Gadabout town on a Swallow

Barry Hartnell of Wangaratta, Victoria, Australia shows off his motorcycle collection to the ABC, including his pride and joy, a Swa… sorry, Swall… snort! er, Swallow Gadabout, made by:

“…the people who went on to make Jaguar motor cars. (The Vespa) arrived in England and they didn’t have anything to counter it, so they quickly sat down and made this horrible little bike out of steam pipe and tin…”

A 1950 scooter book in Hartnell’s possession:

“…shows all the bikes from A to Z, and when it comes to the Swallow Gadabout, there are seven and a half pages of it’s virtues and how wonderful the bike is and further on in the book you get to “V” for Vespa and it simply says ‘small scooter made in Italy’.”

Great story, great quotes.

The Trautwein-Roller: MP3 in 1984?

The Trautwein-Roller

Check out Marcus Kabst’s fantastic history of the Trautwein-Roller: Is this proof that Piaggio’s groundbreaking MP3 three-wheeler is actually based on a design tested and patented 22 years ago? Here’s a very rough — and condensed — translation:

“Are scooters steered with two front wheels conceivable? If you subscribe to the ideas of inventor Wolfgang Trautwein, vehicles of this kind may soon appear on the streetscape. […] Dr. Wolfgang Trautwein, 53, engineer from Meersburg at the Bodensee, received two original Vespa scooters in the middle of 1984 from Piaggio from Genova, in order to build prototypes. [This concept was] suggested by [Trautwein,] using the Vespa platform, exactly three decades after the first Motorcycle was equipped with a double-front chassis. Under their hoods, the Vespa tricycles hide the newest variant of the Trautwein front axle for motorcycles, a parallelogram axle […] Thus, the scooter effectively avoids wheel-flutter. […] The suspension is arranged so that the wheels do not only turn when rolling, but also tilt. The floorboards of the Vespa are firmly connected to the lower parallelogram, and follow its movements. […] Trautwein stresses that this changed style of driving comes relatively easily to the driver. And according to Trautwein’s statements, the chassis offers some safety advantages: Decreased hazard of front end slip on wet pavement, rails, etc. Safer braking, and improved cornering. Better handling. […] Space for a trunk over the front axle. […] Also, the comfort is quite convincing.”

So if the translation is marginally close, it appears Piaggio assisted in the development of, but did not produce, an MP3-like version of the Vespa PK 125 and a PX 200 more than two decades ago. They even filed patents for the design. Judging by the photos, at least one working prototype of each version was made. The PX200 model sported hydraulic disc brakes — twelve years before they became standard on the PX200. Amazing. (Thanks for another great link, POCphil. Note that there’s also some great info on Marcus’ page about other three-wheelers and similar concept scooters.)

Allez Cats Reunion

ModChicago Allez Cats reunion at Delilah's

The Allez Cats Reunion at Delilah’s Thursday night was a successful start to the ModChicago weekender, don’t miss the rest of the events. It was neat to see some old “faces,” in person and photos, the music was great, and the booklet the ACSC put together is a fantastic reminder of the era before the internet and twist-and-gos changed scootering forever. Sun-Times music critic and author Jim DeRogatis was there, so look for a story tomorrow.

Mod Chicago reunites ACSC, adds scooter rally
to June 1-3 Mod Weekender

allez cats sc (photo: mike park)

MODchicago‘s annual “Our Way Of Thinking” festival of Modness is coming up next weekend. OWOT is always a good time, but this year they’ve stepped it up a few notches with more scooter-related events and a special scooter section on their website. Best of all, the event has spawned the new Mayday Scooter Club and the reunion (Thursday, June 1 at Delilahs) of the Allez Cats Scooter Club, one of Chicago’s big clubs of the 80s and early 90s. The site also features an archive of ACSC memorabilia including Mike Park’s photo (above) of the club in front of the old Vespa of Chicago on Clark Street (which closed just a month or two before I got my first scooter). OWOT also features a party at Design Within Reach’s Evanston store and a tour of the Chess Records studio. Whether you love or hate Mods (no comment!), next weekend should be a blast for everyone.

“The perfect scooter for a mandolin player,
or a coroner for small children”


(Photos showing the under-seat storage better explain the Ryan’s description.)

As we suspected the other day, the Yamaha VOX scooter is actually on the market in Japan, with a fun flash site to promote it (if you read Japanese). Now Japanese mods (don’t laugh, you wouldn’t believe how many Japanese mods there are) are surely torn between vintage scooters and a spiffy retro scooter bearing a brand name synonymous with the British Invasion. (I suspect they’ll stick with vintage).

The story of Japanese musical instruments roughly follows the development of their motorcycles: Japanese products that started life as cheap knockoffs (are you listening, China?) eventually surpassed many Western instruments in quality and features, at a much lower price, and eventually dominated the market and put the original makers out of business (are you listening, corporations?). So it’s a bit funny to learn Vox’s parent company, Korg, is owned in part by Yamaha, and they’re leveraging the brand name to sell scooters.

Nigel Cox to sell Lambretta Museum

Nigel Cox' Lambretta Museum

The Weston Mercury reports that respected British Lambretta collector Nigel Cox, author of “Lambretta: An Illustrated History” and proprietor of Weston Scooter Parts in Weston-Super-Mare, England, is selling his famous Lambretta museum. Cox estimates the collection is worth £500,000 and hopes to sell it all for £350,000. The article says Americans and “a British consortium of enthusiasts” have placed bids for the museum, which has been open to the public for nearly 20 years. It’s unclear whether Cox, 55, will also close his spares business, which has long been famous as the only source for many original Lambretta parts and accessories, but he does plan to keep his two most prized scooters, the very first and very last Lambrettas ever made.

Piaggio museum:
“the great plan of a great architect”

Fuksas' model of the new Vespa Museum

At the recent Vespa 60th Anniversary celebration, Piaggio president Roberto Colaninno and Italian architect Massimiliano Fuksas unveiled a model for an exciting new Piaggio Museum. Colaninno called the new museum “the great plan of a great architect,” a 60th-anniversary “gift” for the Vespa.

Fuksas is famous for his painterly approach to architecture and his skill in using existing structures to compliment his designs. The new museum is a perfect example, two layers of red polymer clouds will hover within Piaggio’s expansive Pontedera factory, containing the museum, archives, and a coffee lounge, giving visitors a panoramic view of the assembly lines below. The swooping bubbles of the museum emulate the curvy design of the Vespa (is that an ET4 headlight above?) and hopefully the museum’s function will equal its form, like the vehicle it celebrates.

Fuksas is also famous for keeping a reasonable budget and tight schedule, and again, this project fits the profile– announced on April 27, the museum is expected to be completed in 2007. His other recent high-profile projects include Ferarri’s headquarters in Maranello and the EUR-district Congress Center in Rome.

More photos in the 2sb Gallery (photos courtesy Piaggio)