“It’s simple,” we always say. “Why can’t someone just slap a modern engine in a Vespa frame already? Why can’t Vespa just put the 160GS back on the assembly line? Why can’t LML/Stella make a California-legal 250cc Vespa? Everyone would buy it, no matter what they charged!”
Well, here’s proof, straight from an ad in Dealer News that it’s not so easy to make a truly-vintage-looking scooter in this day and age: Ladies and Gentlemen of the scooter buying public, witness the Venti 150 (click on photo to enlarge).
Hammerhead Offroad, probably looking for a way to get back at Lambretta International for upstaging their offerings from Adly with more attractive rebadged offerings from Adly, either devised this beast, or pounced on the distribution rights. They plan to unveil it at Dealer Expo next month.
To be honest, it’s a noble attempt, design-wise. At first glance, it really does emulate the look of a mid-sixties Vespa. Under more scrutiny, it’s easy to see the many compromises that have to be made to squeeze a modern 4-stroke automatic engine into a frame that originally held one of the weirdest-shaped engines known to mankind.
It’s hard to see details in the photo, or even to determine if the bodywork is plastic or metal (we’re betting it’s plastic on a metal tube frame, but we’d love to be proven wrong). Where a Vespa from this period had 8″ wheels, it appears to have 12″ wheels with front and rear disc brakes, which throws the body out of proportion. It surprisingly has a very accurate headset and one-sided front fork, although the wheel is too modern-looking, and the headset is riddled with the necessary brake fluid reservoirs and aftermarket cruiser-bike turn signals. The floorboards are actually flat, but there appears to be some sort of support structure beneath them. Giant visible rivets or bolts attach the horncast to the legshield, reinforcing the tube-frame theory.
Most obviously strange are the vented cowl extensions where the cowl meets the floorboards, which were probably necessary to make clearance for the (GY6-clone?) motor and mounts (again, probably to a tube frame). Again, all these quibbles aside, if you can do better, you’re free to try. To be honest, I’d be surprised if the long-speculated-about California-legal 4-stroke Stella 250 automatic looks any more authentic than this (though I’d be far more likely to ride a bike built by Genuine, LML, and possibly PGO rather than this unknown quantity.)
Venti means “20” in Italian, as in “20 oz. of coffee from Starbucks,” which says something about their target market. No Vespa snob would touch this bike with a ten-foot stadium mirror, and it doesn’t seem driven by the level of historical devotion found in CMSI’s Lambretta prototype, but then again, CMSI’s Lambretta will never actually go into production, there are now multiple rebadged Chinese “Lambrettas” on the market, and Vespa snobs make up an ever-decreasing portion of the scooter market.
At this point, it’s all speculation, are they already being churned out on a Chinese assembly line, or is it just a prototype made in a Texas basement? We don’t have any idea about the quality, price, or availability, but you can bet we’ll be paying a visit to Dealer Expo Booth 8441 a few weeks from now with a long list of questions and a camera.
UPDATE: We saw the Venti in person at Dealer Expo 2009.