The scooter is a humble form of two-wheeled transport. Take a step-through body, hide a small engine under it, place a cushy seat on top, and tiny wheels on the ends. Sometimes, a manufacturer challenges the concept of the scooter. Italjet is one of those companies and it has teased the latest version of its properly ridiculous super scooter. The Italjet Dragster 559 looks like a racing motorcycle and fires 58.33 HP from its twin-cylinder engine shooting power through a manual transmission. It’s even going on sale so you might be able to have a laugh on your own beast.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s a great time to be a motorcyclist. Established brands are cranking out bikes to drool over while startups experiment with weird technology. There’s a little something for everyone out there. Even the little scooter isn’t being left behind as manufacturers try new things. We’ve already seen an adventure scooter, a brutalist scooter, and most recently, a scooter that folds into roughly the size of a suitcase. Now, meet the scooter with enough chops to leave slow cars and cruisers in its rearview mirrors.
Italy’s Italjet is rich with history and building machines that stand out has been its status quo for a while. The company says its history began in 1932 with the birth of Leopoldo Tartarini. His father, Egisto, was a motorcycle dealer with an attached repair shop. Egisto also rode Moto Guzzis with sidecars in local competitions, including the Circuito dei Giardini Margherita and the Colle dell’Osservanza. With such influence from his father, Leopoldo got into motorcycles at an early age.
Fast-forward to the early 1950s, and Leopoldo truly followed in his father’s footsteps when he got into motorcycle racing. In 1952, he signed up for the Milan-Taranto, a then-legendary and notorious race that ran from Milan to Naples. Leopoldo rode a sidecar rig with a used BSA engine, a build apparently scrappy enough that competitors laughed at Leopoldo. Yet, the rookie Leopoldo, with help from Sergio Calza, took the win for their class.
Italjet notes that during the 1950s, Italy was rebuilding from the destruction of World War II. Manufacturers and innovators had affordable mobility on their minds. Vespa was born in the aftermath of WWII while the small Fiat 500 served the purpose of putting Italian families on wheels. Small displacement motorcycles also got people on the road. In 1953, the Stadio newspaper organized the MotoGiro d’Italia, a six-day race of endurance for riders and machines. Leopoldo rode a Benelli 125 to victory in that race and later that year, he gathered another class win at that year’s Milan-Taranto.
During this time, Leopoldo opened a Benelli dealership and continued raking in podium finishes on his Benelli 125, earning him star status with the people of Bologna. In 1955, Leopoldo’s fame was even greater and he hung up his Benelli jacket to swing a leg over Ducati’s racers. Leopoldo was a racer and captain of the team, taking a Ducati 100 on the MotoGiro d’Italia. Leopoldo made it to the seventh stage of the race, where he was dominating the pack with a 24-minute lead over second place. Unfortunately, Leopoldo would fail to complete the race after a serious crash left him with a crushed spine. Doctors feared Leopoldo would never walk again, but he triumphed, getting back on his feet after months. Sadly, the crash left him in a bad enough state overall that Leopoldo wouldn’t pass the medical tests that would allow him to race again.
Still, Leopoldo healed up enough to get back in the saddle in 1957, taking on the Giro d’Italy, where he was again unable to finish the race. The Giro d’Italy itself folded up that year after road racing was abolished due to the dangers posed to both motorcycle and car racers. This ends Leopoldo’s racing career.
Later, Leopoldo would embark on an around-the-world motorcycle trip to advertise Ducati motorcycles. After thousands of adventures, which were published in motorcycle press, he returned to Bologna after a year of riding. The trip would be Leopoldo’s last ride and he would dedicate the rest of his career to designing and building motorcycles. In 1959, Leopoldo began the process of creating his new business, incorporating it in 1960 as Italemmezeta. The brand would become famous for its motorcycles, but what we’re looking at today, the Italjet, first hit the streets in 1962. The company would go on to develop more mopeds and scooters over the decades, each striking in their own way, like the scooters above.
