Friday, March 21, 2008
It's later than you think...
... if you want a new, geared Vespa. Piaggio stopped making the P-range last year. European emissions laws have finally seen off the angular old workhorse they introduced as the 'New Line' in 1978. In the picture here we have an early P, with no indicators, bracketed by two latter-day examples which have such luxuries as disc brakes, oil injection and even a fuel gauge. Surprisingly, they're not that common a site in their native Italy, - there are far more in Paris and even Hong Kong than Rome. Italians love to have the very latest of everything, and the 4-speed PX is seen by some as an old man's form of transport. Many end up at dealer fairs to be exported to Britain. The Italian stock is dwindling, however. Dealers are increasingly turning to poking around in Spanish barns for licence-built MotoVespa examples. It won't be too long before the geared Vespa is like the Lambretta - more in the UK than in its native country.
All's not quite lost. An Indian built Vespa clone is increasingly available - the LML star. It comes in jolly primary colours, costs a grand less than a 'real' PX (if you can find one), and my goodness, is meant to be better-built than its Italian cousin. Higher-grade metals, tougher paint. Blimey.
My PX was first owned in Verona - the dealer sticker is still on the mudguard - and I aquired it from Niall at Retrospective Scooters in Turnpike Lane about 4 years ago. It's a pretty austere ride, though the suspension is armchair-like compared to my beloved 1973 Vespa Sprint. Top practical speed is something like 55mph, even with a tub of lard like me in the cockpit.
The photo above was taken outside Scooter Emporium, who have been trading just off Brick Lane for about 8 years. I was one of their first customers - they furnished my with my pride and joy, a the '73 Sprint mentioned above. I'll be writing about her when the summer comes.