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I believe that this is an early photo of the Lambretta assembly line in India. I am not sure if this production was the API factory, or some earlier incarnation of the licensing arrangement with Innocenti.
It is pretty cool to see a photo of a 90SS back in the day when it was just another scooter. It is kind of hard to imagine someone doing a hill climb or scramble on one of them now. "Oops, I just crashed my $15,000 scooter!" just isn't I sentence I ever want to hear.
This is a very interesting way to promote Vespas. This custom van clearly has a sliding rear section to allow access to the rear flat bed section. It sure would be a great rally support/transport vehicle today!
I'm not really sure where this photo was taken. It looks like it was at a stand at some sort of convention. Note the old tube gadget in the background. Also take a look at the guy in the background with the cowboy hat, bolo tie, and the plaid jacket. The whole scene is very 1950's. Awesome!
This is a photo of a Lambretta TV175 that Innocenti made for promotional purposes. It is kind of hard to see in this black and white photo, but it was completely chrome plated. They toured the scooter at shows to show off the new slimstyle TV models. Pretty cool! I believe that this scooter survived, and is now in Vittorio Tessara's Lambretta museum in Italy.
Nice street scene, somewhere in the Netherlands in the 50's.
Oh fashion world... is there anything you can't do with photoshop? If you can make models look taller and superhuman, you certainly can remove a scooter's centerstand!
Note the sequential license plate numbers!
I just love this photo. There are so many layers to it. Clearly from the context, this was taken in North Africa - Tunisa, Algeria? I'm guessing this was late 60's or maybe even early 70's. How did this Rumi get there? It was pretty rare even when new, and was not cheap. It must have taken a lot of skill for the woman to keep her head scarf on while riding!
The custom Lambretta from Supertune was a special dealer custom that was made in the UK in the late-60's. The company Supertune had several versions of their special, and I believe they called this 200cc version the "Rallye." They started with a SX200, and went to town on it. The most obvious alteration was that they lowered the headset down by cutting the fork and the legshield. You can see the difference between the custom and the stock SX200 in the top photo. Then, there is the custom paint, which is quite cool, if you ask me. They also added ball-end levers for safety in competition. On the inside of the scooter, they did some work to the top end. Mainly through porting, and increasing compression by lowering the cylinder head. The idea was that the scooter would still be eligible to compete in scooter racing in the stock engine class. It was a very sweet scooter that commands a tidy sum today, if you can find one of the few that were made.
Back in 1951, the giant retail pioneer Sears took a gamble and imported 1,000 Vespa 125s to see if they would sell. The gamble paid off, and for the next 15 years or so you would find Vespas listed in their massive yearly mail-order catalog. (No kidding, it was MASSIVE; find one from the 50's or 60's. It'll blow your mind.)
Sears re-branded everything as their house brand "Allstate", and wasn't shy about mixing different makes together so they'd have a variety of scooters & small motorbikes to suit as many customers as possible. You'd find Cushmans, Puchs, and who knows what else side by side in the catalog every year . . . as this 1954 page testifies. Scroll down for a close-up of the good stuff.
This was taken in front of a legendary store called "Spag's Supply" in my town (Shrewsbury, MA). This guy had the whole idea of bulk buying and mixing different items under one roof in an efficient shopping environment down pat way before WalMart or Costco even existed. It was a New England institution for decades, then the owner passed away. His daughters took over, hired consultants who immediately screwed everything up and pissed off the legions of loyal customers, and the business died. If they just kept running it the way their father did, it would still exist today. Very sad.
I'm off to a camping trip this weekend. I sure wish I was rolling to it like this guy. What an adventure on the mega-est of mega-scooters! Great photo.
This photo really is evocative of a certain time in Italy. You can just imagine that the owner of this Vespa must have really felt like he "made it" when he bought it. Just look at the background. There are no cars on the street. There are no other scooters or motorcycles. The only thing on the road is a chicken in the foreground and a horse cart in the far background. That really tells you something... Just to put it into perspective, this was only 60 years ago.
This was a promotional still from Universal Pictures movie studios. It was for the movie "I've Lived Before." The actress is Leigh Snowden.
