Oh, it sounds like vespa (Italian for wasp), that’s what the founder of vespa said when he first heard the engine roaring. Founded in 1946 after the world war two when Italy was coming out of war with many legislations and brutal hurdles from the winning forces. Piaggio was a famous Italian fighter plane manufacturer who was compromised on making planes. That was the era when Italy was out of war and had to do something for its poor economy, they needed mobility and that’s when the guys at Piaggio decided to make a 2-wheeler which looked nothing like a motorcycle and had the power to take you places.
Where motorcycles had exposed frames and engines, Vespa was a pressed unibody design like cars in which chassis and body are one unit. The engine was not in the front which meant it saved space it was not in the rear either but on right side at the rear. The rear tire fitted right on to the engine meant less power losses and better acceleration. That’s vespa for you as a starter.
If you are a 90’s kid than chances are you have probably owned one or some one had a vespa in your family or you have had a ride on it. The Italian stallion had a 2stroke 150cc with a 4-speed gear transmission and the gears were in your left hand along with the clutch lever. 1st gear was up, 2nd 3rd and 4th were down. Talk about the modern-day return shifts and vespa has been doing this before they were cool.
The history of vespa can be traced since 1960’s in Pakistan. The famous, desirable and locally called painth chonth (Punjabi for 65/64) had classical curves and a streamlined body. A classic round head lamp with built in speedometer, a steering styled handle bar where every thing was covered. The best thing is that one could never see a single exposed wire in a vespa. Everything was beautifully tucked in and hidden. That’s Italian design for you all.
In Pakistan Vespas started as CBU in start and sold through the dealerships. Before we had the disease of 70cc commuter motorcycles the Vespas were everywhere. Later Raja Motor Co started assembling them in Karachi. The name of company assembling them here is also cool as the original vespa. Raja means King in Urdu and Hindi.
Times went by and Vespa evolved from old body line to new body line. It became more angular and the designer used a ruler to stich straight lines. It was very simple. I remember it had even a kill switch. Man! Those were the days. I remember standing at front of my uncle’s vespa. The ride was hard because front suspension was not suitable and it didn’t have a good rear suspension either. The fuel tank was under the seat. One would stop at fuel station, get off, tilt the seat and fill up. As it was a 2=stroke it needed oil as premix and after that a nice shake so that oil and petrol get mix equally. The 150cc 2-stroke engine had no battery and had a glow plug which glowed red hot to burn fuel rather than sparking. Even though we got 150cc but internationally vespa was 50cc to 200cc.
The Vespa sprint was later introduced in Pakistan to give this brand a fighting chance. It was bigger had bigger tires and came with indicators and battery which older models missed. But the preferences of people were changed. People were more found of economical 70cc motorcycles as the fuel was getting expensive and vespa was bad at economy.
The brand existed no more in Pakistan until few years ago Vespa primavera was brought to Pakistan and people gave it a mixed reception. It was modern 4-stroke had abs and what not and most of all a price tag of over 300k.
But none the less the legend lives in our hearts and if we see one going down the road, a piece of our childhood and Italian history is going there puffing smoke!