Vespa Gran Sport 160
The G.S. 160 was introduced in 1962 and represented a pretty significant departure from the basic design of the earlier G.S. 150. Though the two G.S.'s were very different scooters, the major changes that the G.S. 160 embodied are not particularly startling when one considers the other scooters that Piaggio was making at the time. The Vespa 125 and 150 had been altered in 1959 with a much narrower body and cowls. The motor on these more utilitarian Vespas was also simplified at that time. Many of these features were finally incorporated into the top of the line G.S. with the advent of the G.S. 160. Essentially, the body, motor, and suspention of the G.S. 150 was scrapped, and Piaggio went about creating the evolution of the Vespa 125/150 into the totally new G.S. 160.
The frame on the G.S. 160 was entirely new. It was slimmer than that on the G.S. 150. Though it was a departure from the earlier G.S., it was similar in design to the contemporary Vespa 150. Nevertheless, the G.S. 160 was unmistakably the high-line model. It was physically larger than the Vespa 150. The front mudguard was much larger than on any previous Vespa, and the cowls were again enlarged. On the right side, the air louvers were made so that their length was identical, on previous models, these slits were of differing lengths which created an oval shape. On the left side, the cowl was now made to be detachable, and the integrated glovebox from the G.S. 150 was deleted. In its place rode a spare tire which surrounded the battery holder. The bottom of the tire peeked out from the bottom of the cowl, and was protected by a metal cover. Both cowls and the front fender were adorned with a decorative aluminum strip.
Since the left side cowl had been altered to accommodate the spare tire, Piaggio had to move the glovebox storage space which had been located there on earlier models. The glovebox space near the floorboards below the seat on the G.S. 150 was not reatained on the 160, since the new frame was too small to have a storage space there. Piaggio decided to house a small glovebox on the central frame, just behind the seat. This configuration, called the "Series I" or "Mark I" was abandoned after only one year, 29,000 of this version were made in 1962. This glovebox configuration is found only on this model of Vespa, and was not used again by Piaggio.
For the 1963 model year, Piaggio removed the rear-frame glovebox, and built a glovebox on the rear side of the legshields. This glovebox was physically much larger than that of the Series I. In addition to the glovebox, the later Series II models also had a flat area below the rear taillight to attach the license plate as opposed to the rounded area on the Series I model. Around 31,000 of the Series II G.S.'s were made in 1963 and 64.
The headset was unchanged from that on the G.S. 150 VS5. The clamshell 80 m.p.h. speedometer was retained as was the Siem headlight, key switch ignition, and integrated electrical control switch. Additionally the taillight from the VS5 was also retained on the 160. The 160 also had a new steering column lock, which was not used again on any other model.
The gas tank was enlarged to include 2 and 1/3 gallons of fuel. The tank was noticeably larger in that it extended above the body under the seat, unlike all other previous Vespas which had a tank which was flush-mounted on the frame.
There were several different seats which were used on the G.S. 160. Very early models had a light gray seat cover, which was then changed to a dark gray color. On Series II models, the seat shape was changed slightly and the cover was changed to a black color.
The motor on the G.S. 160 was totally new. It seems as though it is a hybrid of the piston-ported motor on the G.S. 150 and the two-piece case design of the Vespa 150. The piston-ported induction style of the G.S. 150 was retained; however it was improved in several ways.
The crankshaft was upgraded and the bearings were enlarged. The size of the clutch and the cush-drive mechanism was increased. In terms of the cases, they were altered to make them similar to those on the Vespa 150. The separate swing arm on the G.S. 150 was deleted, and the motor on the 160 was of a two-piece design with an integrated swing-arm. Essentially all internal parts on the motor were totally new, and almost no parts were shared with either the previous G.S. 150 or the contemporaneous Vespa 125 or 150. The piston-port design necessitated a 5% oil mixture, slightly less than the 6% required on the G.S. 150. The motor put out 8.9 HP at 6500 RPM.
The carburetor and airbox was also changed. The new carburetor had an integrated float bowl and bolted directly to the cylinder, with an airfilter on top as on the G.S. 150. The venturi size was also enlarged to 27mm and a Dell'Orto SI 27/23 carburetor was fitted. Unlike the G.S. 150, the new carburetor on the G.S. 160 had an integrated choke. Early motors had a round shaped airbox, often called a "coffee can", and the later models had a flat style airbox shape.
On the electrical side, the flywheel and magneto were also new. The new magneto was improved, and now put out 35 watts at 6 volts. Additionally, and more importantly, the G.S. no longer needed a fully charged battery in order to run. In fact, many incarnations of the G.S. 160 were not even equipped with a battery at all! On models with a battery, the magneto powered the headlight and taillight, while the battery provided power to the brakelight, horn, and added power for the spark.
The suspension on the G.S. 160 was totally new, and different from that on all previous Vespas. Though the brakes were housed in integral exposed drum/wheels as on the VS5, the drum shape was altered. Furthermore, the split rim design was also changed so that the rim split in the center, rather than offside like on the VS5. The front dampener was also changed to include an integrated dampener and spring in a single unit as opposed to split separately on the other Vespas. Note that these dampeners are very difficult to obtain today, but they can be rebuilt if you are an ambitious mechanic.
By the time the G.S. 160 came out, the scooter market in Europe was beginning a long decline. People had enough money to buy cars, and scooters were generally less popular than they were in the 50's. Consequently, it was made in significantly less numbers than the 150 model. Still, now, 50 years on, it is considered to be one of the best scooters Piaggio ever produced. The styling has stood the test of time, and its elegance and beauty have made it a design icon. Luckily for us here in the U.S., a large number of G.S. 160's were imported and sold here - so they are not as difficult to find as their low production numbers would seem to indicate.
As with the G.S. 150 Vespas, it is important that you find a G.S.160 that is complete. Some of the internal wear parts for the motors are now being reproduced, but not much else that is unique to the G.S.160 is available. Since the motor design is essentially unique to the 160, many motor parts are very difficult to source. Therefore, make sure your motor is all there before you buy one. Body parts are also especially hard to come by, even moreso in the U.S. Expect that any missing part, even something that is seemingly small, will take a long time and a lot of money to obtain. Unless you are an experienced scooterist or mechanic, it is wise to shy away from a "project" GS. The cost of restoring one can quickly exceed the cost of buying one that is already in good condition
One thing to note about the G.S. 160 is that the motor mounting points are the same as on the later largeframe Vespas. This makes them a perfect candidate for a motor swap. Many G.S. 160's have had the original piston-ported motor removed, and replaced with a later model P-series motor for the increased reliability and ease of parts availability that they provide. Of course an all-original G.S. is worth more to a collector than one which has been modified. Nevertheless, for a scooter that is ridden often, the motor swap can make a lot of sense. This is just something to look out for and consider when looking to buy a G.S.
- Rough but restorable = $800-1500
- Drivable, but not show = $2500-3500
- Restored or Excellent Original Condition = $4500-8000