70 years of Lambretta: scooters, mods and Quadrophenia


The old ladies with the tubular steel frames

70 years of Lambretta: scooters, mods and Quadrophenia-Loren Bogg

The spirit of the sixties. This is how Lambretta advertised in 1963

Source: Heritage Images / Getty Images

The mods adored them, today they still excite them. The first Lambretta was produced 70 years ago – we report on technology and lifestyle, on a scooter, completely different from the Vespa.

D.he journey to Monza went through five countries. Two restored Lambrettas from the sixties, a Silver Special and an SX150, were transported by trailer from the Rhine to Lake Constance. There, the Cologne architect couple Christiane and Rolf May met their New York scooter buddies Zachary and Loren Boggs.

The aim of the German-American neo-mod quartet: take the Alps in one day. Short passage via Bregenz and Liechtenstein, then on to Chur in Switzerland, where the Julier Pass with its 2283 meters was a stress test for the 9.4 hp engines. But the old women with tubular steel frames mastered every incline brilliantly. Lake Como in northern Italy served as a picturesque backdrop for a breather. A first espresso under the southern sun.

From here it was 65 kilometers to Monza – and not just for Formula 1 fans a holy place. The Lambretta speed records were once set on the local race track. In everyday life in metropolises, scooter rides tend to be more of a relaxed glide, but that was by no means satisfied by the designer and company founder Ferdinando Innocenti in the 1950s.

He wanted to prove that his Lambretta models were the most efficient and fastest scooters the world are. A study disguised in the shape of an egg, the blood-red Racing Model A, scratched the 200 km / h mark on the race track. The Rallymaster made for the British market, on the other hand, was seen as the lively parade horse for the road from the technically highly innovative Lambretta stable.

If you drive upright, you look more elegant

For the 70th birthday of the Milanese Zweiradschmiede, which is celebrated throughout the summer with numerous trips and clan meetings, pops up the old legends again. With the annual EuroLambretta, which of course was entirely under the star of the anniversary, the world’s largest meeting of Lambretta fans took place last weekend on the Adria Racetrack in the province of Rovigo.

The pilgrimage of the married couples May and Boggs, however, led to the Lambretta speed meeting in Monza. A race track meeting with a travel experience. “Meetings like ‘Beat the Clock’ in Cologne, the ‘Euro Yeye’ in Spain or the ‘Brighton Mod Weekender’ focus on music,” explains Rolf May. “Many organizers clearly have their roots in the scooter scene. Music and engines belong together here, completely independent of any company PR that doesn’t exist anyway. "

70 years of Lambretta: scooters, mods and Quadrophenia-LD

In the fifties, scooters made people mobile – and not that inelegant

Source: Getty Images

The scooter boom begins in post-war Italy – “Ciao, ragazze” – with dark sunglasses and a polo shirt; the two-strokes rattle away the dreariness of the hard war years. In Great Britain, the slick pop culture of the modernists, or mods for short, has valued not only soul, beat and tight-fitting suits, but also neat upright sitting on the scooter bench since the beginning of the sixties.

At a time when public transport stops operating early in the evening, imports from Italy are mobilizing a whole generation. Lambretta models, which are also used by the British Post, can even stand up to the Vespa competition.

Jayne Mansfield’s scooter is in the museum

In contrast to the airy ride on the Mediterranean, the rainy weather on the island makes the long fishtail parka of the British armed forces a functional must-have for the style army. The blue-white-red target logo of the Royal Air Force will soon adorn the parka back and sheet metal parts. An independent Lambretta clothing line still exists today, which sells the beat myth as a licensed product in relevant boutiques around the world – regardless of the production of scooters.

The leather jacket and lubricating oil aura of the bikers, on the other hand, is absolutely not the thing of the mods. “Since the engines of the Vespas and Lambrettas were covered, it was also much easier to stay clean and neat,” writes Richard Weight in “A Very British Style”, his standard work on the Mod movement and its history.

70 years of Lambretta: scooters, mods and Quadrophenia-Cardif

Burgererschreck: The mods loved Lambrettas because the clothes didn’t get dirty on them. And they upgraded the scooters optically

Source: Getty Images

The Italian builders were initially skeptical about the image change of their brand in Great Britain, but in the end they were only too happy to take it up. Initially with a more classic male understanding of motor marketing: The US bombshell Jayne Mansfield shone as an advertising medium, on which Innocenti had her built a gold TV175, which the actress never picked up.

The glamorous one-off is now in Vittorio Tessera’s Lambretta Museum in Rodano. Even the brochures and dealer catalogs of that time are considered style Bibles in today’s design scene.

"Welcome to the men’s class!"

