70 YEARS OF LAMBRETTA
Change isn’t always a good thing or is it? Stu Owen takes a look at the reasoning behind Lambretta model changes and upgrades...
When the Li 150 series 1 was launched in 1958 it had virtually the same technology as the GP 200 which arrived some 11 years later.
Over the years of production Innocenti gradually crafted the Lambretta into what many people regard as the world’s finest scooter. Development was constant as the firm strove to perfect its product.
When Innocenti first introduced the Model A in 1947 it was inevitable that there would be changes to improve not only the engine but the whole chassis. A quick succession of models appeared, aptly named the B,C, D, E and F and not forgetting the LD Mk.1 over a six to seven year period. By the time the LD Mk.2 was introduced the Lambretta was reliable, robust and was the first machine to really take hold in the UK.
It sold in its thousands, probably due to those facts alone but maybe also because there were no upgrades throughout production. A customer buying a new model when it was launched would be getting virtually the same specification as one at the end of its production. This gave confidence that what you were buying wouldn’t be outdated within a few months – a far cry from today’s consumer world.
Without doubt when Innocenti launched new models they were obviously an improvement over their predecessor; that’s progress. What they didn’t do was make wholesale changes during any specific model production. Once the Slimstyle range or Series III as it’s more commonly known was introduced, this practise continued even more so. The Li series III first became available in late 1961 and stayed the same throughout its six year life until its demise in 1967. Between the 125cc and 150cc variants over 300,000 were produced and sold – it was by far Innocenti’s biggest ever selling Lambretta.
It was also reassuring for the official dealers who sold the Lambretta to the public. They could order large quantities of machines confident in the fact that they wouldn’t get stuck with any specific model because it had just been upgraded. Likewise it was the same with spares, not just on the mechanical side but also cosmetically. There was the odd exception like the short-lived TV 175 series 1 fiasco but in general the dealer would never have to worry about the problem of getting stuck with outdated stock.
Though this policy stood Innocenti in good stead, it possibly created an underlying problem. By striving for consistency, did they stifle development? When the Li 150 series 1 was launched in 1958 it had virtually the same technology as the GP 200 which arrived some 11 years later. Of course there were changes in design style and the overall look, but no real advancement in engineering. You could argue that the design was so good in the first place that it only ever needed tweaking here and there. Whichever model was introduced it sold well, proof alone that the buying public were happy with what was on offer.
The sad demise of the GP range in 1971 brought down the curtain on Lambretta as we know it. Though production continued in Spain and India they were only using already available engineering on the models they built. For the Lambretta to have survived into the 1970s and beyond it would have needed to develop significantly. You only have to look how the Vespa has evolved in the last 50 years to see why constant development is required.
Unfortunately the new management who took over Innocenti in 1971 didn’t see it that way, as they invested elsewhere in the company. The question has to remain, did they do so because it would have meant significant funding and resources would be needed to move the Lambretta forward… due to the lack of progress in previous years? That is something we will never know, but had they decided to invest in the Lambretta I wonder what it would have looked like today?
The Lambretta GP 200 and GP 200 electronic, the final models built by Innocenti–but was their technology out of date even by 1971?