Writing about Vespa’s history of selling motorscooters in North America is a daunting task given their long and diverse history. There’s really two main eras of Vespa’s: Vintage machines sold in North America from 1951 to 1984 and modern scooters that went on sale in the USA for 2001 (they returned to Canada in 2004). This page contains an overview of Vespa’s vintage scooter history, and then it discusses Vespa’s modern scooters comprehensively with an overview here and subsequent detailed pages for each model.
Tightening emission regulations and a toughening market were the forces that split Vespa’s history in North America into two separate eras. Vintage Vespa’s were entirely 2-stroke powered, so by 1985, Vespa’s scooters no longer met tightening emissions regulations and Vespa/Piaggio had no 4-stroke engine developed to bring in, so they closed up shop. Overly the nearly two decades of Vespa’s absence, quite a few Vespa’s were imported from various countries and with varying specifications. These “grey market” imports make the Vespa situation more confusing and additional research is likely required if you’re considering one.
The first Vespa’s to be sold in North America were sold in 1951 by Sears under their ‘Allstate’ brand. Around this time, Sears was selling quite a few vehicles under their Allstate brand including Cushman scooters. The first model of Vespa was the 125cc 3 speed model 788.100 Cruisaire (based on the Primavera 125). These scooters were stripped down versions of their European counterparts. They lacked front suspension, speedometers, passenger seats and color choice. You could only get this scooter in military green. This scooter was sold with only minor changes from 1951 - 1966. Sears also offered a faster 4-speed ‘Allstate’ in 1964 based on the Sprint 150. For 1965 and 1966, Sears dropped the Allstate name and simply sold these scooters as ‘Sears’. Today these scooters are referred to as the ‘blue badge’ models because of the blue Sears badge on the legshield and are quite collectable.
n 1955, Vespa opened a chain of Vespa dealership across the USA. Over the first decade, Vespa’s lineup evolved from the Gran Sport 150 (GS150) to the GS160 and SS180. While these scooters were great, the market conditions were poor for scooters with cheap gas fuelling the muscle car years. Around 1972, this all changed with the gas shortage. Consumers started snapping up Primivera 125’s and the 150 Super. By the mid-70’s Vespa had added the ’50cc’, three speed 50cc Special, three speed Vespa 90, Sprint 150, Sprint Veloce and the Rally 200 (shown). The Rally 200 was the first Vespa with electric start.
For 1978 a new generation of Vespa arrived, the P series. Vespa sold the powerful P200E (shown) and the P125X. These were the first Vespa’s with modern 12 volt electrical systems. They were very popular and fast. Unfortunately, by 1983 new emissions regulations made it difficult for Vespa to import larger 2-strokes. Accordingly, dealer stock dried up and the vast majority of dealerships closed shop. Vespa carried on overseas with their PX model, but it wasn’t until the late 90’s when they released their new generation of ET scooters that they began eyeing a return. The ET was designed with 4-stroke motors in mind, so it carried high hopes of a return to global prominence.
2001 - 2002
This was the beginning of the modern era for Vespa in North America. In 2001 Vespa returned with their new ET series scooters (shown). The ET frame was designed to handle both 2-stroke and 4-stroke engines, which could range from 50-150cc’s. 2-stroke ET scooters were named ‘ET2’ and the 4-strokes were called ‘ET4’s.
In the USA, Vespa introduced the 50cc ET2 50 and the larger 4-stroke ET4 150. Both of these scooters shared the same steel frame but obviously differed in the engine choice. The 50cc ET2 was capable of a restricted 35mph, while the 150cc ET4 was capable of 60 mph.
MODELS: ET2 50 (USA only), ET4 150 (USA only)
Vespa added a ‘large frame’ scooter to their North American lineup, the 200cc Grandturismo. This scooter is more commonly known as simply the GT 200.
MODELS: ET2 50 (USA only), ET4 150 (USA only), GT 200 (USA only)
2004 - 2005
For 2004 Piaggio imported a one-time batch of 1500 Vespa PX 150 scooters to the
USA and Canada. Quite a few PX’s were sorta-legally imported in the mid-80’s after Vespa cleared out of the North American scene, but this was the first time they were official imports. Although it took several years to sell out, officially these PX’s were all 2004 models.
This model was introduced to satisfy vintage enthusiasts who weren’t happy with the modern looks and CVT transmissions of the ET series. These 1500 PX scooters were all 2004 models, despite that they took 3-4 years to sell out. Sales were slower than expected for Vespa, as Genuine Scooter Company began importing LML built PX scooters around the same time under the Stella badge. These Stella’s had lower prices and were a more technological advanced iteration of the PX design, which you can read about on the Stella page.
2004 was also the year Vespa returned to the Canadian market for the first time in over two decades. In the early years, Canadian Scooter Corp. (CSC) was the importer for Canada.
