Vespa is a line of motor scooters manufactured by the Italian automotive company Piaggio. They are known for their distinct body design composed of an enclosed engine, flat footboard connecting the back and front, and a large shield in front to protect the rider from wind. The design was based on United States military scooters manufactured for use in World War II, after which Italian designers Renzo Spolti and Vittorio Casini adapted them for civilian use.
The Vespa became popular in the 1950s and 60s, when film stars such as Audrey Hepburn, John Wayne, and Charlton Heston were known to ride the scooters on and off camera. Though it was successful across Europe as a practical alternative to the motorcycle, Vespas failed to gain significant traction with a US audience for some time. Few major changes were made to the Vespa design until the Vespa ET was unveiled in the late 90s. As the first style upgrade since the PX model in the 1970s, it gained significant attention worldwide. The ET was more rounded than previous Vespas, which tended to be slightly blocky, and featured chrome accents that increased its visual allure. It also contained a much smaller engine with greater fuel efficiency that made it greatly attractive to those concerned about the environment.
Vespa‘s ET models became bestsellers in Europe during the late 1990s. The ET 2 and 4 models were sold during this time in the US, marking Vespa’s return to the States after an absence of 18 years.
Featured image via rideapart.com