In this country, the Lambretta clan forms a committed community of drivers and fans. This is due to the fact that the brand has always remained a topic for specialists in German-speaking countries and has never been marketed on a large scale. In any case, the competition from Piaggo rolled into completely different dimensions with their Vespa models.

The aircraft manufacturer from Pontedera introduced its much better known "Wasp" two years before the Lambretta. The one from Rome and Pescia, Innocenti, who moved further north, followed in 1947 with the establishment of his two-wheeler factory in Milan, which manufactured tubular steel scooters.

70 years of Lambretta: scooters, mods and Quadrophenia-Blur

With its three headlights, the LD 150 from 1957 exudes a touch of luxury

Source: National Motor Museum / Heritage Images / Getty Images

Vespas, on the other hand, have a self-supporting body made of pressed sheet steel. "The feeling of driving a Lambretta is completely different – I deliberately don’t say better – than on a Vespa," says architect and Lambretta fan Rolf May.

Deliberately elitist and snuggly, the greeting for people who come from other scooter worlds and possibly drive their first restored TV200 is: "Welcome to the men’s class!"

The main factory ended in 1971

The slogan "Your first class ticket to independence", with which the Italian manufacturers advertised at the height of the scooter cult in Great Britain, stood for a youth culture that was characterized by a will to style and a hedonistic optimistic mood. The Who set a musical monument to the Mod era with the rock opera "Quadrophenia", which was released as a double album in 1973.

The film adaptation of the same name from 1979, with Sting as the nasty gang boss and Vespa-driving opponent of the Lambretta-driving main character Jimmy, inspired entire generations of retro mods from Paul Weller to the Gallagher brothers. Britishness par excellence – conceived, produced and refined in Italy.

70 years of Lambretta: scooters, mods and Quadrophenia-Old School Scooter club

Lambretta had scooters and tricycles manufactured under license in Vietnam

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Internationally, Lambretta relied on license construction. In Germany, NSU in Neckarsulm (today Audi) manufacturing, Serveta in Spain, Siambretta in Argentina. The original production in Milan was stopped in 1971 after the first major two-wheeler crisis. Scooter India Ltd. A little later acquired the production machines there and manufactured various models until the end of the 1990s.

The original Lambrettas have an internal chain drive, early models in the A to F series even have a cardan shaft. Compared to the Vespa, the engine is fundamentally designed differently. “The 1960s models TV200, DL200 Electronic and SX200 are in great demand among collectors and enthusiasts,” explains Rolf May. “But there are also models like the SX150 or TV175 from the first and second series that also have a certain cool status own. Then there are the models from the A, B, C and D series from the 1940s and 1950s, which are now almost considered an investment, provided they are well looked after. "

The Who, Rave and Britpop provide the soundtrack

For engine historians, there are some remarkable details to discover. The TV175 from the 3 series was about the first series motorcycle with a disc brake; the Lambretta DL and the Lui / Luna were spruced up by the famous Turin car designer Bertone.

"The Lambretta scene has of course become older and wiser, more of an adult than a youth culture," says Christiane May, who designs hotels as her main job and also designs their interiors. “The proportion of women has risen continuously.

70 years of Lambretta: scooters, mods and Quadrophenia-England

Sporting ambitions. This Lambretta was fully disguised for a world record attempt

Source: Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

For the first time, the Lambretta Club Germany has a woman as president. Children and dogs are now also at the big meetings. ”She adds:“ ‘Quadrophenia’ remains the blueprint, but rave and the Britpop of the nineties are also important influences. Ian Brown, Oasis and the like are part of the musical program. "

The architect May, who last gave the Steigenberger in Cologne an interior like from the days of the economic miracle, sees scooter driving on the one hand as a distraction from working life, on the other hand, design and technology also affect her job. “Building or restoring a scooter can be compared to the work of an architect. With the technical overhaul and the meticulous removal of rust and dents, we are practically in the area of ​​monument preservation. "

The fans have a hard time with the new editions

As expected, Lambretta connoisseurs are struggling with the current production and sales situation. "This also has to do with the fact that opaque deals with the trademark rights have led to at least three manufacturers of Lambrettas being thrown onto the market with few references to the models manufactured by Innocenti," says Rolf May 125cc with a plastic cover and SYM engine, for example, was barely noticed by the scene.

Now the Austrian KSK Group is trying to import a V-Special in steel half-shell construction with exchangeable side parts. 50, 125 and 200 cubic models have been announced. The Salzburg design company Kiska contributed in targeted collaboration with the Italian Lambretta community. This alliance has designed a halfway conciliatory outfit for traditionalists and normal drivers.

Of course, an electric model should inspire the renewed attempt to make the scooter legend Lambretta great again. “The part didn’t play a role at the EuroLambretta,” says the new German Lambretta Club President Julia Spitznas. "At least it looks like a serious attempt to build on the golden times."

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