Let the gnashing and rending commence
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?
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.