BBC.com reporting on the scooter, the Scooter began as a cheap way to buzz about bombed-out Rome, but Jonathan Glancey shows how it became stylish and sexy thanks to Roman Holiday and the Mods.
More than 16 million Vespa motor scooters have been made to date in thirteen countries and sold around the world. When he first saw the prototype, commissioned from Corradino D’Ascanio, a distinguished aero-engineer, industrialist Enrico Piaggio said, “It looks like a wasp!” Or vespa in Italian. Within months of Piaggio’s latest venture going into production in 1946, the Italian language possessed a new verb, vespare, to go somewhere on a Vespa.
D’Ascanio’s Vespa was seductive. It was also cheap and reliable, while its step-through frame meant that women could ride it in skirts, and its concealed engine – tucked under the seat or over its small back wheel – kept oil, grease and dirt from chic Italian clothes.
More than this, the Vespa – which happened to sound like a wasp, too – was fun. Especially so in a post-war Italy still recovering from the Allied bombings and that now turned to the production of modest machines for a domestic market longing for entertainment but with precious little to spend.
Women certainly loved the Vespa. Its appearance in Roman Holiday, the 1953 romantic comedy starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, is said to have been worth 100,000 sales. Perhaps it was. The glamorous Hollywood couple spun carefree around Rome on one of the scooters, aimlessly and stylishly. Read more here.