The world’s oldest Vespa is expected to fetch more than $300,000 in an online auction ending next week.
First built in 1946, the Vespa has become one of the most famous vehicles in the world,
Following the end of WWII, the Italian aircraft industry was restricted from building new military planes and companies had to explore other avenues to stay afloat.
Having seen their aircraft plant destroyed by bombs during the war, Piaggio decided to shift production to the civilian automotive industry.
But the Italian economy was in ruins, and the country’s roads in terrible disrepair – meaning few could afford a new car, and even if they could, it was almost impossible to drive one.
Enrico Piaggio realized what the Italian people needed was a new form of transportation for the masses, that was cheap to run and easy to manoeuvre.
With the help of designer Corradino d’Ascanio (who hated motorcycles), the Vespa was born – a motor scooter powered by a single cylinder 98 cc 2-stroke engine, and all its mechanical parts hidden beneath a sculpted shell.
Having made its public debut at the 1946 Milan Fair, the scooters began to sell slowly but steadily.
The first 60 scooters Piaggio built were known as ‘Serie 0’ models, and were essentially hand-made prototypes, with the steel plates moulded around wooden masks and hand-soldered into place.
Once these first scooters had sold, the company quickly instituted a more efficient production line to meet the growing demand.
Then in 1952, Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck rode a Vespa through the streets of Rome in the classic romantic comedy Roman Holiday – and sales skyrocketed to 100,000 per year.
The Vespa offered for sale with Catawiki is one of only three ‘Serie 0’ scooters from 1946 still in existence, and is the earliest-known example, bearing its original Chassis number 1003.
This makes Chassis ‘1003’ the oldest Vespa in the world – and a highly important artefact from the history of automotive design.
Having survived intact for more than 70 years, the Vespa remains in good working order, and could be the ultimate entry into any vintage scooter rally.
But with an estimated value of around $270,000 – $350,000, it’s more likely that this icon of Italian design will become an exhibit in one of the world’s most prestigious collections.
Bidding in the online sale ends on March 28.