The Dragster 559
The Italjet Dragster is about as close a mass-produced motorcycle gets to being a superbike. Italjet says it all started in 1995:
The first of the Dragsters appeared in 1995 with mass production starting in 1998. It was sold in three engine sizes, 50cc, 125 and 180cc until 2003. All models offered flamboyant styling, a stiff, visible Ducati-like tubular structure, automatic “Twist and Go” transmission, ample storage, BiMota-style hub-center steering with a beefy front swingarm, disc brakes, wide tires, and a water-cooled, electric-start single. Out of production for over a decade, the scooter has a large cult following and substantial aftermarket support. Malossi, in particular, offered many upgrade parts for the 125.
Sr. Tartarini, third generation, was quoted as saying about the bike, “This scooter is not for pragmatists, but is a good choice for exhibitionists!”
Dragster sales reached over 70’000 units worldwide. Especially the 180cc model was a great success in Australia too and has a great community of enthusiasts following it.
In 2019, the Dragster got a sequel when Massimo Tartarini, the son of Leopoldo, continued the traditions set by his father. Italjet calls this scooter an “Urban Superbike” and I think it’s a check it can cash. The Dragster comes with an alloy trellis frame with aluminium plates. Handling is covered with an independent steering system trickled down from racing motorcycles, the front wheel rides on a single swingarm that looks like a piece of art.
Oh yeah, that steering system is pretty neat. Italjet says it sells the only mass-produced scooter with hub-center steering. The company says thanks to its steering system and BITUBO hydraulic shock absorbers, the rider does not feel road harshness in the bars and when they hit the brakes, the scooter doesn’t have any front-end dive. At launch, the new Dragster came with a 125cc single making 12.5 HP or a 181cc single making 17.5 HP. The Dragster will also soon be available with a 278cc engine making 23.4 HP. Italjet caps off its Dragsters with Brembo brakes, LED lighting, and two radiators.
In short, Italjet takes technology used on much larger and more powerful motorcycles and applies them to urban scooters. Will you ever need a trellis frame and hub-center steering to navigate Chicago? Of course not! A cheap scooter with a basic tube frame and a 50cc popper will do the job. But the Dragster takes the fun of a scooter and turns it up to 11. I’m not sure you could ride one of these with a frown on your face.
At this year’s EICMA motorcycle show in Milan, Italjet unveiled its latest dragster, and this one is pretty nutty.
The new Italjet Dragster 559 comes with a 550cc twin making an impressive-for-a-scooter 58.33 HP, or 48 HP when detuned for A2 licenses. That horsepower hits at 8,500 RPM and is complemented with about 40.5 lb-ft torque, which hits at 6,500 RPM. That engine is paired to a six-speed manual transmission and a slipper clutch. The rear wheel is driven with a chain drive. Much of this is relatively uncommon for a scooter!
A 48mm inverted fork handles suspension up front while a monoshock carries the rear. A pair of 270mm discs stop the party up front while a single 230mm disc brings up the rear. All of this rides on a pair of 15-inch wheels wearing Pirelli Diablo tires.
If you’re not into scooters, let me illustrate how awesome this scooter is. It’s about 6.9 feet long and weighs 396.8 pounds dry. Toss in the weight of liquids and you’re probably looking at about 425 pounds. Wheelbase is about 60.7 inches and you’ll sit on a seat about 31.2 inches high.
Now, let’s take a look at everyone’s favorite maxi-scooter, the Suzuki Burgman 650. That scooter has a larger 638cc twin that makes less power with 55 ponies on tap. Toss in a curb weight of 618 pounds and the Burgman is luxurious, but porky. The CVT also takes some of the sporting characteristics out of that scooter, too. Yet, the Burgman has no problem hitting the ton. My Burgman couldn’t hang with a fast sportbike, but it had enough gusto to hold its own with some more sporty machines.
The Dragster 559 also isn’t likely to make a Kawasaki Ninja H2 quake in its tires but for a scooter? This thing should go like hell. Italjet expects to put these into production with deliveries occurring sometime in 2024 or 2025.
Unfortunately, Italjet isn’t yet ready to say how much this motorcycle will cost or where it will be sold. To give you an idea of what its smaller siblings sell for, the Dragster 125 is €5,490 ($6,007) while the 200 is €5,790 ($6,336). So, these aren’t cheap scooters, but look at them! Thankfully, Italjet is bringing its scooters to America soon. The company just signed a distribution agreement with Chicago-area Genuine Scooters. We will see the 125 and 200 versions of the Dragster. Hopefully, we’ll get the 300 and the 559 as well.
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