Lambretta was a line of motor scooters originally manufactured in Milan, Italy by Innocenti but also manufactured under licence by Société Industrielle de Troyes (SIT) in France, NSU in Germany, Serveta in Spain, API in India, Pasco in Brazil, Auteco in Colombia and Siambretta in Argentina. In 1972, the Indian government bought the Milanese factory and the rights to the Lambretta name, creating Scooters India Limited (SIL). Today, the Innocenti brand name rights are owned by Fiat whereas the oldest Lambretta and Lambro trademark registrations worldwide are owned by Lambretta Consortium.
In 1922, Ferdinando Innocenti of Pescia built a steel-tubing factory in Rome. In 1931, he took the business to Milan where he built a larger factory producing seamless steel tubing and employing about 6,000. During the Second World War, the factory was heavily bombed and destroyed. It is said that surveying the ruins, Innocenti saw the future of cheap, private transport and decided to produce a motor scooter – competing on cost and weather protection against the ubiquitous motorcycle.
The main stimulus for the design style of the Lambretta and Vespa dates back to Pre-WWII CushmanNebraska, USA. These olive green scooters were in Italy in large numbers, ordered originally by Washington as field transport for the Paratroops and Marines. The US military had used them to get around Nazi defence tactics of destroying roads and bridges in the Dolomites (a section of the Alps) and the Austrian border areas. scooters made in
Aeronautical engineer General Corradino D'Ascanio, responsible for the design and construction of the first modern helicopter by Agusta, was given the job by Ferdinando Innocenti of designing a simple, robust and affordable vehicle. It had to be easy to drive for both men and women, be able to carry a passenger and not get its driver's clothes soiled.
D'Ascanio, who hated motorbikes, designed a revolutionary vehicle. It was built on a spar frame with a handlebar gear change and the engine mounted directly onto the rear wheel. The front protection "shield" kept the rider dry and clean in comparison to the open front end on motorcycles. The pass-through leg area design was geared towards women, as wearing dresses or skirts made riding conventional motorcycles a challenge. The front fork, like an aircraft's landing gear, allowed for easy wheel changing. The internal mesh transmission eliminated the standard motorcycle chain, a source of oil and dirt. This basic design allowed a series of features to be deployed on the frame which would later allow quick development of new models.
However, General D'Ascanio fell out with Innocenti, who rather than a moulded and beaten spar frame wanted to produce his frame from rolled tubing, allowing him to revive both parts of his prewar company. General D'Ascanio disassociated himself with Innocenti and took his design to Enrico Piaggio who produced the spar-framed Vespa from 1946 on.
Taking a year longer to produce, the 1947 Lambretta featured a rear pillion seat for a passenger or optionally a storage compartment. The original front protection "shield" was a flat piece of aero metal; later this developed in to a twin skin to allow additional storage on the 'back of'/behind the front shield, similar to the glove compartment in a car. The fuel cap was underneath the (hinged) seat which saved the cost of an additional lock on the fuel cap or need for additional metal work on the smooth skin.
Deriving the name Lambretta from the small river Lambro in Milan, which ran near to the factory, Innocenti Piaggio started production of its Vespa models. Lambrettas were manufactured under licence in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, India and Spain, sometimes under other names but always to a recognizable design (e.g. Siambretta in South America and Serveta in Spain). started production of Lambretta scooters in 1947 - the year after
BLMC closure of Innocenti
As wealth increased in Western Europe in the late 1960s, the demand for motor scooters fell as the small car became available to more people and Lambretta started to struggle financially as did parent Innocenti. The British Leyland Motor Corporation took advantage of Innocenti's financial difficulties as well as their production and engineering expertise and contracted Innocenti to produce cars under licence from BLMC. The Innocenti Mini used the mechanical components of the original but was in many ways superior to it.
Innocenti/Lambretta was eventually sold to BLMC. Unfortunately, lack of foresight had caused BLMC to join a fashion trend that was ending rapidly. Long industrial strikes in BLMC ensued; motor-scooter sales took a nosedive, and both Innocenti and Lambretta shut up shop in 1972.
Construction and Models
Like Vespas of the day, Lambrettas had three or four gears and two-stroke engines with capacities ranging from 49 cc to 198 cc. Most two-stroke engines require a mixture of oil with the gasoline in order to lubricate the piston and cylinder.
Unlike the Vespa, which was built with a unibody chassis pressed from sheets of steel, Lambrettas were based around a more rigid tubular frame, although the 'J' series model produced from 1964 through 1971 did have a monocoque body. Early versions were available in 'closed', with fully-covered mechanicals or 'open', with minimal panels and thus looking like an unusual motorcycle. The model A and model B were only available in 'open' style. The D models were noted for their torsion-bar rear suspension; at its peak, the D model outsold all other two-wheeled vehicles combined. (For the latter, see Ruth Orkin's famous photograph ´American Girl in Italy.) The much greater success of the 'closed' version confirmed that riders wanted protection from the weather and a clean-looking machine.
Along with the Vespa, Lambretta was an iconic vehicle of the 1950s and 1960s when they became the adopted vehicle of choice for the UK youth-culture known as Mods. The character Jimmy from the influential scooter movie Quadrophenia rode a Lambretta Li 150 Series 3. Of the 1960s models, the TV (Turismo Veloce), the Special (125 and 150), the SX (Special X) and the GP (Grand Prix) are generally considered the most desirable due to their increased performance and refined look; the 'matt black' fittings on the GP model are said to have influenced European car designs throughout the 1970s. These three models came with a front disc brake made by Campagnolo. The TV was the world's first production two-wheeled vehicle with a front disc brake.
As the race to be the first person on the moon gathered pace, Innocenti's new model was launched, the Luna range (Luna meaning "moon", in Italian). The machines looked very advanced for their day, reverting back to the open frame style of the much admired 'D' types, and although sales were slow to start with, racing success from grass-tracking to circuit-racing soon made them a sales success. Designed by Bertone Innocenti wanted a small frame and engine Lambretta that could be sold alongside the larger models. The frame had a tubular-steel front end, with bolt-on leg shields, and a monocoque pressed-steel rear frame.
Lambrettas have attracted an eclectic following of "revival" Mods, collectors, scooterists, cutdownscooter rallies. The Lambretta has benefitted from advances in technology in the motorcycle world. To boost performance some owners have fitted aftermarket cylinders and crankshafts that increase the swept volume to as much as 235 cc. Common modifications include a Nikasil plated aluminium barrel with radical porting, large Dell'Orto or Mikuni carburettors and bespoke expansion chambers. Hydraulic disc brakes in the front are becoming common on the more highly-tuned machines, as are hydraulic clutches and rear brakes. Modern low-profile tyres greatly improve handling, as do uprated front and rear suspension units. enthusiasts, and even racers. Vespa and Lambrettas both can be converted to fun and relatively fast machines with little (but relatively expensive) modification. Many owners customize these scooters with elaborate customizations and paintwork and attend well-organised