The Mods, Vespa Scooters and the Sixties

Mods riding a tricked out Vespa Scooter.Vespa clubs popped up throughout Europe, and by 1952, worldwide Vespa Club membership had surpassed 50,000. By the mid-1950s, Vespas were being manufactured under licence in Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Belgium and Spain; in the 1960s, production was started in India, Brazil and Indonesia.  Soon Vespa clubs expanded throughout Europe driven by the popularity of Vespas and Lambretta Scooters.

Mod is a subculture that began in 1960s Britain and spread, in varying degrees, to other countries and continues today on a smaller scale. Focused on music and fashion, the subculture has its roots in a small group of London-based stylish young men in the late 1950s who were termed modernists because they listened to modern jazz, although the subculture expanded to include women.

Many mods drove motor scooters, usually Vespas or Lambrettas. Scooters were a practical and affordable form of transportation for 1960s teens and young adults, and in the early 1970s, public transport stopped relatively early in the night. For teens with low-paying jobs, scooters were cheaper and easier to park than cars, and they could be bought through newly-available hire purchase plans.

Mod Club Meet-up. Scooters on display.Mods also treated scooters as a fashion accessory. Italian scooters were preferred due to their clean-lined, curving shapes and gleaming chrome. For young mods, Italian scooters were the “embodiment of continental style and a way to escape the working-class row houses of their upbringing”. Mods customised their scooters by painting them in “two-tone and candyflake and overaccessorized with luggage racks, crash bars, and scores of mirrors and fog lights”. Some mods added four, ten, or as many as 30 mirrors to their scooters. They often put their names on the small windscreen. They sometimes took their engine side panels and front bumpers to electroplating shops to get them covered in highly reflective chrome.

Hard mods (who later evolved into the skinheads) began riding scooters more for practical reasons. Their scooters were either unmodified or cutdown, which was nicknamed a “skelly”. Lambrettas were cutdown to the bare frame, and the unibody (monocoque)-design Vespas had their body panels slimmed down or reshaped.

Royal Air Force roundel, a mod symbolAfter the seaside resort brawls, the media began to associate Italian scooters with violent mods. The media described groups of mods riding scooters together as a “menacing symbol of group solidarity” that was “converted into a weapon”. With events like the November 6, 1966, “scooter charge” on Buckingham Palace, the scooter, along with the mods’ short hair and suits, began to be seen as a symbol of subversion.

As many British rock bands of the mid-1960s began to adopt a mod look and following, the scope of the subculture grew beyond its original confines and the focus began to change. By the summer of 1966, the proletarian aspects of the scene in London had waned, as the more fashion and pop-culture elements continued to grow, not only in England, but elsewhere. This period, portrayed in Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1966 film Blowup, was typified by pop art, Carnaby Street boutiques, live music, and discothèques. Many associate this era with fashion model Twiggy, miniskirts, and bold geometrical patterns on brightly coloured clothes. It would exert a considerable influence on the worldwide spread of mod, particularly in the United States.[

As mod was going through transformation in England, it became all the rage in the United States and around the world, as many young people adopted its look. However, the worldwide experience differed from that of the early scene in London in that it was based mainly on the pop culture aspect, influenced by British rock musicians. By now, mod was thought of more as a general youth-culture style rather than as a separate subgroup among different contentious factions. Countless American musicians, in the wake of the British Invasion, would adopt the look of mod clothes, longer hair, and Beatle boots. The exploitation documentary, Mondo Mod, provides a glimpse at mod’s influence on the Sunset Strip and West Hollywood scene of late 1966. Mod would become increasingly associated with psychedelic rock and the early hippie movement, by 1967, when more exotic looks, such as Nehru jackets and love beads came into vogue. Its trappings were reflected on popular TV shows such as Laugh-In and The Mod Squad.

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Vintage Vespa Scooter Shirts and Gifts

Tyrannosaurus Rex Scooter T Shirt
Tyrannosaurus Rex Scooter T Shirt
Detailed art work of  T-rex and the vintage Vespa Scooter.
Huge selection of vintage scooter T-shirts designs available on many colors, including
matching Flannel Pajama Pants.
Scooter 23 ~ Legend Vintage Scooters Grocery Tote Bag
Legend Vintage Scooters Grocery Tote Bag
Check out our store for a huge selection of Scooter Tote Bags.
Scooter 3 ~ Monkey Frog Riding Vintage Scooters T-shirts
 Monkey Frog Riding Vintage Scooters T-shirts
A crazy monkey and a frog just along for the rice, Vespa Scooter with side-car.
Available on a huge selection of shirts (tee shirts are available in many styles and colors)  scooter gifts
and accessories for popular scooters.
Scooter 13 ~ Evolution Vintage Scooters Shirt
Evolution Vintage Scooters Shirt
A humorous design of Evolution.
Scooter 41 ~ USA Red Vintage Scooters Classic Round Sticker
USA Red Vintage Scooters Classic Round Sticker
Stickers available for many countries as well as available
on many different products, including Vespa Scooter t shirts and scooter accessories.
 Classic pinback buttons, available in our Zazzle Store.
Just one of many Vespa Scooter designs available on a huge selection of
shirt types and colors.

