The Lambretta Scooter
Lambretta was a line of motor scooters manufactured in Milan, Italy by Innocenti. It became a must-have item among the Mod subculture that originated in London in the late 1950s.
In 1922, Ferdinando Innocenti of Pescia built a steel-tubing factory in Rome. In 1931, he moved the business to Milan where he built a larger factory producing seamless steel tubing. The factory was bombed during the Second World War and destroyed. Surveying the ruins, Innocenti reportedly saw the future of cheap, private transport and decided to produce a motor scooter that would compete with the ubiquitous motorcycle in terms of cost and weather protection.
The main design stimulus for the Lambretta and Vespa scooters came from the Pre-war Cushman scooters made in Nebraska, USA. These olive green scooters were used in Italy as field transport for American Paratroopers and Marines. The US military had used them to get around Nazi defence tactics of destroying roads and bridges in the Dolomites.
Corradino D'Ascanio, Aeronautical engineer General, was given the job of designing a simple, robust and affordable vehicle. It had to be easy to drive for both men and women, be able to carry a passenger and not get its driver's clothes soiled.
Lambretta 125 Special, 1965
D'Ascanio apparently hated motorbikes, but designed a revolutionary vehicle. It was built on a spar frame with a handlebar gear change and the engine mounted onto the rear wheel. The front protection shield kept the rider dry and clean in comparison to the open front end on motorcycles. The pass-through leg area was geared towards women, as wearing dresses or skirts made riding conventional motorcycles a challenge. The front fork, like an aircraft's landing gear, allowed for easy wheel changing. The internal mesh transmission eliminated the standard motorcycle chain, a source of oil and dirt. This basic design allowed a series of features to be deployed on the frame which would later allow quick development of new models.
D'Ascanio fell out with Innocenti, who rather than a moulded and beaten spar frame wanted to produce his frame from rolled tubing, allowing him to revive both parts of his prewar company. General D'Ascanio disassociated himself with Innocenti and took his design to Enrico Piaggio who produced the spar-framed Vespa from 1946 on.
Deriving the name Lambretta from the small river Lambro in Milan, which ran near to the factory, Innocenti started production of Lambretta scooters in 1947 - the year after Piaggio started production of its Vespa models.
Lambretta 150 LD '57
Unlike the Vespa, which was built with a unibody chassis pressed from sheets of steel, Lambrettas were based around a more rigid tubular frame, although the 'J' series model produced from 1964 through 1971 did have a monocoque body.
Along with the Vespa, Lambretta was an iconic vehicle of the 1950s and 1960s when they became the adopted vehicle of choice for the British Mod scene. The character Jimmy from the Mod film Quadrophenia rode a Lambretta Li 150 Series 3. Of the 1960s models, the TV (Turismo Veloce), the Special (125 and 150), the SX (Special X) and the GP (Grand Prix) are considered the most desirable due to their increased performance and refined look.
As the race to be the first person on the moon gathered pace, Innocenti's new model was launched, the Luna range. The machines looked very advanced for their day, reverting back to the open frame style of the much admired 'D' types, and although sales were slow to start with, racing success from grass-tracking to circuit-racing soon made them a sales success. Designed by Bertone Innocenti wanted a small frame and engine Lambretta that could be sold alongside the larger models. The frame had a tubular-steel front end, with bolt-on leg shields, and a monocoque pressed-steel rear frame.
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