MODELS: ET2 50, ET4 150, GT 200, PX 150
2006 - 2007
For 2006 Vespa replaced it’s ET series scooters with a new 4-stroke LX series (shown). The LX 50 was capable of 35-40 mph, while the larger LX 150 was capable of a claimed 59 mph. This new series marked the first time Vespa sold a 4-stroke 50cc scooter in the North American market. The LX models are not entirely new scooters, but they are a radical update on the initial ET series design. The LX 150 uses the same LEADER 4-stroke engine as the 150cc ET model, and the 50cc LX uses a 4-stroke engine used in the ET series in some overseas markets. With the LX, Vespa did a much nicer job with several of the design aspects such as the blinkers.
The largest Vespa yet, the Granturismo Sport 250 (GTS 250), was launched in fall 2005 as a 2006 model in Canada and the USA. This scooter replaced the GT 200. Vespa also celebrated their 60th anniversary by launching up scale versions of the LX (dubbed the LXV 150) and the GTS 250 (dubbed the GTV 250).
MODELS: LX 50, LX 150, LXV 150, GTS 250, GTV 250
Based on the LX 150, Vespa launched the Vespa S with a different headlight, mirrors, seat, dash and trim (shown with optional graphics). Compared to the LX (shown in black), notice the chrome piece on the front, the chrome on the fender, the mirrors, headlight and seat.
MODELS: LX 50, LX 150, LXV 150, S 150, GTS 250, GTV 250
Vespa added a 50cc version of the S. This scooter is mechanically identical to the LX 50, but it gets the same styling as the 150cc Vespa S. Vespa also revised their 50cc Hi-PER4 engine (found in the LX 50 and 50cc Vespa S) to have a new 4-valve head. Vespa hasn’t reported higher horsepower or milage figures but you would expect to gain a little in both of these categories with a more efficient 4-valve motor.
The other significant change to Vespa’s 2009 lineup is a 34cc boost to the GTS. With the bump to 278cc came an appropriate name change from the GTS 250 to the GTS 300 Super.
MODELS: LX 50 4V, LX 150, LXV 150, S 50, S 150, GTS 300 Super
The biggest news for the 2010 model year was the announcement of electronic fuel injection for the 150cc LX / S / LXV models. Vespa added 'i.e.' to the names of these scooters and ditched the poorly designed kickstarter.
The other noteworthy change for 2010 was to the trim levels of the GTS. For 2010 Vespa offered the regular GTS 300 model and the GTS 300 Super which adds red coil springs, a sport seat, black rims and a passenger grab handle instead of the rear rack for a few hundred more. If you want to go all out there is the GTV 300 which gets you all the chrome and a nice leather seat and updated headset/headlight styling.
MODELS: LX 50 4V, LX 150 i.e., LXV 150 i.e., S 50, S 150 i.e., GTS 300 / GTS 300 Super / GTV 300
2011 - 2012
No significant changes for 2011 or 2012.
MODELS: LX 50 4V, LX 150 i.e., LXV 150 i.e., S 50, S 150 i.e., GTS 300 / GTS 300 Super / GTV 300
Vespa didn’t go so far as to introduce the new 946 Quarantasei to North America or their new 3-valve 150cc engine, but they did make some nice updates for 2013. Perhaps we’ll see the 946 (which is headed for production) or the new engine next time around.
For 2013, the color offerings for all models get overhauled, with some new shades introduced and some old favourites returning. The LX and S also get some new touches including a Vespa logo on the floor mat and grips and some tweaks to the horn. The S also gets a new matte black enclosure for the gauges that should make things easier to clean. The larger LX also receives style tweaks to the gauge cluster.
The biggest news for the new year is the new Sport SE variants of the S and GTS. These satin black only limited edition variants boast a sporty seat with white piping, red shock accents and additional graphics on the rear flanks for a distinctive look. At just $100 more than the regular models, the Sport SE models offer good value.
MODELS: LX 50 / 150, LXV 150, S 50 / 150 / 150 Sport SE , GTS 300 / GTS 300 Super / GTS 300 Super SE / GTV 300
The huge news for 2014 is the radically new and ambitious Vespa 946 is scheduled to land in the USA and Canada in the fall. Vespa is saying November, 2013 for North America with an MSRP of $9946. This revolutionary scooter from Vespa packs fresh styling and ambitious technology including ABS, traction control, fuel injection and front and rear disc brakes.
While the price point is subject for debate, you have to hand it Vespa for their initiative in bringing a scooter this ambitious to market and at a price point no one has ever tested for a small (150cc) scooter. The 946 introduces so many new design elements including digital LCD gauges, LED headlamp, partial aluminum construction and much hand assembly and stitching. Initially the 946 is available in either black or white, with quite a few nice options. One practical add on is a rear rack and matching luggage bag (shown in red). This accessory fits well with the 946’s style and adds much desired storage capacity.
946’s headed to the North American market will have add-on turn signals hung below the handlebars (not shown) as the Euro blinkers never seem to meet DOT specs. To make up for it, North American’s also get the larger 150cc motor (it’s 125cc elsewhere) which means 12.7hp for your ten grand. In fairness, a hand built craft machine like this can’t be fairly compared on price to mass produced mainstream models. For the right crowd this scooter represents the pinnacle of scootering, for the rest of us there’s plenty of more affordable machines.
MODELS TO DATE: 946