Many people don’t know it, but the inventor of the Vespa is from Abruzzo! Corradino D’Ascanio (Popoli 1891 – Pisa 1981) is certainly one of the most brilliant and visionary minds that the two-wheeler industry has ever known.
He’s not invented the scooter vehicle (there were other examples, even before the Second World War), but he is certainly the inventor of the most brilliant, useful and beautiful city vehicle: the Vespa.
Corradino d’Ascanio, Abruzzo genius
More than 17 million vespa copies have been built, but paradoxically D’Ascanio considered vespa his “ruin”, because the success of the most famous scooter in the world had, in fact, prevented the Piaggio to continue to finance studies on the helicopter, the true Abruzzo engineer’s dream.
“Aviation has been for me a continuous fever. Since childhood flying was for me the most beautiful and cherished dream”, said the engineer Corradino D’Ascanio, who before becoming the designer of the Vespa had built several prototypes of helicopter and is now recognized as one of its fathers.
Corradino D’Ascanio was also a great inventor who ranged from objects as the distributor of cigarettes zone (made for himself, to try to smoke less) to an electric oven for baking bread. To push even more Vespa sales, he even designed the “magical” exhibitors that made it appear the scooter lifted by a column of water or balancing on a branch of a peach tree… a real magic!
The reasons of the great Vespa success
Why Vespa has had such a great global success? It is not easy to answer this question. It was presented for the first time in Turin, in 1946, in the Mechanics and Metallurgy exhibition, then in Rome, at the Golf Club, and it was sold in Lancia dealerships. Vespa 98 could also be purchased in installments, it cost 55,000 lire (the average salary of a worker was 10,000 lire) for the normal template, and 61,000 lire for luxury template, which differed from the standard for the chrome handlebars and the footboard with slats rubberized profile. At first he could not immediately attracted motorcyclists because of the injury of small wheels, which did not guarantee the stability of the larger motorcycle However,it is not true that the Vespa was initially a failure: 15,239 copies were built in its three years of production.
The first Vespa 98 remained in production two years, then the 125 came and the really big spreadthat continues also today started. Obviously, the Piaggio held his product with actions that today we would call marketing, such as clubs, rallies, participation in the toughest races like the Six Days.
“It is a vehicle that, unlike the real motorcycle, can be good for all social classes and for both sexes. Its structure does not need acrobatics to get on it and to keep it at a low speed balances in the middle of traffic”, wrote “Motorcycle” in 1946. This ease of driving, that still characterizes it, led Vespa to real success.
On the origins of the name Vespa have written many stories, as that of the exhaust noise similar to noise produced by the insect, but the most accepted is the story related to the fact that Enrico Piaggio, seeing it with its long-tailed duck rided by a robust test driver, said “Will it hold the driver’s weight with his small Vespa (wasp) screw?”.