THE Vespa
Bike SA|October 2020
THE Vespa
Is there anything more Italian than the Vespa? It can be mentioned in the same sentence as pasta and pizza as a definition of Italian lifestyle. Imitated a thousand times but never bettered, it got the Italian population mobile after the second world war as much as the FIAT 500 did and remains in production in virtually the same form 75 years later.
Harry Fisher

After the second world war, Italy was forced to drastically reduce its aircraft production capacity and capability. Piaggio, a large industrial concern since the turn of the century, had, before the war, produced trains, nautical fittings, aircraft engines, aeroplanes, trucks, trams, buses and aluminium windows and doors. With the Piaggio factory completely bombed out, the company needed to start building something that would enable it to keep its workforce employed.

Italy's crippled economy, and the disastrous state of its roads, were not immediately conducive to the re-development of the automobile market. Enrico Piaggio, son of Piaggio's founder Rinaldo Piaggio, decided to leave the aeronautical field in order to address Italy's urgent need for a modern and affordable mode of transportation for the masses.

In 1944, Piaggio engineers Renzo Spolti and Vittorio Casini designed a motorcycle with bodywork fully enclosing the drivetrain and forming a tall splash guard at the front. In addition to the bodywork, the design included handlebar-mounted controls, forced air cooling, wheels of small diameter, and a tall central section that had to be straddled. Officially known as the MP5 (Moto Piaggio no. 5), the prototype was nicknamed Paperino (either duckling or “Donald Duck in Italian). Piaggio really didn’t like the MP5, especially the tall central section.


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October 2020