Sting of the Vespa here to stay

Last Updated 17 July 2019, 08:27 IST

The mention of Vespa or Lambretta brings back a flood of old memories. In an era of modern and flashy commuter vehicles, an old scooter is a head-turner.

Take the Vespa (wasp in Italian), Lambretta, Vijay Super, Allwyn Pushpak, Bajaj, LML and the like, they were used just to commute and there was nothing really flashy about it. But now, these scooters evoke a feeling of nostalgia, particularly from those who had owned it previously. When spotted on the road, it is common for two-wheeler enthusiasts to make enquiries about an old Vespa, Lambretta or Bajaj with the owner or simply admire it.

Back in the day, these scooters, typically with 100-150cc engines, were not as refined as the modern vehicles. But there was one advantage. Repairs were cheap. Any mechanic could fix common problems pretty easily and the rider could be back on the road in no time. With today’s technology, it has become difficult to do that. Modern scooters are probably more reliable but repairs can be pretty expensive should something go wrong.

Riding the old scooters needed a bit of muscle power. Whether it was changing gear or braking with the foot pedal, an effort was required. Modern scooters have automatic transmissions and are rather easy to use. But still, riding those two-stroke scooters back in the day seems to have been a lot more fun.

Lambretta and Vespa, both Italian, were the popular scooters and remain household names till today. Lambretta was manufactured by Innocenti, while Vespa was produced by Piaggio.

“A Vespa or Lambretta scooter is a pleasure to ride. They were not meant for speed and one could carry luggage too. Today’s scooters are light and the bodies are mostly plastic. Modern vehicles hardly require maintenance but servicing can prove to be expensive,” said Bengaluru-based C Venkatadri, who has a collection of 53 two-wheelers, including 10 scooters, from brands Lambretta, Allwyn Pushpak, Rajdoot, Crusader, Falcon, DKW and a host of others.

Lambretta, Picture credit: commons.wikimedia.org/ piero tasso
Lambretta, Picture credit: commons.wikimedia.org/ piero tasso

Lambretta entered the Indian market in the 1950s. Automobile Products of India (API) assembled Lambretta scooters with parts manufactured by Innocenti. API later got the licence and began to manufacture scooters fully in India.

In 1972, state-run Scooters India Limited (SIL) acquired Lambretta manufacturing and trademark rights. In 1976, the name was changed to Lamby due to legal reasons.

In India, the Lambretta was sold under the Vijay Delux and Vijay Super models. The same was exported as the Lambretta GP150. SIL also distributed kits that were sold under the names of Allwyn Pushpak, Falcon and Kesari. Production was stopped in 1993.

It is a slightly different story with the Vespa. Bajaj Auto acquired the licence from Piaggio and began to manufacture Vespa scooters in the 60s. However, the licence was not renewed but Bajaj continued to produce the Chetak, which was based on the Vespa design.

Bajaj brought out several models of scooters in the Indian market, including the Super.

In 1983, LML Motors and Piaggio tied up and brought the Vespa back to India. But production ceased in 1999. Piaggio now manufactures Vespa in India on their own now.

The demand for a Vespa, Lambretta or ‘hamara’ Bajaj is growing. Collectors and enthusiasts will spare no effort in restoring and preserving old scooters so that they can relive the good old days.

“They are very hard to find as they are old. Genuine spare parts can be sourced from enthusiast groups but there are a lot of fake and lookalike parts there to,” said Venkatadri.

“Vespa is the most sought-after brand. A Vespa in good condition and with all documents could cost something in the range of Rs 70-80 thousand, while a Lambretta will cost about Rs 75 thousand to a lakh,” he added.

In fact, there is huge demand for these two-stroke scooters abroad too. Many of them are restored and shipped abroad from India.

When they were around, the scooters were the thing to get around easily. These vehicles had become a part of people’s lives. But as Piaggio puts it, a Vespa is ‘not just a scooter, it is a way of life’.

(Published 30 December 2018, 11:50 IST)

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