Lam­bretta’s 70 years

All About Italy (USA) - - All About Italy | The Story Of An Italian Legend - Stefano Valen­tini

The scooter that rev­o­lu­tion­ized move­ment and re­designed the Ital­ian im­age around the world

This is a 70-year his­tory that be­gan in 1931, when Fer­di­nando In­no­centi, founder of a steel pipe fac­tory in Rome, moved his en­tire busi­ness to Mi­lan, mak­ing Lam­bretta the largest of the era. Dur­ing the Sec­ond World War, the fac­tory was bombed and com­pletely de­stroyed.

The founder, how­ever, was not bro­ken by the events. In­stead, an award-win­ning idea rose from the ashes: con­vert the fac­tory and pro­duce af­ford­able trans­porta­tion for the work­ing class. The en­tre­pre­neur, in­spired by the Cush­man scooter - im­ported by Amer­i­cans - asked a Ro­man en­gi­neer to de­sign a small and cheap scooter. So the pro­to­type ‘Ex­per­i­ment 0’ was born, with a ro­bust de­sign.

The project was then aban­doned, prob­a­bly due to the chaos caused by the war.

The name Lam­bretta hon­ors Italy, com­ing from the Lam­bro River that runs near Mi­lan where the fac­tory was founded

Then in 1945 Fer­di­nando Lam­bretta be­gan to de­velop the scooter’s de­sign, en­trust­ing the dream of this achieve­ment to a young aero­nau­tic gen­eral, Pier Luigi Torre. The Torre pro­to­type - ‘Ex­per­i­ment O’ - was not par­tic­u­larly avant-garde aes­thet­i­cally, but was much more me­chan­i­cally solid. A 125cc cylin­der, two-pis­ton en­gine was first pro­posed. A cool­ing sys­tem was also cre­ated, in­cor­po­rat­ing a large fan that could ven­ti­late the en­gine.

But one of the tech­ni­cal fea­tures was an in­ter­est­ing nov­elty: the gear­box had only two gears. A chas­sis con­sist­ing of a sin­gle, cen­tral cast iron, de­signed to sup­port the weight and torque that the scooter had to bear on the road was pro­posed for this fu­ture leg­end. An ex­quis­ite outer body cov­er­ing the reser­voir, stor­age com­part­ment and en­gine en­cased this struc­ture, cre­at­ing an ex­quis­ite aes­thetic. The struc­ture of the front wheel car­riage, sim­i­lar to the wheels of light air­craft, is the aero­nau­ti­cal gen­eral’s mas­ter­work sig­na­ture. Fer­di­nando In­no­centi’s dream came to life only a year af­ter the Vespa’s re­lease: the name was ‘Ex­per­i­ment 2’ which en­tered the mar­ket with the name ‘Lam­bretta M’ in Oc­to­ber 1947, at an af­ford­able price for all - 135,000 Lire - which today would be the equiv­a­lent of 70 US dol­lars. In 1948 pro­duc­tion went into full oper­a­tion with a con­struc­tion of 50 scoot­ers a day, just enough to cover the huge amount of or­ders that stormed the fac­tory. WHAT DID THE VERY FIRST LAM­BRETTA LOOK LIKE?

‘Ex­per­i­ment 0’ was not en­tirely aban­doned, but was de­vel­oped by im­prov­ing it me­chan­i­cally. The rear body was re­moved to high­light the tubu­lar frame that sup­ported the tank and the stor­age com­part­ment placed be­hind, un­der the seat. In the front, a small twist left a large space for the driver’s feet while the en­gine was com­pletely re­designed and the com­pli­cated twopis­ton ver­sion re­placed by the sin­gle-cylin­der ver­sion.

The trans­mis­sion pro­vided a com­plex, con­i­cal torque sys­tem, a twist­ing shaft and a three-speed gear lever op­er­ated by a pedal lever po­si­tioned on the plat­form. The muf­fler was in line with the frame near the front of the plat­form slats, and then turned, mak­ing the ex­haust gas es­cape be­low the en­gine stand.

The In­no­centi team paid great at­ten­tion to the chas­sis line and to the me­chan­i­cal as­pects be­fore large-scale pro­duc­tion started, com­pared to the other mopeds of the time - given the

ex­tremely mod­ern look and aes­thet­ics - Lam­bretta be­longed to an en­tirely dif­fer­ent cat­e­gory: ev­ery fea­ture of the Lam­bretta was in­te­grated aes­thet­i­cally, cre­at­ing a bril­liant line still un­matched. A slight over-pro­duc­tion in the sum­mer of 1948 led the In­no­centi team to make a ma­jor de­ci­sion to sell scoot­ers in the Ar­gen­tinian mar­ket, where thou­sands of Ital­ian em­i­grants, and oth­ers, would be thrilled to put their hands on an Ital­ian-made prod­uct.


An up­date and restyling came in 1948. Af­ter a few months of re­think­ing de­sign, the ‘Lam­bretta B’ model was launched, in­tro­duc­ing im­prove­ments to the rear sus­pen­sion and an evo­lu­tion of the gear­box, mak­ing it man­ual in­stead of pedal-driven. In that year In­no­centi reached the top of the Ital­ian in­dus­tri­al­ists, plac­ing him­self as the sec­ond lead­ing man­u­fac­turer of mo­tor ve­hi­cles in Italy. On the roads of Italy the only scoot­ers that cir­cu­lated were Pi­ag­gio’s Vespa and In­no­centi’s Lam­bretta. The vi­sion be­came leg­end, and the cre­ation of the two scooter Sun­day tours in the coun­try by both man­u­fac­tur­ers or­ga­nized and ad­vised about main­te­nance and use of their ve­hi­cles. So a life­style was born called “Lambrettis­mo”, which in the spring of 1949 led to the pub­li­ca­tion of the Lam­bretta news­let­ter, trans­lated into many lan­guages.


