You know about the Vespa 400, right? Piaggio, the famous Italian maker of Vespa scooters, wanted to branch out into the four-wheel vehicle market, and so came up with this absolutely charming little microcar, the Vespa 400. It was actually shorter than a Fiat 500 and really only intended for two people (well, maybe two adults and two kids or a big dog) where the 500 was an actual, if optimistic, four-seater. Still, Fiat wasn’t crazy about the competition, and so threatened – or so the story goes – to make a scooter of their own and wipe the cobblestones with Piaggio unless they backed off. And, they sort of did, moving production to Fourchambault, France, and targeting the French market more.
Oh, and also – how small are the people in that brochure image up there? They look like maybe they’re part of that specially genetically engineered sub-scale human used in brochures for microcars and small British sportscars like the Bugeye Sprite. I suspect they used a lot of Shtetl Hobbit DNA, like I have, to achieve these sorts of humans. For comparison, here’s some full-scale humans with Vespa 400s:
I think the ones in the brochure cover are, what, 80% scale?
The Vespa 400 was a really charming and clever little car. It wasn’t designed so much for packaging efficiency as it was for style, with an elegant little three-box design and nice proportions, along with a roll-down roof.
The engine was a little two-stroke 400cc twin making 14 hp, and sporting one of the biggest, most snail-like fan enclosures I’ve ever seen. The spare tire was cleverly stashed under the passenger’s seat, and the battery came out on a little drawer fron the faux-grille on the front.
These were made from 1957 to 1961, and enough were around to allow for aftermarket accessories, like these shown here, to exist. Is the company’s logo those two battering rams? Also, that’s a lot of chrome accessories to stick on one little car; I bet if you had them all on you could add a second or two to your 0-50 time. You’re not getting to 60.