this piece of fun and functional art in your home.
VESPA, PIAGGIO, COLONIAL MOTORS
Since 1946 more than 18 million Vespa motor scooters have been manufactured in thirteen countries and sold in 115 markets. The Vespa is so much a part of society and culture that in addition to being recognized for art and style and outstanding industrial design, the Vespa has raised the levels of leisure living and freed peoples from outmoded pre-Vespa thinking.
The words ‘vespisti’ (people whose lives revolve around the Vespa scooter and Vespa culture) and ‘Vespanomics’ (about environment, personal satisfaction, and economics in terms of reducing fuel usage, pollution and traffic congestion) are part of common language.
Vespa is a product of Piaggio & Company SpA, Italy. Piaggio was established in 1884 and has along its over 13 decades manufactured woodwork and fittings for nautical use, then for rail carriages, moving to trucks, trams, buses, and even luxury automobiles.
Along the way Piaggio also manufactured aircraft engines and the company’s own designed aircraft, too. Today, the Piaggio umbrella covers the iconic motorcycles and scooters Aprilia, Derbi, Gilera, Moto Guzzi, Piaggio, Vespa, and the Piaggio Commercial vehicles range. In 2012 Piaggio inaugurated Vespa production in its own plant in India’s Maharashtra State.
Colonial Motors PLC is the local Sole Distributor for Vespa scooters. Prasad Dushmantha, Brand Executive, tells us “The monocoque construction and the aircraft-inspired front suspension are features of the original design and are unique to the Vespa.”
About where the Vespa is available, Prasad says, “Our Head Office in Peliyagoda and our showrooms at Union Place (Colombo) and Dealerships in Anuradhapura, Galle, Jaffna, Jaela, Mannar and other select towns carry the Vespa scooters. We also have leasing arrangements with five reputable financing/leasing organizations.”
VESPA ELEGANTE 150
Air-cooled 4-stroke single-cylinder 3 valve
58 x 58.6 mm Bore x Stroke
9.0:1 Compression Ratio
CHASSIS AND RUNNING GEAR
Wheelbase 1290 mm
Tyres - Front 110/70 x 11
Rear 120/70 x 10
Brakes - Front Disc, 200mm, hydraulic
Rear Drum 140mm
Fron Front - Side arm with helical spring and double action shock absorber
Rear - Double action shock absorber
DIMENSIONS AND CAPACITIES
Length 1770 mm
Width 690 mm
Height 1140 mm
Saddle height 770 mm
Ground clearance 155 mm
Weight 114 kg
Fuel tank 6.6 liters
THE GO FACTOR
Max Power - 8.4 kW (11.4 BHP) @ 7000 rpm
Max Torque - 11.5 Nm @ 5500 rpm
COLOURS – Beige / White
Warranty - 2 years / 24,000 kms
HOW MUCH - Rs 430,500