Lot 333 - 1951 Vespa V31T

Lot 333 - 1951 Vespa V31T

Lot 333 - 1951 Vespa V31T

Lot Number 333
Registration YVL 573
Chassis Number V31T 186531
Engine Number V32M 186820
Estimate £8,000 - £9,500
Result Sold - £8,400

The Piaggio company was founded in 1884 by Rinaldo Piaggio to build luxury ships, later diversifying into the manufacture of railway carriages, motor cars and aeroplanes.

At the end of World War II, with its Pontedera fighter plane plant destroyed by Allied bombing, the Piaggio company decided to leave the aeronautical field and address instead Italy's urgent need for a modern and affordable mode of transport for the masses. The inspiration for the new design came from the pre-war American Cushman scooter which had been used in large numbers as field transport for the US Paratroops and Marines in Europe during World War II.

The prototype for the new scooter was designed by Renzo Spolti and Vittorio Casani in 1944 and featured bodywork fully enclosing the drivetrain and also forming a tall splash guard at the front. Additional features included handlebar mounted controls, forced air cooling, small diameter pressed steel wheels and a tall central section that had to be straddled. The prototype, officially called the MP5 was nicknamed 'Paparino' or 'duckling' in Italian. Displeased with the MP5, company head Enrico Piaggio commissioned aeronautical engineer Corradino D'Ascanio to redesign the scooter. The resultant MP6 prototype had its engine mounted beside the rear wheel and the drive was taken directly from the transmission, eliminating the need for a drive chain and the oil, dirt and wear associated with it. These changes importantly allowed the MP6 to have a step-through design without a centre section. Other notable features included a single sided front suspension, interchangeable wheels on stub axles and a spare wheel. Upon seeing the MP6 for the first time, Enrico Piaggio: "Sembra una vespa!" ("It resembles a wasp!").  The name was adopted and the famous marque was born.

In 1946 Piaggio took out a patent on the design which allowed a series of features to be deployed on the spar-frame that would later allow the quick development of new models. The original Vespa featured a separate pillion seat for a passenger or the option of a storage compartment, a horizontally mounted 98cc two-stroke engine with three speed transmission controlled by a series of rods connected to a twistgrip and no rear suspension. The early engine initially had no forced-air cooling but fan blades were soon added to the magneto-flywheel to push air over the engine.

The press launch of the Vespa was at Rome Golf Club and, athough journalists were initially sceptical of the appearance of the strange, toy-like vehicle, subsequent road tests praised the design as being more manoeuvrable and comfortable to ride than a conventional motorcycle. The new scooter's public debut was at the 1946 Milan Fair and although sales at first were slow, with 2,500 units sold in 1947, the introduction of payment by instalments caused sales to take off and they increased to 10,000 in 1948 with the introduction of the lager 125cc model, doubling to 20,000 in 1949. In the 1953 film Roman Holiday, stars Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn rode a Vespa through the streets of Rome and the Hollywood exposure resulted in sales climbing to over 100,000 with stars such as Dean Martin, Marlon Brando and Abbe Lane becoming Vespa owners.

This 1951 125cc V31T is the same model as that featured in Roman Holiday  and was fully restored in Rome prior to being imported into the UK. It has been beautifully refinished in the original metallic pale green and is an extremely rare find, even in its native Italy. It is UK registered and ready to be enjoyed by an appreciative new owner.

Interested parties should satisfy themselves as to the description and condition of each lot prior to the sale. Buyers are advised to inspect the car in person or use a professional to carry out this service.

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