Not con­tent with the Ital­ian mar­ket alone, in 1951 the In­no­centi team granted the Ger­man com­pany NSU renowned for the pro­duc­tion of mopeds - the li­cense to pro­duce Lam­bret­tas. Be­tween the 1950s and 1960s, other fac­tory open­ings were au­tho­rized in In­dia, Ar­gentina, Brazil, Congo, Spain, Colom­bia, In­done­sia, Sri Lanka, For­mosa, Pak­istan, Turkey and France. Through a stan­dard­ized sys­tem of con­struc­tion, fac­to­ries ded­i­cated to Lam­bretta pro­duc­tion opened in many in­dus­tri­al­ized coun­tries. In those years nu­mer­ous mod­els were pre­sented, up­dated year af­ter year, al­ways fo­cus­ing on the price-qual­ity-quan­tity as­pect of the prod­uct.

The In­no­centi team was ab­so­lutely con­fi­dent of its prod­uct, so much so that it de­cided to pro­mote an ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign with the slo­gan ‘More than 100,000 kilo­me­ters by Lam­bretta’, of­fer­ing high cash re­wards and prizes. Dr. Ce­sare Battaglini man­aged to travel 160,000 kilo­me­ters on his Lam­bretta 150 D on this tour, and thou­sands of fans dreamt of fol­low­ing in the tire tracks of the iconic world tour.

In 1958 fac­to­ries man­aged to “squeeze out” a Lam­bretta ev­ery 50 sec­onds, for a monthly pro­duc­tion of 15,000 scoot­ers


The fac­to­ries spread all over the world reached in­cred­i­ble pro­duc­tion heights and by 1958 man­aged to “squeeze out” a Lam­bretta ev­ery 50 sec­onds, for a monthly pro­duc­tion of 15,000 scoot­ers.

In those years Pi­ag­gio and In­no­centi be­came the two Ital­ian pro­duc­tion lead­ers of scoot­ers and the best ex­am­ples of ‘Made in Italy’ known in the world. The great suc­cess did not stop the In­no­centi team’s de­sire for in­no­va­tion. At the end of 1961, the “Scooter Line” was in­tro­duced with the LI III model, avail­able in the 125 and 150cc ver­sions. In­no­centi de­cided to mount a more pow­er­ful en­gine, the 175cc, on the new model of the Fast Line - TV III se­ries - which was the first large-scale pro­duc­tion scooter to mount a disc brake on the front wheel, pre­vi­ously only used by the most so­phis­ti­cated rac­ing ve­hi­cles. The eas­ily mod­i­fi­able as­pect led to the tremen­dous suc­cess of the Vespa and Lam­bretta: many scoot­ers were cus­tom­ized with ad­di­tional mir­rors, en­gine elab­o­ra­tions, or spe­cial body col­ors. All in the light of a his­tor­i­cal pe­riod char­ac­ter­ized by youth move­ments, es­pe­cially the English Mods, which made Ital­ian scoot­ers the sym­bol of the cul­tural rev­o­lu­tion.

Pi­ag­gio and In­no­centi be­came the two Ital­ian pro­duc­tion lead­ers of scoot­ers and the best ex­am­ples of ‘Made in Italy’ known in the world


To­wards the end of the 1960s, all Ital­ian car en­gine man­u­fac­tur­ers were af­fected by the mar­ket cri­sis. In or­der to re­main com­pet­i­tive, In­no­centi’s mar­ket­ing man­agers pre­sented a strate­gic plan to at­tract new cus­tomers. In 1967, ve­hi­cle pro­duc­tion was there­fore fo­cused on a very young tar­get. So the new Lam­bretta 50, named “Lui” (He), was born. The com­pany had great hopes in its mar­ket­ing strat­egy, but in the mean­time many com­pa­nies went bank­rupt and bought from com­pet­ing homes: Moto Guzzi was dis­cov­ered by the Ital­ian Gov­ern­ment, the Gil­era Moto from Pi­ag­gio, while clos­ing their ac­tiv­i­ties Bianchi, Par­illa, Mi­val and Sterzi. Un­for­tu­nately, the “Lui” model failed to have the de­sired suc­cess, de­spite its fea­tures and its ad­van­ta­geous price, In­no­centi was forced to stop pro­duc­tion in 1969 and de­spite all at­tempts to im­prove, the eco­nomic cri­sis led Luigi In­no­centi to the de­ci­sion to Sell the in­dus­trial com­plex. The In­dian Gov­ern­ment showed in­ter­est and sur­prised In­no­centi with a bid of 3,000,000,000 Lire (about 2 mil­lion USD) for the pur­chase of all the ma­chin­ery. The ne­go­ti­a­tions were con­cluded and Lam­bretta be­gan the next phase of its ex­is­tence on the banks of the Ganges. Within a few years the In­dian gov­ern­ment pro­duced Lam­bretta ex­port­ing it to sev­eral Euro­pean coun­tries, but ev­ery­thing turned out to be a fail­ure.

To date, Lam­bretta Gmbh is the re­sult of the col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween the Lam­bretta Con­sor­tium and the Aus­trian Ksr Group, a group in­ter­ested in the re­launch of the his­toric V-spe­cial ver­sion of the scooter, avail­able with three dif­fer­ent en­gines, pre­sented - most likely - at the next edi­tion of EICMA, the Mi­lanese Mo­tor Show, in De­cem­ber.

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