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Lambretta is the brand name of a line of motor scooters initially manufactured in Milan, Italy, by Innocenti. The name is derived from the word Lambrate, the suburb of Milan named after the river which flows through the area, and where the factory was located. Lambretta was the name of a mythical water-sprite associated with the river which runs adjacent to the former production site. Lambro three-wheeler under the name Vikram for the domestic market.
In 1922, Ferdinando Innocenti of Pescia built a steel-tubing factory in Rome. In 1931, he took the business to Milan where he built a larger factory producing seamless steel tubing and employing about 6,000. The factory was heavily bombed and destroyed during World War II. The main stimulus for the design style of the Lambretta and Vespa dates back to pre-World War II Cushman scooters made in Nebraska, United States. Aeronautical engineer General Corradino D’Ascanio, responsible for the design and construction of the first modern helicopter by Agusta, was given the job by Ferdinando Innocenti of designing a simple, robust and affordable vehicle.
D’Ascanio, who hated motorbikes, introduced many changes to his vehicle. It was built on a spar frame with a handlebar gear change and the engine mounted directly onto the rear wheel. The front protection « shield » kept the rider dry and clean in comparison to the open front end on motorcycles. The pass-through leg area design was geared towards women, as wearing dresses or skirts made riding conventional motorcycles a challenge. However, D’Ascanio fell out with Innocenti, who rather than a stamped spar frame wanted to produce his frame from rolled tubing, allowing him to revive both parts of his pre-war company. D’Ascanio disassociated himself from Innocenti and took his design to Enrico Piaggio who produced the spar-framed Vespa from 1946 on.
Arriving on the market the following year, the 1947 Lambretta featured a rear pillion seat for a passenger or optionally a storage compartment. The name Lambretta was derived from a mythical water-sprite associated with the Lambrate river which also gives it name to the Lambrate area of Milan where the factory was located. Innocenti started production of Lambretta scooters in 1947, the year after Piaggio started production of its Vespa models. Lambrettas were manufactured under licence in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, India and Spain, sometimes under other names, but always to a recognizable design, e. The French importer of Lambretta, one Henri Willame, also started a company selling imported microcars under the catch-all « Willam » label. Many of these creations received Lambretta engines, and were sold through the French Lambretta network. The four-wheeled version of the Casalini Sulky was sold as the Willam Bretta in France, beginning in 1980.
As wealth increased in western Europe in the late 1960s, the demand for motor scooters fell as the small car became affordable to more people and Lambretta sales started to decline, as did the financial status of parent company Innocenti. Innocenti was eventually sold to BLMC. Unfortunately, lack of foresight had caused BLMC to join a fashion trend that was ending rapidly. Innocenti finally closed shop in 1972. Scooter sales in many of Lambretta’s export markets, such as India and Indonesia dropped precipitously as light Japanese motorcycles replaced scooters. As of 2017, The Lambretta Consortium has re-launched the « Lambretta V-Special » model.
The Indian government bought the factory for essentially the same reasons that Ferdinando Innocenti had built it after the war. India was a country with poor infrastructure, economically not ready for small private cars yet with a demand for private transport. Innocenti-built Lambretta scooters in India after independence in the 1950s beginning with 48 cc, Ld model, Li 1st series. They eventually acquired a licence to build the Li150 Series 2 model, which was sold under the Lambretta name until about 1976 and later on changed the name to Lamby for legal reasons. Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, bought the entire Lambretta manufacturing and trademark rights. Former Innocenti employees were used to set up an Indian factory as all the manuals and machinery instructions were in Italian. 81, with around 35,000 scooters being built.
However, by 1987 this had dropped to around 4,500 units with production finally ceasing in 1997. As of 2017, SIL’s production now centres on the Vikram three-wheeler, powered by the Lambretta engine. Lambretta Brand, seeking to reclaim the Lambretta brand name. There are still clubs across the world, both national and local clubs, devoted to the Lambretta scooter.
The clubs still participate and organize ride outs and rallies which regularly take place during weekends over the summer months and have high attendance, some rallies achieve 2,500 paying rally goers. The small village of Rodano, near Milan, hosts the biggest Lambretta museum in Europe and the Innocenti archives. In the collection are also several non-Lambretta scooters, including some first models from the 1910s and US Army scooters parachuted over Normandy in 1944. It also housed a large amount of Lambretta memorabilia.