February 14, 2019
Written By Mark FattoreBikesales
Lambretta has been a sleeper for many years – a surprise for a brand with such a remarkable cultural profile – but it has now been revived globally with Melbourne-based importer Mojo Motorcycles taking up the distributorship Down Under.
The four-stroke range is available in three different capacities – 49, 124 and 169cc – and Bikesales grabbed the ‘big bertha’ during the manic pre-Christmas rush in Melbourne – and what a little ripper it turned out to be.
The 11.8hp/12Nm 169cc model is officially called the V-Special 200 and, as a bonus, we rode the limited edition Pirelli model with its special livery and badges, red highlights, Pirelli Angel tyres and numbered nameplate.
A total of 999 Pirelli editions have been produced – 25 making their way to Australia – “to celebrate the reunion of the two iconic Italian brands”.
The Pirelli version retails for $5390, while the standard V-200 Special is $4990. The other two Lambrettas – the V50 Special and V 125 Special – are $3590 and $4290 respectively. All prices are exclusive of on-road costs.
The Pirelli model also comes with the signature Lambretta fixed fender, which was first introduced in 1957. As the name suggests, the fender is “fixed” and points straight ahead – irrespective of where the handlebars are moving.
Just one part of the storied history of a company that, alongside Vespa, started building in 1946 what we know recognise as the modern scooter. And now is a good a time as any to take a quick look down memory lane.
Lambretta was founded by Ferdinando Innocenti, who saw the demand for cheap transport. His first machine, the model A, was a 123cc two-stroke – and naked, with no wrap-around bodywork. The last naked scooter was produced in 1955.
Lambretta publicised its machines with speed record attempts. Perhaps its most impressive effort was with a streamlined 125cc machine ridden by Romolo Ferri in 1950, which achieved 195km/h.
Innocenti's company also dabbled in motorcycles, producing a very sweet-looking 50cc machine in the late 1970s. However, its most legendary effort was a 250cc V-twin four-stroke, with Guzzi-like engine layout, built during the early 1950s. The single overhead cam machine was quite advanced for its day, with triple coil valve-springs and shim adjustment, five-speed gearbox and shaft final drive.
It claimed 30 horses and a top speed of 190km/h. It was seen as a warning shot across the bows of Moto Guzzi, and others, sending the message that they should keep out of the scooter market - unless they wanted Lambretta to develop a real interest in motorcycles.
The firm's most powerful scooter was the 11hp SX200, built from 1966 to 1969.
At its peak, Lambretta employed 7000 people and some models were built in the hundreds of thousands. Unfortunately, the death of its founder in 1966 signalled the start of a downhill trend, and the firm was in serious financial strife by 1975 when it was taken over by the Italian government and various sections broken up into new companies.
Back in the game
That’s a very similar narrative to Lambretta’s Italian motorcycle contemporaries – but that’s all in the past now with Lambretta back in business, albeit without the Italian-made badge.
And the timing couldn’t be better in Australia, with scooter the only segment showing an improvement in sales in what was a very difficult 2018. The Uber Eats affect, perhaps?
I’ve always had an arbitrary limit to really start to enjoy a scooter experience, and that’s around 150cc. At that capacity, you still get plenty of car-like punch off the mark, but you don’t hold up traffic on an arterial – which, to be fair, based on current peak-hour average speeds in most capital cities, a 50cc scooter is all you need...
Still, the ‘big-bertha’ V-Special 200 was our Lambretta of choice, and a number of Bikesales staffers tried it out for size. Not that there’s a lot of ‘size’ to contend with, and that’s why diminutive scooters in general make so much sense – every nook and canny is accessible, and you can manoeuvre them nicely them into a parking spot.
Once the twist-and-go throttle is triggered, though, the V-Special just feels like any other scooter I’ve ridden in this size and capacity bracket. That’s not meant as a subtle backhander, but personalities and individual traits on scooters don’t really start to kick in until further up the cc ladder.
The Lambretta tracks on 12-inch wheels, so it’s nimble as but still with more than enough stability for the rider to feel secure at 100km/h – which the V-Special reaches. And I know, as I took it up the Calder Highway north of Melbourne one evening, with a beautiful southerly tail wind providing some extra encouragement.
Even with the assistance, that six-litre tank empties with some haste when you’re at full throttle for any length of time. Still, when it costs about $7.50 to fill, it’s hardly a financial millstone around the neck…
The scooter has a steel tubular frame underneath that bodywork, while the wheelbase is a taut 1340mm.
Off the mark, the belt-driven V-Special is especially perky, so I was able to get up to speed with the traffic from the get-go – so no nerves jangled in any way.
The 226 (front) and 220mm discs are more than capable, and there’s Bosch ABS as well.
I did occasionally find the switchgear a little ‘sticky’, especially the blinker switch, but that was about the only part of the V-Special 200 equation which was a little frustrating.
Storage-wise, the Lambretta has an integrated glovebox, and underseat storage is on par for the class.
The machine also has LED lighting, while accessories include interchangeable side panels to really nail down individual styling, front and rear luggage carriers and a rear crash bar.
The new models have been designed by Austrian company Kiska, which has strong ties with the likes of KTM, Husqvarna and CFMoto.
Lambretta is back, and that’s a good thing. The Italian halo roots (except for the fixed fender) may have disappeared, but to see Vespa’s old rival back in town only adds to the choice for scooter consumers – and price is sharp, too. And the portfolio will undoubtedly expand in years to come, with talk of a maxi scooter and an electric version as well.
As the flagship of Lambretta in Australia, the V-Special 200 can holds its head high. It’s a beaut scoot: performance is sharp, it handles and stops well, the seat's more than wide enough, the instrumentation is functional, and the ability to mix and match different side panel styles, shapes and colours – as you can do across the whole Lambretta range – is unique. Welcome back, Lambretta.