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Let the gnashing and rending commence

July 23, 2011
The new Lambretta LN125

The new Lambretta (or 'Lambretta' your choice) LN 125, on the streets of Paris (Motor-infos.tv image)

You’ve probably heard by now, a scooter called a Lambretta, that looks like an old-skool Lambretta (in the way a modern Vespa looks like an old-skool Vespa), will be going on sale shortly in France. The French Web site Motor-Infos.tv has a video review, which you can watch by clicking here. (The commentary is in French)

At the risk of having a fatwa declared on me, I’ll say again, I like it. I’d buy one, if it were ever to become available in the U.S. Or I were ever to move to Paris.

My French is too limited to be able to discern why Motor-Infos chose to open the clip with Notre Dame in the background, but I think it’s appropriate, given the quasi-religious fervor some harbor on the subject of Lambrettas, and particularly retro reproductions thereof.

I find it curious that so many take offense at the idea of something like this. That there have been so many attempts to revive some kind of Lambretta-badged scooter speaks volumes about the strength of the Lambretta brand. Yes, that’s what it is, a brand.

As with modern Vespas, the purists are gnashing their teeth and rending their garments at the sacrilege of the LN 125.

I’ll say it one more time: this is 2011. The world is a much different place than it was just after WWII. There is a reason Stellas are made in India—they would be much too expensive to manufacture in Italy (or anywhere else in Europe). Building a new Lambretta just like the old one would cost even more, and therefore require a much higher retail price.

So it would be highly likely that if Innocenti were still in business, they’d be building something very similar. And they’d probably be building something like an Adly Lambretta, too. They would need a presence in the lower end of the scooter market, in order to earn a profit. Because that’s what businesses do. And, ahem, that’s what Innocenti failed to do, which is why they closed their doors in 1972.

As I’ve said, the designs of both the original Vespa and original Lambretta were not revelations from on high, but simply reflected what each company did before they decided to build scooters. Innocenti manufactured seamless steel tubing, so old-skool Lambrettas had a tubular frame. There was a bunch of tube-bending equipment in the factory, and the people on the assembly lines were used to working with steel tubing.

I will also say again that plastics as we know them today simply didn’t exist in the late 1940s and early 1950s. To form metal (at least in any kind of volume), you need presses that are about the size of a small house, which are quite expensive to buy and maintain, and require highly-skilled operators. Plastics, OTOH, can be molded easily, and more importantly, inexpensively, into shapes that are difficult, if not impossible to achieve in metal.

And if you’re just getting going, it makes sense on a variety of levels to outsource the manufacturing of your product to a company that’s really good at it. Just as the people who assemble iPads are not employees of Apple, Inc (AAPL), it makes perfect sense for the nouvelle Lambretta to be built by SYM. After all, they still build the Cub for Honda, a company with a reputation for stellar quality. That would seem to indicate SYM knows what it’s doing.

The video shows lots of the bike’s details. It’s screwed together rather well; the bits and pieces fit precisely. The LED taillights and turn signals are a nice touch, though the front ones are not far enough apart for the U.S. market. The headset (or at least the switchgear) looks like it might have been lifted from a Vespa GTS. Or made by the same company.

It is, in fact, a pretty standard modern scooter, powered by a pretty standard modern engine/transmission, which is linear in its orientation.

Like an Innocenti Lambretta. Right? Favicon

UPDATE, September 24, 2011—U.K. news site The Telegraph recently reviewed the LN 125; you can read what they had to say by clicking here.

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3 Comments
  1. mark morris permalink
    July 24, 2011 1:20 am

    Orin,

    I have to agree with you entirely in your assessment of the Lambretta business.
    This scoot looks pretty cool as well.

    I do not get at all the friction between vintage and new as well. It’s ok to like one or the other, or both!

    I thought I read somewhere that the side rear panels are sheet metal?

    Thanks for the link to the video.

  2. Dar permalink
    July 24, 2011 1:57 am

    I like it, it’s a cute scoot. I think the ‘purists’ have to seriously get over themselves. Scooters are evolving and the scooter base is enlarging to fit everyone’s needs. We are going to see different scoots to fit everyone’s budget and riding style. I saw an electric scooter the other day (not a moped) and it was styled in the classic way and I think we are going to see more electric motorcycles and scoots. I think there is room for everyone who rides to find a style whether it is Yamaha, Lambretta, Vespa, Sym, Honda or any of the others.
    All that matters is how you feel when you ride.

  3. Jon permalink
    July 24, 2011 8:01 am

    I’m with ya on this scooter also, Orin. I have thought this model is a great looking scoot since I saw the first photos a while back. I would buy one also. I actually like the Adly Uno/ Lambretta also.

    I like “retro” too. I bought a new 2007 Royal Enfield 500 Bullet a few years back. They were as retro as one can get being literally a design made in the 1950s. And while I recently sold mine, I enjoyed riding it and had few problems. In 50 years of riding I never got the type of reaction that I got when riding my Enfield. Everyone would come up to me and ask about that bike. People would run across busy downtown city streets to check it out and ask about it.Whenever I rode it I would have to allow extra time for telling people about the bike and the history of it.

    I don’t remember a huge negative backlash when the new Triumph came out with “their” Triumph Bonneville, which, in fact, has nothing in common with the original. My comment was “What took them so long?”.

    Jon

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