Ride again

Vespa has just launched a new model, the LX. Has the 60-year-old company managed to combine innovation to remain true to the original design classic?

A 1948 Model

Among the myriad tweaks, Vespa also pulled off some milestone models. The elegant GS of 1955 has become probably the most collectable model. It boasted a much more aerodynamic body and a host of technical innovations, including the 150cc engine, four-speed gearbox and standard long saddle.

Santucci takes a gradualist view of the company’s design development. ‘Each Vespa model since 1946 has, in its own way, succeeded in leaving its mark on Vespa’s evolution, from the Vespa GS to the PX, which was designed in 1977 and is still being produced today,’ he says.

However, Piaggio’s designers were not just adhering slavishly to the original design. Each new Vespa model reflected changes in aesthetics and taste in the wider world. While the 1960s models were all about fun styling, bright colours and a youthful image, by the end of the following decade the shapes had turned far more boxy and angular. ‘Vespa is an established design icon, but central to this is the fact that it continues to represent an innovative, completely Italian response to the question of transport, which stays relevant to each new generation,’ explains Santucci.

The two-year-old GT also reflects general design trends. Its bulbous shape has a lot in common with Volkwagen’s New Beetle, or even with architectural forms such as Future Systems’ Selfridges in Birmingham.

It is lucky for Vespa, then, that in recent times consumers have been involved in a love affair with all things retro, so that the new scooters can legitimately call on the lines of previous classic models. As Santucci says of the LX, ‘The proportions are the same, but the design follows the defined lines of the earlier Vespa models. The main changes of the LX are in the details – the handlebars, the instrument panel, the shape of the rear of the bike – all of which give the Vespa LX a vintage feel.’

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