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The first Vespa was presented in Italy in 1946 after the end of the Second World War. The name Vespa (which means wasp in Italian) originated from the comparison made by the brand’s owner Enrico Piaggio, between the insect and the rear part of the scooter body as well as the wing mirror brackets and handlebars that resembled a wasp’s antennae. 2,484 scooters were produced during its first year of life. Ten years later it was 40 times more. This would be the start of the most famous scooter adventure in the world. It cost 55 thousand lira. Around €35 at the time.
It wasn’t long before the phenomenon crossed the Spanish border; specifically it travelled across the Mediterranean to reach Mallorca in the 1950s. Since then, our islands, thanks to their climate and short distances, have provided the perfect environment for zipping around by Vespa. The arrival onto the scene of Asian scooters has considerably reduced Piaggio’s market share for this particular model, but on the other hand it has given owners and riders of the brand’s most iconic versions, the ones with the chrome trim, an almost legendary status.
“The world of the Vespa is a lifestyle,” explains Xisco Clapés, one of the founder members of Xapilles Scooter Mallorca, a group of enthusiasts of vintage Vespas (at least 25 years old) with chrome accessories. He declares that riding “a vehicle such as a scooter is more about a sense of familiarity rather than its reliability.”
Despite being born in Barcelona, Clapés has lived in Mallorca for 30 years. “As soon as I arrived I rode around the island on my Vespa 75. In those days I didn’t know many people but over time I noticed the interest people had here for the Vespa,” he recalls. The veteran lover of the Italian scooter adds that “after meeting other aficionados and hearing their stories I realised that they were just like me, because in those days it was every teenager’s dream was to own a Vespa.”
His involvement with the world of Vespa led him to discover “local groups that were already ten or fifteen years old,” adding that the Mallorcan people had a lot in common with “other Mediterranean movements such as the ones in Catalonia or Valencia, where one or two bikers met up, well prepared but without the need to show off and with a packed lunch at the ready – this being one of the fundamental elements of the social ride-outs.”
The Vespa movement in Mallorca is centred around fourteen associations and clubs that organise all types of events. Xapilles Scooter Mallorca held the MotoXapa, which in 2017 attracted 250 attendees, as well as routes through the Tramuntana mountain range or around Formentor lighthouse. Borinos Mallorca hosts ‘La Volta a Mallorca en Scooter Clásica’ (classic scooter tour around Mallorca) event, which on average attracts 120 participants. Other groups such as the Mallorca Vespa Club have even organised international events such as Euro Lambretta and Vespa World Days.
At competitive level, Mallorcan Vespa enthusiasts are faced with the problem of lack of circuits. Clapés recognises that “there is very little availability in Llucmajor and on a few occasions we have trained at Ca’n Picafort,” and he affirms the goal is “to be able to race in a closed, secure space, at an affordable price.” In 2018 a Mallorcan team competed in the Spanish Resistance Championship in Zuera.
Nowadays, with the boom in social media, this phenomenon has been able to find its voice. Clapés says it is an “ideal tool for creating bonds and helping novices when they have queries about assembling parts, for example,” stressing the importance of providing good orientation “for those who enter this world with concerns or who want to do a decent job restoring their Vespa”. The seasoned biker also highlights the usefulness of being able to contact “other German or British aficionados who bring their bike across to the island and being able to offer them information on routes so they can discover some of its spectacular corners.”
In this sense, he insists it is very much an “artisan passion because many of the spares are reissues -the original parts are discontinued- obliging the owners to adjust, sand and weld them to adapt to their scooter.” The Vespa is also open to improvements, such as “electronic lighting, for questions of safety, and the square-shaped Pirelli tyres aren’t used these days, as they don’t have the same grip as modern ones.”
The future of the Vespa world will survive thanks to the “transmission between generations and the people that nurture the movement over the years, like a fashion, and keep it alive,” although he recognises that “the authenticity of the Vespa as a classic vehicle is somewhat threatened by MOT restrictions.”