Few scooter manufacturers can claim to have the pedigree and cult-like status that Piaggio does.

The history of the Vespa and how it became an icon of 1960s pop culture is stunning.

But as iconic as the Vespa might be, it’s only one piece of the tapestry of this Italian scooter giant.

There are other models and different versions of these models that are often overshadowed or overlooked.

And those are what we’re going to take a look at in this article. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Vespa, Liberty, or any other model – if Piaggio made it, odds are good that it will be on this list.

1: APE – The Three-Wheeled Transporter

image of piaggio ape three wheeler

Original Photo by Timothy Huliselan

Although this is the Dual Wheel Journey, we have occasionally covered three-wheelers like the Forshaga Shopper – a three-wheeled moped with an enclosed cabin space.

But what does this have to do with Piaggio? Well, let me introduce you to the APE.

Before you ask, “APE” stands for “Azienda Produzione Economica,” which translates to “low-cost means of transport.”

Since 1948, this vehicle has been popular among delivery services and businesses for its versatility and ability to haul more cargo than your average Vespa or Liberty.

It’s no surprise that 600,000 APEs have been made in total.

2. There’s an Entire Museum Dedicated To Vespas

Considering that Vespa is THE scooter that put Piaggio on the map, it deserves a spot in a museum.

But someone thought they could do even better because back in 2004, The Vespa Museum opened its doors in Pontedera, Italy.

That’s right – there’s an entire museum dedicated to the Vespa.

Inside, you’ll find over 200 vintage Vespa scooters from as far back as 1946 as well as some remarkable prototypes and even Vespas created for racing.

If you’re a scooter fanatic, and you’re planning a trip to Pontedera, a visit to the Vespa Museum should definitely be on your bucket list.

3: The Vespa GS MK1 Bought By Jerry Seinfeld

scoots quarterly 1998 issue jerry seinfeld

When you think of Jerry Seinfeld and vehicles, the first brand you might think of is SAAB (which is not too strange, given that he drove one in the Seinfeld TV series).

But in 1997, the star of the show ended up getting a scooter – specifically, a Mk1 Piaggio Vespa GS 180.

This deal was reported in great detail in the Spring 1998 issue of Scoots Quarterly (the cover of which you just scrolled past).

One day, The Scooter Shop in Orange County received a phone call from someone representing Mr. Seinfeld, asking about the Vespas the shop had for sale.

After taking a tour of the place, Jerry Seinfeld himself set his eyes on a Mk1 Piaggio Vespa GS 180 that needed some restoration work.

scoots quarterly 1998 article seinfeld buys a vespa

Although it took 3 weeks to complete the entire restoration job, it didn’t bother anyone.

Erik Larson, co-owner of The Scooter Shop, said, “Jerry was having so much fun he said he didn’t want to leave.

In the end, the Vespa received a new, light-blue paint scheme, and by the time it was done, Jerry claimed it “was a work of art and belonged in a museum.”

Still, it’s kind of a shame that there was never an episode of the Seinfeld TV show called “The Vespa,” isn’t it?

4. How The Piaggio ET4 50cc Broke New Ground

The Piaggio ET4 may not be the most famous Piaggio model. Nor is it particularly eye-catching. It’s, at its core, a fairly ordinary-looking scooter.

Nevertheless, it is an impressive accomplishment.

Today, the options of 50cc scooters with four-stroke engines are vast. From Kymco to Honda, and certainly Piaggio – most major manufacturers have several four-stroke 50cc models.

But that wasn’t always the case. For the longest time, most scooters in this class were two-stroke only.

Even well into the 1990s, scooters like Peugeot’s popular Speedfight 1 and 2 were still built with two-stroke engines.

But by the time the Piaggio ET4 was introduced in 2000, it broke somewhat new ground.

Why? Because the Piaggio ET4 was the first European 50cc scooter with a four-stroke engine. 1Although it’s unclear whether it was the first 50cc scooter ever to have a four-stroke engine, the idea did catch on.

