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Friday, September 6, 2013

History of the legendary Italian wasps

Vespa is an Italian line of scooters manufactured by Piaggio. The 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.
History of the legendary Italian wasps. (Taken from my personal collection)

From their inception, Vespa scooters have been known for their painted, pressed steel unibody which combines a complete cowling for the engine (enclosing the engine mechanism 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. 

Post World War II, Italy in light of its agreement to cessation of war activities with The Allies, had its aircraft industry severely restricted in both capability and capacity. Piaggio emerged from the conflict with its Pontedera fighter plane plant completely demolished by bombing. 

Italy's crippled economy and the disastrous state of the roads did not assist in the re-development of the automobile markets. Enrico Piaggio, the 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.

The Concept
1944 Vespa MP5 Paperino, the
Renzo Spolti's prototype model.
(Picture from: http://www.flickr.com/)
The inspiration for the design of the Vespa dates back to Pre-WWII Cushman scooters made in Nebraska, USA. These olive green scooters were in Italy in large numbers, ordered originally by Washington as field transport for the Paratroops and Marines.

The US military had used them to get around Nazi defense tactics of destroying roads and bridges in the Dolomites (a section of the Alps) and the Austrian border areas.
Originally, the first concept born in 1944, when the 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 so the rider had to be straddled while rode it. Officially, the scooter concept known as the MP5 ("Moto Piaggio no. 5"), and nicknamed "Paperino". 

Unfortunately, Enrico Piaggio was displeased with the MP5 design, especially the tall central section.  Then he contacted and asked D'Ascanio to redesign it - which he did with a more aeronautical-derived aerodynamic look.

1945 Vespa MP6, the first prototype
without cooling fan that introduced in
1946. (Picture from: http://www.vespaclub.com/)
Corradino D'Ascanioan aeronautical engineer, who was responsible for the design and construction of the first modern helicopter by Agusta, was given the job of designing a simple, robust and affordable vehicle for Ferdinando Innocenti, whose pre-war time focused in metal tubing business. 

Innocenti had suffered the same fate as Piaggio post-war. Innocenti defined a post-war vehicle to D'Ascanio that had to be easy to drive for both men and women, be able to carry a passenger, and not get its driver's clothes dirty.

The Design
1946 Vespa 98, the first production
scooter model. (Picture from:
D'Ascanio, who hated motorbikes and then designed a revolutionary two-wheels vehicle. It was built on a spar-frame with a handlebar gear change, and the engine mounted directly on to the rear wheel. The front protection "shield" kept the rider dry and clean in comparison to the open front end on motorcycles. 

The pass-through leg area design was geared towards all user groups, including women, as wearing dresses or skirts made riding a motorcycle a challenge.

Model ACMA Troupes Aeról Portées 
Mle. 56 also known as Vespa 150 
TAP -  modified by the French military 
that incorporated an anti tank weapon 
and used in the 1950s. (Picture from:
The front fork, like an aircraft's landing gear, allowed for easy wheel changing. The internal mesh transmission eliminated the standard motorcycle chain, a source of oil, dirt, and aesthetic misery. This basic design allowed a series of features to be deployed on the frame, which would later allow quick development of new models.

However, D'Ascanio fell out with Innocenti, who rather than a moulded and beaten spar-frame wanted to produce his Innocenti frame from rolled tubing, thereby allowing him to revive both parts of his pre-War company. D'Ascanio disassociated himself with Innocenti, and took his design to Enrico Piaggio to produce the spar-framed Vespa from 1946. Innocenti, after overcoming design difficulties and later production difficulties through his choice of a tubular frame, went on to produce the more costly Lambretta line of motorscooters.

The Product
1969 Vespa Rally 180, a rare
vintage scooter model. (Picture from:
On 23 April 1946, at 12 o'clock in the central office for inventions, models and makes of the Ministry of Industry and Commerce in Florence, Piaggio e C. S.p.A. took out a patent for a "motorcycle of a rational complexity of organs and elements combined with a frame with mudguards and a casing covering the whole mechanical part".

The basic patented design allowed a series of features to be deployed on the spar-frame which would later allow quick development of new models. The original Vespa featured a rear pillion seat for a passenger, or optionally a storage compartment.

1963 Vespa Ape, a three-wheeled variant 
used for commercial purposes. (Picture from:
The original front protection "shield" was a flat piece of aero metal; later this developed in to a twin skin to allow additional storage behind the front shield, similar to the glove compartment in a car. The fuel cap was located underneath the (hinged) seat, which saved the cost of an additional lock on the fuel cap or need for additional metal work on the smooth skin.

The scooter had rigid rear suspension and small 8-inch (200 mm) wheels that allowed a compact design and plenty of room for the rider's legs. The Vespa's enclosed, horizontally-mounted two-stroke 98 cc engine acted directly on the rear drive wheel through a three-speed transmission.

Uuups... these are my Vespa.
(Taken from my personal collection)
The twistgrip-controlled gear change involved a system of rods. The early engine had no cooling, but fan blades were soon attached to the flywheel (otherwise known as the magneto, which houses the points and generates electricity for the bike and for the engine's spark) to push air over the cylinder's cooling fins. The modern Vespa engine is still cooled this way. The mixture of two-stroke oil in the fuel produced high amounts of smoke, and the engine made a high buzzing sound like a wasp.

The 'Vespa' name
Vespa 946 is the Piaggio's latest 
scooters product and a tribute to MP6 
model as the original prototype and 
progenitor of the world’s most famous 
scooter(Picture from: http://www.uk.vespa.com/)
The first concept, the MP5 given a nickname a 'Paperino,' and that's the Italian name for Donald Duck (a nick-name given to it by the Piaggio's workers because of the strange shape it had). While the second prototype designed by D'Ascanio named MP6, when it was presented to Enrico Piaggio and he heard the buzzing sound of the engine he exclaimed: "Sembra una vespa!" ("It resembles a wasp!") Then 'Vespa' name used as the brand, and that's familiar in our ears as one of the most renowned Italian scooters until now

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. Ape (pronounced Ah-pay), is Italian for bee. This was the three-wheeled variant used for commercial purposes, including the popular auto rickshaw.
As the first globally successful scooter, the Vespa has enjoyed prominence in popular culture and has come to symbolize stylish personal transportation. Cena..dinner, people are arriving by Vespa, dressed elegantly, keeping the hat between the knees and dog comfortably sitting between the legs. Ragazza..girlfriend tightly pressing her chest against Umberto and protecting her hair with a colorful scarf. Dio Santo!…how can you stick your hair to the helmet!

Kept spur your adrenaline on the power of two-wheeled monster and stay alive with the true safety riding. May God will forgive Your sins and so does the cops...... *** [EKA | FROM VARIOUS SOURCES | PIAGGIO | WIKIPEDIA | BIKEEXIF | UPDATED: 03032021 ]
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