story of this legendary scooter actually began in 1922, when Ferdinando Innocenti
moved to Rome from his native Pescia for the purpose of building a factory. The
product of this enterprising industrialist was steel tubing, and such ingenuity
was involved that Innocenti's wares became renowned throughout Europe. In 1931,
Ferdinando moved to Milan, which had become the industrial centre of Italy. A
new factory was built, employing 6,000 people, and split into a heavy equipment
division and a motor division. The motor division was further divided in two,
the scooter section and the car section.
When Ferdinando viewed war-damaged
Italy in 1946, like Enrico Piaggio, he reasoned that the scooter would ease transportation
problems; more specifically one that would have low production costs, be inexpensive
to operate, and would offer greater weather protection than the motorcycle.
production of Model 'A' began in 1947, after one year spent developing and testing
prototypes. The first Lambretta featured a tubular panel frame into which the
engine was mounted with a floorboard on which the rider put his feet; two seats
were provided and a leg shield at the front of the floorboard provided protection
in the event of rain.Comfort was cared for by leading-link front and torsion bar
rear suspension. A point to make here is that, in 1947, about 90 percent of the
world's motorcycles still featured a rigid frame, and probably a half still employed
the girder front fork. The 72 kg Lambretta, therefore, was a very advanced little
vehicle. The following year, the Innocenti Corporation began production of several
three wheeled scooter-truck combinations and in 1949, the Model B was introduced
- the first to be exported in great numbers.
During the early 1950s, several
of the Latin motorcycle companies began an aggressive effort to dramatically increase
their export sales. Several other Italian concerns had turned to racing or record
setting for publicity and prestige, and it was only natural that Moto Lambretta
would give some thought to this approach. Innocenti decided that road racing was
too far removed from scooter practice for them to fully benefit from the publicity
so the challenge was to break some speed and endurance records,the goal to do
it with basic scooter design. During 1951, the factory kept up its furious quest
for records, nailing down many marks for various distances including the 50 km
at 162.4 km/h, 100 miles at 158.52 km/h. and the l-hour record at 158.52 km/h.
several years the Innocenti Corp. continued to improve its product, introducing
model after model and in 1957, the company made its most noteable improvement
with the TV175 model. Other than the sleek styling, major improvements were the
170-cc engine and the four-speed gearbox, providing brisk acceleration as well
as a speed of 103 km/h
is one other interesting chapter in the story of Lambretta, and that is the tale
of their would-be racer. Designed in 1951, by Ing. Salmaggi, the 250cc Moto Lambretta
had a five-speed unit and typically Latin heel-and-toe shift lever. This exotic
scooter never did make it to the race track though, probably because the record
attempts with the streamliner had succeeded so admirably in bringing the company
the desired publicity.
In 1966, Ferdinando Innocenti died and his son Ing.
Luigi took over as head of the company. This change took place in a particularly
unstable period of political and social history in Italy. Political administrations,
conditioned by the left, were unable to exploit the growing capacities offered
by industry and trade unions were capable of mobilising labourers in just a few
hours. Almost every week, the firm was to endure strikes.
With the death
of the charismatic founder, co-operators stopped working together and started
trying to gain leadership in the companys management. As a consequence Innocenti
did not develop production as the situation demanded until as far on as 1967 when
Nuccio Bertone was assigned the task of improving the scooter design. Yet, despite
this last attempt to renew the Lambrettas overall design, by 1968 the company
was becoming increasingly aware that halting scooter production completely was
only a matter of time.
In 1971 Luigi Innocenti left the head of the company
and the last models ceased to be made in 1972. The company was sold to Leyland,
plants were emptied and the assembly lines of the last models were sold to India