Well luv them or hate em (we luv em) everybody has seen one, or more likely, heard one. There are many types but our favourites are of course the Lambretta and the Vespa. Here is a bit of did you know…………
The main stimulus for the design style of the Lambretta and Vespa dates back to before World War II. These olive green scooters were in Italy in large numbers, ordered originally by the US military as field transport for the Paratroops and Marines. The US military had used them to get around German defence tactics of destroying roads and bridges.
Aeronautical engineer General Corradino D’Ascanio, responsible for the design and construction of the first modern helicopter by Agusta, was given the job by Ferdinando Innocenti of designing a simple, robust and affordable vehicle. It had to be easy to drive for both men and women, be able to carry a passenger and not get its driver’s clothes soiled.
Construction and models
Like Vespas of the day, Lambrettas had three or four gears and two-stroke engines with capacities ranging from 49 cc to 198 cc. Most two-stroke engines require a mixture of oil with the gasoline in order to lubricate the piston and cylinder.
Along with the Vespa, Lambretta was an iconic vehicle of the 1950s and 1960s when they became the adopted vehicle of choice for the UK youth-culture known as Mods. The character Jimmy from the influential scooter movie Quadrophenia rode a Lambretta Li 150 Series 3. Of the 1960s models, the TV (Turismo Veloce), the Special (125 and 150), the SX (Special X) and the GP (Grand Prix) are generally considered the most desirable due to their increased performance and refined look; the “matte black” fittings on the GP model are said to have influenced European car designs throughout the 1970s. These three models came with a front disc brake made by Campagnolo. The TV was the world’s first production two-wheeled vehicle with a front disc brake !!
Lambrettas have attracted an eclectic following of ” Mods ”
POW – it’s the Mods!
Like most phenomena, the Mod movement happened at exactly the right moment. By the time the media noticed them – 1962 – a social, demographic and economic crossroads had been reached: National Service had been abolished, the economy had begun to boom, and hire purchase arrangements gave people vastly increased spending power. A better time to be a teenager will almost certainly never occur. The Mod scene went bananas.
From being a scattering of ultra hip subterranean club dwellers, Mod had quickly evolved to take on a definitive culture and structure of its own. At the top, there were the Aces, still on the cutting edge, still setting the pace, still listening to the hippest tunes. The individuals may have changed, but the attitude had not. It was perfectly possible, while grooving to obscure ska tracks in some Shepherd’s Bush basement club, to bump into David Bailey, Twiggy and Mary Quant in the same evening.
The next strata were the instantly recognisable and much maligned ‘Tickets’ or ‘Numbers’. They were first noticed in East London, when gangs of arrogant, strutting kids began to descend upon dancehalls and nightclubs, causing inevitable confrontation. Their look generally followed where the Aces lead, although with a more working class flavour. The shapeless army surplus Parka coat became iconic as well as practical. It protected the wearers’ expensive weekend suits from the vagaries of the London climate, and was also kept the cold out while weaving among the traffic on the regulation scooter. These scooters – predominantly Italian Vespa and Lambretta models – were spectacular. Bedecked with peacock fans of wing mirrors, and decorated with numerous headlights, crash bars, whip aerials, white wall tyres and high backed seats, they were possibly the coolest thing ever to hit the tarmac.
For everyday wear, turned up Levi’s became de rigueur, often shrunk to size by being worn in the bath. Desert boots and Fred Perry tennis shirts were enormously popular. For these kids, Mod really was a way of life. Every night, something would be happening somewhere, the entire scene fuelled by amphetamine – very much the Mod drug of choice. Although available, pot simply did not fit in with Mod ideology. Pot slowed you down. Speed kept you leaping for days. There was no competition. This strata of the scene began to produce it’s own bands – notably the Small Faces, the Yardbirds and an Acton outfit called the High Numbers, shortly to achieve fame as the Who.
For a brief while, the Who defined Mod. A string of classic singles: ‘I Can’t Explain’, ‘Anyhow Anywhere Anyway’, ‘The Kids Are Alright’ and the frankly bonkers ‘My Generation’ propelled the Mod sound into every jukebox and radio in Britain. ‘The Who are clearly a new form of crime’ wrote the Daily Telegraph,’anti social and armed against the bourgoise’. Combining the angry, spitting stance of the backstreet Mod with the Pop Art stylings of their manager – leading Ace Kit Lambert – the Who are still the first thing that comes to mind whenever ‘Mod’ is mentioned. This is perhaps rather inaccurate – many Mod purists never accepted the Who.