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Vespa Scooter History 1946 to 1970

Once upon a time …  Enrico Piaggio, the son of Piaggio’s  founder Rinaldo Piaggio (Piaggio, built aircraft during WWII), decided to  address Italy’s urgent need for a modern and affordable mode of transportation for the masses.  Upon seeing the MP6 prototype for the first time, Enrico Piaggio exclaimed: “Sembra una vespa!” (“It resembles a wasp!”) Piaggio effectively named his new scooter on the spot. Vespa is both Latin and Italian for wasp—derived from the vehicle’s body shape: The thicker rear part connected to the front part by a narrow waist, and the steering rod resembled antennae.

The Vespa scooter was formally unveiled to the press at Rome Golf Club, reports suggest journalists were apparently mystified by the strange, pastel coloured, toy-like machine on display, many asked “is it a motorcycle? is it a bicycle?.  However,  the road tests demonstrations were encouraging, and even with no rear suspension the machine was easily maneuvered and seemed to be more comfortable to ride than a traditional motorcycle.

Following its public debut at the 1946 Milan Fair, the first fifty sold slowly, however, the company soon introduced a payment plan with installments, sales took off.  Piaggio sold some 2,500 Vespas in 1947, over 10,000 in 1948, 20,000 in 1949, and over 60,000 in 1950.

The biggest sales promotion ever was by Hollywood and well known movie stars. In 1952, Audrey Hepburn side-saddled Gregory Peck’s Vespa in the feature film Roman Holiday for a ride through Rome, resulting in over 100,000 sales. In 1956, John Wayne dismounted his horse in favor of the two-wheel Vespa scooter to get between takes on sets, as well as Marlon Brando, Dean Martin, and the entertainer Abbe Lane had become Vespa owners. William Wyler filmed Ben Hur in Rome in 1959, allowing Charlton Heston to abandon horse and chariot between takes to take a spin on the Vespa.  It seemed everyone in Hollywood had been bitten by the Vespa Bug.

Vespa clubs popped up throughout Europe, and by 1952, worldwide Vespa Club membership had surpassed 50,000. By the mid-1950s, Vespas were being manufactured under licence in Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Belgium and Spain; in the 1960s, production was started in India, Brazil and Indonesia. By 1956, one million had been sold, then two million by 1960. By the 1960s, the Vespa—originally conceived as a utility vehicle—had come to symbolize freedom and imagination, and resulted in further sales boosts: four million by 1970, and ten million by the late 1980s.

Improvements were made to the original design and new models were introduced. The 1948 Vespa 125 had rear suspension for a smoother ride and a bigger engine. The headlamp was moved up to the handlebars in 1953, and had more engine power and a restyled rear fairing. A cheaper spartan version was also available. One of the best-loved models was the Vespa 150 GS introduced in 1955 with a 150 cc engine, a long saddle, and the faired handlebar-headlamp unit. Then came the 50 cc of 1963, and in 1968 Vespa 125 Primavera became one of the most durable of all.

Vespas came in two sizes, referred to as “largeframe” and “smallframe”. The smallframe scooters came in 50 cc, 90 cc, 100 cc, and 125 cc versions, all using an engine derived from the 50 cc model of 1963, and the largeframe scooters in 125 cc, 150 cc, 160 cc, 180 cc, and 200 cc displacements using engines derived from the redesigned 125 cc engine from the late 1950s.

The largeframe Vespa evolved into the PX range in the late 1970s and was produced in 125, 150 and 200 cc versions until July 2007. Starting in 1981, an 80cc version was available as well. After production of the PX ceased, sales of the LML Star, an Indian-made copy of the PX, soared. Piaggio then reintroduced the PX 125 and 200 models in 2010.

The smallframe evolved into the PK range in the early 1980s, although some vintage-styled smallframes were produced for the Japanese market as late as the mid-1990s.


Edited from Wikipedia

Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0

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Happy Birthday Scooter Jenny

Happy Birthday Scooter Jenny



I mentioned before Scooter Baby was born eleven years ago in 2004. “Scooter Jenny” is celebrating her 12th birthday in December, she was first published at  Jenny is our first design for ScooterBaby and became the inspiration for creating many Vespa style motor scooter designs available on shirts, hoodies, hats, mouse pads, magnets, stickers, fashion pins and many more designs.  Jenny is a beautiful girl who is a factory worker, as the story goes, her Uncle served in Italy during the Big War and brought home a Vespa Scooter as spoils of the war. He gave it to Jenny, who rides it every day to the aircraft factory where she works on the assembly line. Jenny, like Rosie the Riveter, is one of thousands of young women who left their homes to join men in the factories during and after World War II.

Happy Birthday Jenny!

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Autoped Motor Scooter – One of the First Motorized Scooters

Autoped of America

First generation scooters appeared from 1915 to about 1930.  Believed to be the first motor scooter, The Motoped entered production in 1915.  The Motoped was soon followed by the Autoped, whose engine was engaged by pushing the handlebar column forward and whose brake was engaged by pulling the column back.  Autopeds were made in a factory located on Long Island, New York from 1915 to 1921, and were also made under licence by Krupp in Germany from 1919 to 1922.


1919 Autoped Motor Scooter

1919 Autoped Motor Scooter

Autoped Motor Scooter

Traffic Cop riding an Autoped Scooter in 1922.

The historical photographs above are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license and/or Public Domain.

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