This is a cool press photo of a Vespa dealer in Colorado back in the day. The Rally 180 is nice, and shows some of the special US-only features. It has oil injection, the small sealed-beam headlight with a chrome bezel, small reflectors on the front mudguard, and you can just barely make out the CEV tail light at the back. Note, he's wearing cowboy boots! How cool is that! The smallframe in the background looks like a Vespa 90. If so, it would be one that was still kicking around from the first series bunch that were imported in 1964.
I'm back from vacation, and posting should resume its normal pace.
I'm going to be on the road for a few days, and I don't expect to have computer access. Posting will resume late next week. See you then!
I'm guessing that this was an ad for a company that was importing Indian-made Lambrettas back into Italy, after Innocenti stopped production. Nonetheless, it is a great ad. What a photo!
This photo is a great action shot of a rider at a competition or gymkhana event. I guess that this was taken somewhere in Italy. (The legshield banner says "Rally di Roma") Note the very stylish audience. There was a time when scooter events like this were a big draw for spectators. The rider is wearing some serious overalls, but notice the fact that he is just wearing some sort of slip on shoe. In Italy, even when competing, one can't afford to be seen in ugly footwear! The scooter is a GS, maybe a VS4. I like the custom two-tone paint on the scooter. There is a pole on the left of the photo with a bell on it. I am guessing that the rider had to ring the bell as part of this event. I'm not sure who took this great photo, it is sure is cool!
Members of the Lambretta Club Modena showing off their scooters to some American military officers.
Two Vespa GS's and an Iso. The Iso rider really looks the part... but my guess is that the scooter would be terribly outmatched by the Vespas.
Too bad I have had technical problems with comments, because this would be a great photo for a caption contest.
Here's my caption: "Da, Comrade, even Central Committee approves of the Lambretta 50's clunky and awkward styling... reminds them of beautiful traktor No.7 on collective farm..."
I believe this is translated as, "And it was me that wanted to drop you!"
This is a nice action shot at a gymkhana event in the 50's. I'm guessing by the stylish dress of the spectators that this was photographed in Italy. The scooter is a GS150 VS3 or VS4. It really is amazing to me that there was a time that gentlemen would go out to an event like this in a suit and tie. La Dolce Vita indeed!
This is a really rare photo of a MV Agusta scooter. MV Agusta were a manufacturer of some pretty serious racing motorcycles up to the late 70's. Though they made many street-going motorcycles, I guess even they could not resist dipping their toe into the huge scooter market in Italy after the war. They made a few different scooters starting around 1949. This appears to be an early 50's model called the "Ovunque." Not the sexiest name... It had a 125 two stroke motor with a three speed gearbox. Power was around 5 hp. This scooter was made with either one, or two exhausts. This is the one exhaust model. Note the accessory child seat located just in front of where the kid is sitting. Safety was a top priority!
This is a pretty rare period photo of a very stylish woman and an early Vespa 90. I believe that this first version of the Vespa 90 was only sold in the U.S. for one year, 1964. It came in this red color, and a powder blue. Note the leather camera front cover sitting on the scooter floorboards - you don't see those anymore!
Velocette made some pretty great motorcycles. They were famous for their middle weight singles, and their high quality construction. Alas, in the post-war period, they had some pretty major styling mis-cues. Their biggest was the Velocette LE motorcycle, which was a sort of cross between a motorcycle and a scooter. It was homely, and quite expensive. Those were bad qualities when competing with the Italians, who made beautiful and cheap scooters. The LE almost bankrupted Velocette, but luckily for them, municipal governments bought them for police use. Velocette also made the Viceroy scooter, as seen here. I'm sure this scooter was well made... but boy was it ugly! I think it remained a secret, as the brochure says, since I doubt many were sold.
I don't know a lot about this manufacturing plant, except that it was in Columbia. Clearly there was a facility in Columbia that was building Lambrettas. These are clearly GP's. I'm not sure whether they are of Italian or Indian origin, but I'm guessing that they came from India. I have no idea how much of these scooters they actually built there. I suppose that they were just "kit" scooters, and some of the final assembly was done in Columbia. However, it could be that these guys simply pulled them from the crates mostly-assembled, and they just got them ready for the road.
Anybody know anything about the Columbian Lambrettas? Email me!