If you’d like to hear more about the history of The ET4, Robot from Vespa Motorsport in San Diago, California, has a whole video about it:

So this is quite noteworthy, and as I just said – the idea of 50cc scooters with four-stroke engines did catch on.

After all, the 50cc versions of the Liberty would later be equipped exclusively with four-stroke engines.

And while we’re on the topic of the Piaggio Liberty…

5. The Piaggio Liberty Is a Scooter That Delivers…Quite Literally

Original image by Flyz1, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Often overshadowed by its iconic 1960s ancestor, the Piaggio Liberty is nevertheless an excellent city scooter at a reasonable price – whether it’s the standard 50cc or the more powerful 150cc version.

And even though we looked at the three-wheeled APE that can be used for deliveries earlier in this list, Liberty can also handle itself in that department.

That’s because Poste Italiane in Italy and many other postal and courier services in Central Europe use these Liberty scooters as delivery vehicles.

So it’s fair to say that this is certainly a scooter that delivers – literally.

6. The Who Song That References a Vespa

Let’s revisit the Vespa once again.

Specifically, let’s talk about its iconic status for the Modernists or “Mods” in 1960s Britain, who loved the Vespa for its clean, Italian-styling

If you’ve ever seen the 1979 movie Quadrophenia, you’ll notice that there are one or two Piaggios in the background – including one ridden by Sting.

But did you know that one of the songs titled “I’ve Had Enough” from the 1973 album of the same name actually references a Vespa scooter at one point?

“My jacket’s gonna be cut slim and checked
Maybe a touch of seersucker and an open neck
I ride a GS Scooter with my hair cut neat
I wear my war time coat in the wind and sleet”

If you know your Vespas, you’ve already picked up on the fact that the “GS scooter” is the “Grand Sport” model of the Vespa.

Who knows – maybe it’s even the same kind that Jerry Seinfeld ended up buying in 1997?

7. The Standard Ciao Model Didn’t Change Much in 40 Years

What’s the difference between a Piaggio Ciao made in 1967 and one made in 1982 (like the one in the image above)?

No, that’s not the set-up to a corny joke; it’s a rhetorical question.

But it is true that although there were sportier models with telescoping front suspension like the SI, the standard Ciao model had next to no changes made to it during its 40-year production run.

That must be some testament to the fact that inexpensive, practical transportation will never quite go out of style.

Some things are probably different, but you’d have to be more pedantic than me to find these.

There are, however, certain rebadges of the Ciao, such as Kinetic Luna, seen below:

image of kinetic luna in sri lanka

Introduced in 1972, the Kinetic Luna became one of India’s best-selling mopeds, largely thanks to the famous “Chal Meri Luna” advertising campaign.

And like the models of the Ciao itself, you’d have to go over the Luna and a “regular” Ciao with a set of tools and a keen, observant, and equally pedantic eye to find noteworthy differences between the two.

If you’d like to read more about the Luna and its iconic advertising campaign, please check out the Specs & Stats post about it.

BONUS: The American Department Store That Sold Re-badged Piaggios

sears rebadges puch and piaggio

The Vespa’s massive sales success naturally led to some rebadges popping up. One notable example is with certain Piaggios (mostly Vespas) that got a new identity in the 1960s and 1970s as “Allstate” models in the United States.

Now, that might not sound too wild at first, right? But get this: the ones behind this rebranding were none other than Sears.

Yep, Sears now added two-wheelers to their catalogs, usually reserved for blouses and robes.

And they didn’t stop there – Sears also gave certain Puch mopeds a new name.

Are you curious to dive deeper into these Sears rebadges? Check out this article for the full story about the Sears Piaggio and Puch rebadges, including tips on identifying one – should you ever come across one.

Sources:

  1. Seeley, A. (2004). The scooter book : everything you need to know about owning, enjoying, and maintaining your scooter. Haynes.