The end of the Vespa PX Piaggio is for 2007 !
The date of his departure from the public scene had constantly been postponed by Piaggio, but the last resort seems to have been used: on December 31, 2007, the PX will go down in posterity … Retrospective, essay and portraits.
We had finally got used to it, because the end of the Piaggio PX had already been announced many times. The Italian manufacturer had indeed tended to play overtime, as this model was (and still is!) Part of our daily life..
But on December 31, 2007, after 30 years of production, the last in the line of the famous two-stroke manual speed Vespas will retire: after this deadline, due to the Euro 3 standard, it will no longer be authorized to be marketed in its current configuration. And it is highly unlikely that the makers of the brand will embark on costly investments to keep producing it….
Far from the very recent Piaggio MP3 (read), this funny little machine will have marked many generations: it began its post-war career in the Piaggio aeronautical factories in Pontedera, Italy, in order to revive the industrial tool..
The assembly lines, newly converted to two-wheelers, allow workers to resume work and the first model rolls off the lines in April 1946. And fifty after, on December 19, 2006 to be exact, the 100,000th Vespa has just come off the lines with a red GTS 250 model.
Seeing the prototype with a large central part and a slimmer waist, Enrico Piaggio compares it to a wasp (Vespa in Italian): a legend has just been born !
Designed by Corradino d’Ascanio, an engineer from aeronautics, the Vespa will revolutionize the usual concepts: self-supporting hull with sheet metal apron to protect against bad weather, and engine placed under the body with a direct transmission on the rear wheel, in order to to remove the channel which has the annoying habit of smearing users with grease.
The wheels are attached to a self-supporting arm, much like an airplane landing gear. This system makes it easier to change a wheel in the event of a puncture, using an on-board spare wheel. Finally, the gear change on the handlebars simplifies driving.
All these innovations will allow as many people as possible to access this individual mode of transport and experience a new feeling of freedom in the aftermath of the Second World War..
So much so that in 1948, production soared and then appeared a 125 cm3. At the start of the 1950s, the network already had more than 10,000 points of sale around the world. !
Manufactured in thirteen countries under license, the Vespa is sold in 114 others. In France, it is in the Nièvre, at the Fourchambault plant, that it is assembled by the Acma (Workshop for the construction of motorcycles and accessories). In 1958, 2,000 people worked there.
Because the Vespa is no longer just a means of locomotion: it really embodies an Italian way of life (see also our report of May 4, 2000:).
On its handlebars, journeys are not limited to short distances and many users do not hesitate to leave with passengers and luggage across borders. Travel then takes on a strong sense of adventure !
Throughout his career, this machine will become a symbol! Adopted by all social classes, he will even play the stars alongside Grégory Peck and Audrey Hepburn in the film Roman Holidays as well as in The good life with Marcello Mastroianni.
Symbol of a nonconformist youth in the 60s / 70s, it became the sign of recognition of the Mod’s, who straddled their excessively accessorized Vespas with in particular their innumerable mirrors.
After its brilliant journey on the roads of the whole world, an example equipped with floats will even cross the Channel in the company of the motorcycle pilot Georges Monneret who thus becomes the first man to connect Paris to London at the controls of a single vehicle. !
The Vespa is also the most loyal friend of Parisian couriers (read below) thanks to its reliability, low maintenance cost and on-board spare tire..
Sixty years later, it has lost none of its splendor: Enrico Piaggio has won his bet !
It even has the audacity to gain the sympathy of the public, facing the more modern design competitors who now parade to the rhythm of 4-stroke. Ironically, the one that appeared to be the essential utility of large metropolises now conveys a more peaceful image, far from the vouchers of race to race, won hard between the lines of cars and the lanes of buses !
This time machine has only one year to live … and without it, time may seem very long to us. !
Test drive of the latest Vespa 125 PX: 2006 vintage
To enter the third millennium, the Piaggio 125 PX is equipped with a front disc brake! This accessory greatly improves braking, which over time has become barely passable against the competition.
Small modern detail, its halogen headlight diffuses a more powerful light. The rest is from the time … and that is naturally what makes its charm today !
Key turned a quarter of a turn, pressing the starter button and the two-stroke single cylinder snort in a cloud of blue smoke. You can also start it "the old fashioned way", thanks to the kicker still in place! Handy when the battery gets finicky.
