Page last updated at 08:29 GMT, Saturday, 23 August 2008 09:29 UK

Two-wheeled classic stops riding

By Clark Ainsworth
BBC News, Tunbridge Wells

Vespa PX
The Vespa PX is the last in a long line of manually geared Italian scooters
Hundreds of scooter enthusiasts will head to the coast this bank holiday weekend at a time when a model that is a direct descendant of the bikes favoured by the Mods of the 1960s ceases to be sold in showrooms.

Stringent new European emission legislation has meant the Vespa PX, with its distinctive waspish engine sound and oil-thick blue exhaust smoke, is no longer economically viable.

Vespa said that although sales of the 30-year-old two-stroke manually-geared bike were fairly static at about 15,000 units annually, tightening emission legislation sounded the death-knell on the model.

It will now only produce machines that have a fully automatic gear box.

UK general manager Tony Campbell said: "In an effort to clean up emissions of all motorised vehicles, the EU government has set a number of standards to be met within certain deadlines.

It was style you could afford. Thirty years on people were still buying it
Andy Gillard
"The new emissions regulations, known as "Euro 3", make the production of a two-stroke engine larger than 50cc not economically feasible.

"The Vespa PX will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the best. A model does not last for 30 years unless it was right in the first place."

Vespa LX scooter
Piaggio said the newer Vespa scooters had been a hit with commuters
Recently the firm has been riding high with sales of its congestion charge-busting and fuel-efficient automatic bikes doubling in recent years.

Rising petrol and parking prices have meant there are almost as many of their models on the roads as in the halcyon days of scooter riding in the late 50s and 60s.

But the decision by parent company Piaggio to cease production of the two-stroke PX 125cc, has saddened those who feel the model is a design classic.

Distinctive sound

And over the past few months the final few examples of the last ever mass-produced European manually-geared scooter have been snapped up by enthusiasts.

The scooters made by Vespa, and Lambretta, until they ceased to make bikes, were favoured by the original Mods who travelled to seaside resorts such Brighton and Margate and enthusiasts that followed.

Their distinctive sound combined with the whiff of oil-infused smoke also set them apart from their modern rivals and made them attractive to commuters who wanted something a bit different as they traversed 21st Century roads.

Brighton pier
Scooter enthusiasts are expected to ride to Brighton over the bank holiday
Andy Gillard, who is the editor of Scootering Magazine, said: "My generation has grown up with the PX. It was designed and created in 1977 when I was eight so I've known nothing else.

"It mobilised the masses again in the 80s. You had The Jam, Quadrophenia and the Mod revival and the PX was sitting there in the showroom.

"There were thousands of scooters on the roads again. You could buy it on hire purchase. It was style you could afford. Thirty years on people were still buying it.

"You could say it was the VW Beetle of the two-wheeled world."

The PX had a manual gearbox that was born out of its traditional heritage as opposed to what today's customer demands
Tony Campbell

He said the legislation did not take into account the fact that they were fuel efficient and the simplicity of their engines meant older models were repaired rather than scrapped.

Mr Gillard added: "It's a shame really because It's the end of a long line of motor scooters. It's the end of the true blood line.

"There are new Vespas out there. The company created the scooter 60 years ago and is still making a version of it.

"So you can still go out and buy a stylish scooter but what you can't buy is the last piece of the history."

"It's like the new Fiat 500, the style is there but it's just not quite the same, which is a shame as the Vespa PX is a design classic."

'Win over'

Vespa said it felt its latest crop of automatic scooters, which include a new 300cc model and a sport model, carry on the brand's heritage while making bikes more accessible to new riders.

Mr Campbell said: "The modern scooter rider requires ease of use as one of its main priorities for scootering around and a 'twist and go' machine provides that easy driving style.

"The PX had a manual gearbox that was born out of its traditional heritage as opposed to what today's customer demands.

"Other Vespa models such as the GTS and Vintage Range are now beginning to win over the scooter enthusiast and we are confident that Vespa buyers will appreciate the new product developments."


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