The Null Device

Posts matching tags 'vespa'


Design innovation of the day: German industrial designer Cornelius Comanns has designed an ultra-compact and rather funky-looking one-person camping vehicle based on the Piaggio APE cargo scooter (for those unfamiliar with small Italian motor vehicles, that's a very small lorry/ute based on a motorscooter; essentially the Vespa's less frivolous big brother). He calls it the Bufalino:

It looks like it'd be great to go on holiday in, but given its size, it may be a rather solitary holiday. Perhaps this needs a Unhappy Hipsters caption?

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img_9382This month, the Vespa motorscooter is 60 years old. It was created in 1946 by the Piaggio company, looking to transition from the suddenly less lucrative military-aviation market, and hitting upon tapping a market for cheap, convenient personal transport. As austeriry ended and consumers acquired more disposable income, it became a hit in Italy and abroad, and became an icon of freedom and youth culture (becoming to European kids roughly what Dad's Cadillac was to the rising American teens, only with the attendant European je ne sais quoi), and later of retro style.

img_9285Piaggio, the Vespa's manufacturer, also made a line of miniature scooter-trucks, ideally adapted for narrow Italian town streets that had in the past been trod by donkey carts or similar; occasionally one sees one outside of Italy (I once saw one in West London; the poor thing must have gotten terribly lost), though they don't seem to have caught on in a big way there. It could be argued that post-war Italy had a two-stroke engine-led recovery.

As revolutionary as compact, stylish-looking and affordable scooters were in the post-war years, they can't help but look a bit dated. They're noisy, bulky, relatively inefficient (technology having moved on since then), and consume Saudi Arabia's Finest, which probably isn't going to get any cheaper. Though Piaggio are now testing a hybrid Vespa in Milan; the new model can run off either petrol or electricity, much like a Prius, or can be plugged into the mains if you'd prefer to give the House of Saud the finger. The "electric-only" mode is still said to be slower than the petrol-powered mode, though one presumably doesn't buy a scooter for raw power.

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Some photos from the US Microcar and Minicar Club's 2003 meet, showing a large number of very tiny cars, mostly from the 1950s and 1960s, when, for some reason, tiny cars were in vogue. There are Messerschmitts like the one in Terry Gilliam's Brazil, a Fiat 500 (as immortalised in the Lush song), the Vespa scooter company's foray into cars, a Chinese dumptruck that looks like a motorscooter, some BMW Isettas (which are rather ickle and funny-looking) and even a Goggomobil (which, until now, I thought was something made up for those Yellow Pages ads). (via bOING bOING)

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