Wasps on wheels

The last of a set of three morning names from some time ago: Vespa (following consilience and Jay Gould). From Wikipedia:

(#1) From the Classic Digest site: The Vespa 50 is one of the best loved scooters in the world, this one is the most famous model 1970 Piaggio Vespa 50 Special “First series”

Vespa is an Italian brand of scooter manufactured by Piaggio. … The Vespa has evolved from a single model motor scooter manufactured in 1946 by Piaggio & Co. S.p.A. of Pontedera, Italy to a full line of scooters and one of seven companies today owned by Piaggio.

… Vespa is both Latin and Italian for wasp — derived from the vehicle’s body shape: the thicker rear part connected to the front part by a narrow waist, and the steering rod resembled antennae.

More from Wikipedia, on the design of the scooters:

From their inception, Vespa scooters have been known for their painted, pressed steel unibody which combines, in a unified structural unit, a complete cowling for the engine (enclosing the engine mechanism and concealing dirt or grease), a flat floorboard (providing foot protection), and a prominent front fairing (providing wind protection).

The technical terms in this account, from NOAD:

noun unibody: a single molded unit forming both the bodywork and chassis of a vehicle.

noun cowling: the removable cover of a vehicle or aircraft engine.

noun fairing: an external metal or plastic structure added to increase streamlining and reduce drag, especially on a high-performance car, motorcycle, boat, or aircraft.

Vespas were tremendously popular in the mid-20th century, and restored scooters from that period now fetch high prices. Meanwhile, the company introduced a gigantic range of scooters of various sizes and designs and continues to do so today. From the MotorBeam site on 8/6/14, in “Piaggio Launches Vespa 946 Bellissima In The USA”:


As we all know, the Vespa 946 might be the most pricey scooter in all of human history but since it is so good looking it can be excused. The Vespa 946 Bellissima has been launched in the States and is priced at a whopping $10,500.

Wow. That’s a long way from a beautifully designed vehicle meant for ordinary people in crowded cities.


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