For most people, the Vespa is an Italian motor scooter. If you're really hip to the subject however, you are aware that there was also a 4 wheeled vehicle which carried the Vespa nameplate.
One normally associates the name Vespa with the classic chubby-faced motor scooter. Few people are aware that Vespa three-wheelers have been rendering good service as council-operated waste-disposal vehicles. Yet Vespa in Genoa had started to build a small convertible saloon as early as 1952 .
The prototype, which was the size of a Goggo, was launched in 1956. It had a two-stroke engine of 400 cc and 14 Horsepower. And as the history of the automobile is sometimes a matter of sheer survival, it is hardly surprising that Vespa were concerned about the Fiat 500, a new competitor on the small-car market. No doubt that M. Agnelli, head of Fiat, also didn't approve of another large Italian company muscling in on his territory. It was therefore deemed prudent to move production to the French scooter plant at Fourchambault, south of Paris.
The premiere of the Vespa 400 took place at the Paris Salon in 1957. Built over 12,000 times, the Vespa was in fact very successful during its first year of production and even exported vehicles to Germany - though, like the little Autobianchis, they only played a minor role among small cars. It simply did not stand a chance against its German competitors in this category. Other car manufacturers were offering more successful and stronger minis, and for this reason Vespa never actually manufactured it.
Production of the Vespa 400 was discontinued in 1961, although its scooters and three-wheelers continue to be built until the present day.
(source: Micro Car Museum).
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