Pinasco Slider Clutch Innovation

This morning, the email inbox of many vintage Vespa aficionados contained a message from the Italian aftermarket scooter company Pinasco. The email describes something akin to reinventing the wheel but a bit more intriguing. The new offering from Andrea Pinasco is a replacement for the brass bushing found in the clutch of Largeframe Vespas (#30 in this diagram). The ersatzenbushing isn’t just another sleeve but rather a caged roller bearing. The company claims it will reduce problems in gear changes and fit worn clutches. One wonders if it will fit a non-worn clutch. Anyone have one of those? I’d be interested to see what gear changes are like with this bearing in conjunction with a a multi-spring clutch. It’s uncertain if this fits all models. If anyone knows if the same bushing is used in all of these clutches chime in.

Gaga Gag Gift Vespa

Also via Scooterism: Sadly, this West Coast Customs Vespa designed as a birthday gift from Lady Gaga to Perez Hilton is not an April Fool’s joke. Seriously, is that what “World Famous Customs” shops with their own TV shows do? I have a Michael’s Frequent Shopper Card, a chisel-tipped paint pen, and a hot-glue gun, I should get into the biz. The cake-decorating-show people have way more skillz.

PS, you just *know* it’s a 2009 50cc, and Gaga’s people convinced some dealer to give it to them for nothing (for the “PR,” which there was none of) and then they dropped five figures on rhinestones at WCC without batting an eye.

Hill Street P200E

Vespa product placement from the early 80s: a P200E guest stars on Hill Street Blues.

You may not remember a time when scooter sightings in the media were rare, but back in 2sb’s ‘zine days (the mid-90s), a vintage scooter appearing in a commercial would set Usenet ablaze with excitement. This appearance (from 1983) would have come at a time when Vespa was active in the U.S. but struggling against falling gas prices, and Honda’s just-unveiled more modern 4-stroke scooters. Within a year, with help from Lou Reed, Devo, Grace Jones, and Adam Ant, Honda would dominate the market. With the added complications of new emissions laws in California, Piaggio abandoned the market a couple years later, not returning until 1999.

Was this appearance a deliberate marketing move, or a writer’s whim? Hard to say, but at this point, it’s likely Piaggio was seeking out any mass-media attention they could get, and law enforcement would have been an attractive market, indeed many police agencies did use Vespas for parking enforcement at the time, (and is that an Ape in the background?) On the other hand, the scooter is not particularly glorified, the officer riding it is humiliated on several occasions. This was the first part of a three-part series, if you can sit through them all, let me know if the scooter appears again in parts II or III.

Timoni out, Martinez in at Piaggio USA

Sources (SDG at Modern Buddy,, Hell For Leather, Scooterism, etc…) report that Paolo Timoni, CEO/President of Piaggio Group Americas since 2005, has left the company. Piaggio has yet to confirm or deny the rumors. PGA imports and markets the Piaggio, Vespa, Aprilia, and Moto Guzzi brands in the U.S.

Update, new prez/CEO is Manuel Martinez, formerly manager of Piaggio Spain.

Scooters and Guns:
A Match Made Somewhere In Europe

The Ride The Machine blog, formerly known as The New Cafe Racer Society, posted this photo worth sharing. I think the views of scooters in the US would be very different if such applications were reality. But instead, I think something like this Vespa TAP that Steve from The Scooter Scoop posted about on Facebook would be more highly admired.

Via The Velobanjogent, another good site to watch.

Scooter Riding Thieves Thwarted By Nora Batty

On a cool Northampton afternoon a small pack of thieves armed with sledge hammers attack a jewelry store with their accomplices awaiting their bounty on get-away scooters. Enter a fine citizen with her shopping bag loaded with what must have been bricks. The woman, seen in the video, charges down the street and scares off the criminals who clumsily try to make tracks. During their exit one of the gang was knocked off their scooter and was able to be pinned down until police arrived. Video shows that the rider who didn’t get a way was riding a Vespa LXV. A sad end for a fine scooter. The hero of the day remained un-named by news reports. Modesty prevails.

The New York Post report

Scooter Superstores Closed

We reported a few months ago that Florida/Georgia scooter dealer chain Scooter Superstore of America (SSTAM) had filed for bankruptcy. Several sources tell us SSTAM’s shops officially closed at the end of January. These court documents call for SSTAM’s collateral and inventory to be returned to GE Commercial Distribution Finance Corporation. Mechanics from the Hollywood, FL location have opened a new service center, Vespariva.

Another Disc Brake Option For Classic Vespas

Sam from The Scooter Republic wrote to tell me about a new disc brake they have available for Sprint style front ends. I wrote about their smallframe disc brake back in May of 2009. Now they have an alternative to putting in a more modern P-series or PK-style front end to add modern front stopping power. Until now, the only option for adding a disc brake to this variety of Vespa front end was from Worb5 Scooter Parts in Germany. The TSR version claims anti-dive properties and the requirement for a small bracket to be welded to the fork tube. The part is not for the average Vespa rider, but looks like a nice addition to the scoot that otherwise has it all. Estimated price is 320 GBP and promises of photos of a fitted model were made and will be shared when we get them.

