70 Years of Vespa
Last week Conran and Partners celebrated the opening of the new Design Museum and its appreciation for the everyday object. Possibly the most iconic object amongst their collections is the Vespa, which coincidentally celebrates its 70th birthday this year. We have many proud Vespa owners in our design studio and this week we look at the story of the renowned scooter and what it means to us.
The beginning of an icon
It was 1946 and World War II was over. The aircraft industry went from boom to gloom with many aircraft factories severely restricted. So when Piaggio’s military aircraft factory was bombed, he decided to pursue the creation of another mode of transport, that would act as a solution to travelling on the many roads destroyed by the war. And so, the Vespa was born; a technically ingenious and practical design for its time, even featuring a spare wheel for punctures which accommodated for post war road conditions.
"… a little plane left its wings in the clouds to become a legend on the ground."
When Piaggio first saw the scooter, designed by Italian aeronautical engineer Corradino D’Ascanio, he exclaimed “Sembra una vespa!” securing the iconic name, in consequence of it “looking like a wasp!”
It’s all about the four F’s:
Freedom – I’m not very good at relying on public transport to get about
Financial – its amazingly cheap to run and free to park
Fast – Ok, it’s only three F’s, it’s a 125 and not very fast
Fun – most of the time it makes me smile
Lee Davies, Partner, Conran and Partners.
Lee Davies on his Vespa, outside one of projects in Brighton, Embassy Court.
It’s authentically Italian and beautifully designed
Interior Designer Matteo Furci, Conran and Partners.
1947 marked the creation of the ‘Fireball’ Vespa. Named for its red colour and built for competition with its gear box three speed and hand built steel frame, it was aggressive and stylish.
The scooter has been breaking records ever since, while cleverly using races for advertising and testing new solutions and innovation, like the ‘Vespa Torpedo’ in 1950, shaped like a torpedo.
The Vespa’s acting career began in 1951. When the ‘Vespa 125’ had its cinematic debut in ‘Roam Holiday’, drastically increasing popularity and driving sales up significantly, thrusting the scooter further into stardom.
With the Vespa 150 T.A.P, the scooter was designed to facilitate the French Ministry of Defence, showing its bravery and courage.
In 2001 the brand dedicated the ‘Vespa Ferrari’ to the Ferrari team by tailor making the scooter with a red livery and leather saddle made from the same material used to upholster the inside of Ferrari’s and naming the scooters after their drivers; Montezemolo, Todt, Schumacher and Bariichello.
Emerging from the wake of the testing war-time period, the Vespa was a unique invention that harnessed an exceptional ability to adapt to the needs of society. Since its birth, the design has stood the test of time, incorporating fashion, trends and functionality. 70 years on, the Vespa remains one of the world’s most iconic modes of transport and design.