Photo by Ansel Adams
Surely everyone who reads this site knows about this iconic photograph. It is by Ruth Orkin, and is entitled "An American in Italy." It is, truly, a great photograph. From the composition, to the setting, to the expressions on everyone's faces... this photo tells a story.
I've often thought that this photo was staged. To be honest, I never thought that anyone could get this shot without carefully setting it up.
Well, the truth is, it was not staged. You can read the background from the woman in the center of the photo here. It is a good story!
Go buy a print of this photo. It is Valentine's day, and you know this is the only scooter photo that your wife/girlfriend is going to let you hang in your living room! Now you know the story behind it too.
One other interesting thing for us scooterists: After this photo was taken, the guy on the Lambretta gave her a ride, and Ruth Orkin took some shots of it.
This photo must show the Innocenti production line just as it was switching over to the GP scooters. I'm guessing that this lot of scooters was destined for the UK market. You can tell these are the last of the SX150 and SX200 because they have the "square" horncasting badge. You can also see that the white SX150 in the middle of the photo does not have handles on the cowl. If you look at the far right, you'll see the tell-tale stripe of a GP sidepanel poking through between the legshield of the red and white SX. Is it me, or does it look like all these scooters had silver wheels and brake drums? That would make sense, as the GP's had those painted silver. Also, note that the horn cover is polished silver and not painted on these scooters. Kind of flashy!
Photograph shows some of German lads in Miltonberg, Germany - taken in fall 1951 or spring of 1952 . Written on back is: "German boys on motorcycles. I took the same picture for them with one of their camera's. Miltonberg, Germany. I know the date from other images of his from this trip- err tour..."
Happy Holidays everyone! I'll be on vacation for the next few days, so this will be the last post for about a week. I hope Santa brings you the scooter you've been hoping for. I know you've been (mostly) good this year...
It looks like a Lambretta Model A in the foreground, and a Model C in the background... plus a Fiat 500 for good measure. Don't they all look stylish?
Thanks to friend of the site, Nick G., for sending this photo our way.
Lambretta LD ad from 1955
(October 1958) "A three-wheel convertible passenger vehicle, which deivers over 75 miles per gallon of gas, the Lambretta "Surrey" has just been introduced into the country by the Innocenti Corp., 45 Columbus Ave., New York City, distributor of the Itailan-made Lambretta motor scooters and commercial utility vehicles. Built upon the same rugged chassis that supports the popular three-wheel Lambretta commercial vehicles and powered by the same 150cc two-cycle engine, the new Lambretta "Surrey" is equipped with a beutifully designed body built by Ghia, the famous Itlian custum automobile body manufacturer. Although intended primarily for use at resorts, airports, amusement centers and other places where pleasnt short-haul transportation is required, the new Lambretta "Surreys" have already been adopted by several golf clubs as golf carts."
1950's Hong Kong movie star Mai Ling with her scooter. I have no idea what kind of scooter this is. Any guesses?
11/02/11 Update: My good friend Andrew took one look at this magazine cover, and his eye was drawn not to the Doris Day look-alike... oh no, it was to the BUS in the background! Hah! He thinks the bus may have been made by Alfa Romeo. You see, Andrew is an Alfa Romeo guru, and helped me immesurably in buying my own Alfa. He forwarded on two old Alfa Romeo bus brochures. All of you fans of fast cars and stylish public transportation - rejoice. The brochures are available below the fold...
This ad was in Cycle Magazine in 1964
You could buy both and fit them in a one-car garage with room to spare! It is hard to imagine what one of these Vespa 400 cars must have looked like to the average American car buyer in the late 50's. Park this next you your 1959 Cadillac... it would probably fit in the trunk.
It is hard to tell when this photo was taken. I'm guessing it was during the first mod revival in the late 70's. The big tell is in the far left of the picture, the distinctive outline of a white P-series Vespa. That at least dates the photo to post-77. Clothing, hair styles, and helmets look more 70's than 90's.
After yesterday's post about the project TV175, I figured I'd pull out an old photo of one all together! Here we have a Lambretta TV175 with a lot of neat accessories, from a 1958 magazine advertisement for a women's clothing line
Cesare Bartolini racing in the 1969 Moto Giro d'Italia on a factory-sponsored Lambretta SX200 which was race-modified by the Ancilloti firm