WebBikeWorld on the Piaggio Museum

We’ve always loved WebBikeWorld’s great reviews, Larry Gebraski points out they have a good writeup on the Piaggio Museum with some solid advice for travelers.

(When you visit, ask how the extravagant new Massimiliano-Fuksas-designed museum that was scheduled to open in 2007 is coming along. Be sure to remind your tour guide that the museum hype came a month before Piaggio’s stock offering, then was never mentioned again.)

Book Review:
Vespa Scooters Essential Buyer’s Guide

Veloce Books is a British publisher focused mostly on vintage cars and motorcycles. They’ve released several scooter books, some reviewed here in the past, and all worth checking out. Their newest scooter-related endeavor is The Essential Buyer’s Guide: Vespa Scooters (subtitled “Classic two-stroke models 1960 to 2008“) by Mark Paxton. The word “Essential” in the title is not hyperbole, this book is truly a “must-own” for anyone considering the purchase of a vintage Vespa.
Continue reading “Book Review:
Vespa Scooters Essential Buyer’s Guide”

An Alternate Reality?

The MV Agusta motorcycle, like the Vespa, was born from the remnants of an Italian aircraft manufacturer after World War II. But did you know the Agusta and Vespa very nearly had a lot more in common?

MV Agusta produced their first prototype, called “Vespa 98”, in 1945. After learning that the name had already been registered by Piaggio for its Vespa motorscooter, it was referred to simply by the number “98”.

Agusta went on to build a few scooters, such as the CGT, the Ovunque, and the Chicco. So if it was not for some paperwork, we could all be riding Ovunques today!

Thanks to our Belgian friend David V.

LML ready to counter Vespa threat

Can Vespa shut down LML in Europe with their new PX retread? We’re betting it won’t be easy. The LML was on the market first, and even their top-of-the-line 4-stroke model is quite a bit cheaper than the Vespa model it apes (no pun intended). On top of that, Italy and PGO are offering subsidies of up to 22% for the 4-stroke LML Star Sure, there is a crowd that would never settle for an LML over a Vespa, but we bet plenty of thrifty Europeans will choose the cheaper LML, especially where subsidies apply. And Vespa’s threat is further mooted with new LML models expected to be announced at EICMA this week. Rumors include automatic transmission, electronic fuel injection, an electric version, and 50cc, 200cc, and even 250cc variants. We don’t expect to see all of those (especially the 250) but you can bet on a few of those, and a “Create your Star” program becoming available soon, at least in Europe.

In the disintegrating U.S. market where the LML Star is sold as the Genuine Stella, Vespa is unlikely to import the PX. The PX models sold a few years ago were priced at about $5000 and were unavailable in California. That price would likely be higher today, and California’s CARB emissions standards are spreading to 16 states, including scooter-friendly Washington, Oregon, New York, and Florida.

Ironically, the Vespa’s dated-but-beloved 2-stroke engine might be it’s biggest selling point, as LML is allegedly phasing out their 2-stroke version. But it’s still a mystery why Vespa, who were forced out of the US market in 1985 by emissions laws, haven’t bothered to develop a 4-stroke engine for the classic Vespa frame in the ensuing 25 years. Vespa and Piaggio continue to innovate in other product lines, so perhaps it’s a smart decision (and minimal investment) to keep the Vespa PX frozen in time, but LML is likely to cut deeply into the PX’s relatively small pool of customers with the same classic body, competitive pricing, and more modern engineering.

2011 Vespa PX 125, 150 for Europe

As predicted a couple months ago, Vespa has taken note of LML’s success in the metal-bodied manual-transmission market. Scooter Station, Scooter-Infos, Hell for Leather, and are reporting that Piaggio is dusting off the Vespa PX 125 and 150, which will be available in the first quarter of 2011 with some minor cosmetic changes and a catalyzed 2-stroke engine that (somehow) meets Euro3 specs.
Continue reading “2011 Vespa PX 125, 150 for Europe”

Vintage Vespa(SM)

Steve at The Scooter Scoop was trolling the patent sites again, and learned that our friends at Piaggio & C. S.p.A. are hoping to protect the phrase “Vintage Vespa” as a service mark. Piaggio returned to America a decade ago and alienated their entire customer base with a schload of legal action against the small handful of shops and parts distributors that kept the Vespa brand name alive in their absence. A handful ended up paying big money to be certified as a “Vintage Vespa Restoration Center,” a designation which carried little weight and was soon forgotten. At the same time, Piaggio offered (for sale!) a catalog of vintage parts that they seemed unable to supply to their dealers in any sort of timely fashion. In the ten years since then, most of the few truly successful Vespa dealerships are back in the hands of scooter enthusiasts, including several that Piaggio tried to shut down back in ’99 in favor of snooty luxury car dealerships and boutiques. But many of the best vintage scooter repair shops still want nothing to do with Grande Azzuro.

If the request becomes reality, how can an unsanctioned repair shop (many of which have been in business much longer than PiaggioUSA) attract customers? “We fix postwar Italian monocoque 4-speed rotary-valve steel-bodied 2-stroke motorscooters” just doesn’t flow off the tongue. Our suggestion? Simply offer vintage Piaggio parts and service.”