The Vespa motor scooter was a positive that fell out of Italy’s WWII years. Having had a smack on the hand by the Allies and told to stop making war planes, Enrico Piaggio did the next most obvious thing – he built a motorcycle, fully enclosed it in sheet metal (as one did an aeroplane) and called it a scooter. Well that’s not strictly true, the enclosed bodywork actually came about by employing a designer called Corradino D’Ascanio who hated motorcycles. A seemingly odd decision from Piaggio, but conveniently, D’Ascanio already had a scooter design in his back pocket – something he had whipped up for Ferdinando Innocenti at Lambretta, but it had been rejected. D’Ascanio’s design was revolutionary: he wanted the frame to be stamped steel, Innocenti had wanted rolled tube. ‘Stamped.’ ‘Rolled.’ ‘Stamped.’ ‘Rolled.’ went the argument and D’Ascanio left in a huff. Ensconced down the road at Piaggio, D’Ascanio set to work. Eventually, he revealed his new creation to Piaggio who exclaimed ‘Sembra una vespa!’ (which translates to something like ‘It would seem to be a wasp!). Thus, the Vespa was born. Sales grew steadily through the late 40s and then, in 1952, as luck would have it, Audrey Hepburn side-saddled Gregory Peck’s Vespa in the movie Roman Holiday for a spin through Rome – and the rest, as they say, is history.
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