The gear change is always done with the left handle and is a bit confusing for the first few kilometers, because the system requires that the movements be broken down. And do not expect to change gears on the fly, it is not intended for that !
If we respect this ritual, we are ready for thousands of kilometers of good and loyal service with this faithful companion. Think, a thirty year old friend…
Handling, once you get used to it … is not that bad, provided of course that the road is dry! The 350×10 wheels influence the behavior of the machine and stability is not its strong point: each angle taken confuses the driver a little by the sensation of floating that begins as soon as you lean a little. At a red light, any device (except perhaps a cyclo?) Can catch you cold. Any desire to race at the first traffic light is therefore totally inhibited. !
On modern vehicles, radars and road conditions limit the driver’s efforts. With the PX, it’s just the opposite! Its performance far from today’s standards and its limited speed require peaceful driving and preserves the points of the driver’s license … On its handlebars, the road is more of a simple past than more than perfect !
In turn, we then dream of Dolce Vita and carefree, to such an extent that even the Parisian ring road takes on the air of Roman Holidays…
Christian: 350,000 km in PX
For 17 years now, Christian, courier in the press, has been using PX on the streets of Paris: he is in his 6th year !
"I like its practicality, its low consumption and its comfortable saddle. He has no equal to protect me from the elements. And then it’s a bit of a part of me", explains Chiristian who has nevertheless experienced real hardships on his handlebars, like the time he broke a segment on a Parisian motorway…
"I was losing more and more power until the engine stopped completely. It was a biker who pushed me with his foot to the exit ramp ! ", he remembers …"Another time, it was the engine that let me go with a scraped noise because of a faulty oil seal which sucked all the gear oil out of me! Result: a box and a clutch gunned! It has also been a long time since I replaced the speedometer cable, because it does not hold more than a few thousand kilometers. It’s a chronic disease of PX"
However, Christian remains unconditional: "I like its rustic side with its interchangeable spare wheel. And unlike newer models, the cost of maintenance and parts remains affordable !"
It is for all these reasons that he hopes to keep his last (a midnight blue 2006 model equipped with an apron, sleeves and a windshield) as long as possible, before ending his career on a more recent. "It will surely be a Piaggio too, but an X8 with a 4-stroke engine", specifies Christian. A page will then be definitively turned…
Frank Margerin and the PX
The famous cartoonist Frank Margerin tried to steal the PX of Momo the Courier, one of his favorite characters. But resigned, he ended up buying his own Vespa and for two years, he has been walking the streets of Paris on the handlebars of one of the latest models..
Frank got himself a mini windshield "just for the look", he specifies," because it generates more turmoil than if I had none! But it gives it a little Mod’s side that I like … I also want to fit a small front rack. And although it is equipped with the electric starter, I start it exclusively with the kick !"
A discreet little sticker (a pirate’s skull wearing Lucien’s banana) stuck above the lighthouse brings the discreet "Margerin Touch", because we remain rebellious even in PX !
Frank speaks very fondly of his machine: "I am very attached to popular objects related to my childhood and I have pictures of my father riding an old Vespa. This represents a carefree time and I wonder if the faults of then are not turning into an old-fashioned charm today."…
However, he sometimes curses this archaic box and this gear change from another age. " Fortunately, it does not roll faster, because with its small wheels, I was already scared downhill", he adds."But as soon as I hear its inimitable noise and take advantage of its brilliant turning radius, I quickly forget its flaws !"
By the way Frank, how will Momo, your Parisian courier, react to the scheduled shutdown of the PX? "It is sure that he will be annoyed … But unless you fold him under a truck, don’t worry, he will manage !"
Next spring should be marketed under the ACMA Paris brand a scooter that closely resembles Piaggio’s PX. With a high-end vocation, it would simply be differentiated by a few details at the bodywork level. The quality of the components, of European manufacture, would be improved. It would keep the manual gear shifting system and would be equipped – for now – with a two-stroke engine. In order to deal with all eventualities, a 4-stroke engine is also planned. With the LML (Indian manufacture), the PX may well be eternal !
Jean-Marc NAVARRO – Photos J.-M. NAVARRO and DR
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