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SCOOTER ORIGINS & SCOOTER HISTORY

The origins of the scooter date back to the late nineteenth century, although definitions of such depend often on opinion rather than fact.

The first successful production two-wheeler was the Hildebrand & Wolfmueller, patented in Munich in 1894. It had a step-through frame, with its fuel tank mounted on the downtube. The engine was a parallel twin, mounted low on the frame, with its cylinders going fore-and-aft. It was water-cooled and had a radiator built into the top of the rear fender. The bike became the first powered two wheel vehicle to be offered to the public on a production basis and was crucial in its move away from the foot pedal as the main source of engine power.

Although commercially the bike was not a massive money spinner, it paved the way for a new generation of affordable and practical transport. It wasn't, however, until the end of WW2 that the scooter really came into its own.

The modern scooter was born in the Lambratte area of Milan, as was the brainchild one Ferdinado Innocenti, who was born in Bescia on 1st September 1891. Following the war there was a dire need to mobilise Italy once more, and government help was given to any company interested in addressing this need.

Inspired by some military motorcycles he had seen in Rome, he approached his designer Corradino D'ascanio to discuss the project and the first blueprints of the scooter we know and love today were formed.

Unfortunately the two men could not always agree, and D'ascanio left to join the Piaggio company to work on aircraft design, until such times as he and Piaggio created the 'Vespa'.

Not sitting on his laurels, however, Innocenti, his General Director Guiseppe Lauro and an engineer named Pierluigi Torre designed a scooter, which was unveiled in 1947 at the Paris Motor Show. The scooter was named after the region where the factory stood, and the river it stood on. The 'Lambretta' was born.

The first Lambretta, the Lambretta 'A', first went on sale on December 23rd 1947. It was economical (160-180mpg at a time when petrol was severely rationed), with a moderate top speed of 45mph, and a direct air-cooled engine with 123cc. During its first 12 months of sale the 'A' model, which was available in five different colours (green,red,beige,blue and grey), went on to sell 9,000 units.

The first Vespa was produced in 1946, had a 98cc engine and a top speed of 47mph. The first Vespa 125cc was produced two years later in 1948 . Let battle commence!

 

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