A vintage seafoam green 1961 Vespa VBA motorcycle that is participating in this year’s The Statesman Vintage and Classic Car Rally, to be held on 3 February, is expected to stand out among the other vintage machines that gather every year to relive their glory days in the rally.
Talking to The Statesman, Lieutenant Colonel Nitin Sreshtha, the owner of the Vespa and a vintage motorcycle enthusiast, said “I always wanted to add an original Italian-made Vespa to my collection of two wheelers. In India, the manufacturing of the Vespa scooters started much later. As I was desperately looking for an original model, the news came to me that one such is in Delhi but in a non-working condition. I immediately contacted the concerned person and brought it down to Kolkata. It looked more like scrap metal then, instead of a scooter. The engines were completely jammed. However, my personal mechanic started to work on that and rebuilt it from scratch.”
“The 1961 Vespa 150 (VBA) was presented in 1958 with a few changes and the model made its debut during the Olympic Games in Rome in 1960. Thereafter, it became a great success due to its elegance and functionality” said Sreshtha, talking about the Vespa’s origin.
The iconic Vespa was manufactured by the Piaggio Company that was founded in 1884 in Genoa by Rinaldo Piaggio.
The company was one of Italy’s top aircraft and seaplane manufacturers before and during the World War II. The prominence of this company led it to become an important military target and its factories in Genoa, Finale Ligure and Pontedera, were damaged in the war.
In 1944, two Piaggio engineers Renzo Spolti and Vittorio Cassini designed a motorcycle with bodywork fully enclosing the drive train and forming a tall splash guard at the front, naming the model as MP5. However, an aeronautical engineer, Corradino D’ Ascario was asked to redesign the scooter, which thereafter became MP6.
It was Enrico Piaggio, who after looking at the scooter, exclaimed, “Sembra una vespa!” (It looks like a wasp!). Thereafter, the scooter was named ‘Vespa’ ~ wasp in both Latin and Italian.
Talking about his fascination for two-wheelers, Lt Col Nitin Sreshtha, who is based outside Bengal in one of the forward bases of the Indian Army, said: “It began from childhood since at that point of time, I couldn’t afford a four wheeler. My first motorcycle was a Yamaha RD 350 and now I have a total of nine motorcycle that include a World War II BSA WM20 motorcycle, an Italian Lambretta LI and LD Mk2. This will be the fourth time I will be participating in The Statesman Vintage and Classic Car Rally. This rally means a lot to me since it is one of the prestigious car rallies of India. I came down to Kolkata only to participate in this event.”