When most people think scooters, they think Vespa- and for good reason. Vespa (meaning ‘wasp’ in Italian) came into prominence in the mid-1940s post World War II, but it was the Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn starrer Roman Holiday that catapulted the brand to immortality.
Most things vintage eventually come back into fashion, and the Vespa scooter is just one example of this never-dying trend. It also helps that Piaggio, Vespa’s parent company, has the uncanny ability to tap into current market dynamics and introduce new scooter models that are a unique blend of modernity and vintage elegance.
The aftermath of World War II
Italy’s economy after the Second World War was languishing, and so were its roads. It was during this trying time that Enrico Piaggio, son of Rinaldo Piaggio, the company’s founder, decided to offer an affordable, yet stylish mode of transport for the Italian masses.
The Vespa was actually inspired by America’s Cushman scooters. The introductory model of the Vespa was the MP5 Paperino, and some of its noticeable features, such as the body panels being structured around the core frame, exist even today in the new models.
Vespa’s trendsetting design, however, was the brainchild of aeronautical engineer Corradino D’Ascanio. Upon seeing D’Ascanio’s prototype of the MP6 model, Enrico Piaggio is believed to have said it resembled a wasp.
The rest, as they say, is history.
The Vespa legacy
Initial reviews of the Vespa were marked with scepticism, but the scooter quickly gained momentum in the late 1940s, when Piaggio introduced the trendy little scooter to other markets. Over time, the Vespa became synonymous with freedom, rebellion, and most of all- a changing society after a war everyone wanted to forget.
The first ever Vespa pamphlet in 1946 featured a woman riding the scooter, signalling a progressive outlook on life. It also helped that it became the darling of Hollywood- everyone from Ursula Andress and Jayne Mansfield to John Wayne and Jude Law have been seen riding the Vespa in their films.