1959 Piaggio Vespa 400

1959 Piaggio Vespa 400

Available Upon Request

CHASSIS NO: 018942

• Totally restored with exceptional care
• Striking presentation and “La Dolce Vita” character
• Innovative, aircraft-inspired design by Italy’s Piaggio
• Very rare and collectible microcar in today’s market

394 cc rear-mounted two-stroke, two-cylinder engine, 14 HP, three-speed gearbox, front and rear coil-spring suspension, hydraulic drum brakes

Launched at the 1957 Paris Salon, the Vespa 400 was under early development in 1952 by Italian transportation conglomerate Piaggio as an affordable and economical vehicle offering utility with elegant styling. It was built in France by Ateliers de Constructions de Motos et Accessoires (ACMA), which was also licensed to build Vespa scooters there. Powered by a vertical two-cylinder two-stroke, air-cooled engine, the Vespa 400 was quite sophisticated in design, with Piaggio’s aviation heritage evident in the vehicle’s light, yet strong unit-body construction. Suspension was fully independent with coil springs, and the Vespa 400 rode on unique 4.40 x 10-inch wheels. The Vespa 400’s 394 cc engine developed 14 horsepower, good for a top speed of 50 mph. A three-speed gearbox was fitted to vehicles destined for the United States, while a four-speed unit was used elsewhere. Simply equipped and capable of carrying up to four, the Vespa 400 combined form and function in one elegantly designed package, highlighted by a sliding convertible roof opening all the way back to the Vespa’s rear decklid.

The Vespa 400 created a minor sensation when introduced, with Piaggio selling about 12,000 in 1957. By the time production ended in 1961, 28,000 had been sold. A brave concept, the Vespa 400 faced stiff competition from a host of other manufacturers in Italy, Germany, and Great Britain, and while far more advanced than many of them, the Vespa was soon eclipsed in the small-car market by Volkswagen’s Beetle and the Austin Mini. Today, the Vespa 400 is quite rare, especially in the United States, where just an approximate 1,700 were officially imported in 1959 and 1960. Fun and cheeky with incomparable Italian flair, they are an essential component of any proper microcar collection.

This 1959 Vespa 400 clearly benefits from a total restoration to very high standards. The engine was professionally rebuilt by Microcarlot, using billet pistons and heavy-duty bearings for durability. The bodyshell was chemically dipped to the bare metal and the two small areas where rust was found were repaired with butt-welded panels, in preparation for the application of epoxy primer, polyurethane primer, and three color coats of single-stage polyurethane paint. The suspension parts were glass-beaded, cleaned, primed, and then painted Centari Black, and all new suspension bushings were fitted as well. All mechanicals were disassembled, checked for wear, cleaned, and reassembled in the process. New seals were installed in the transmission, vent windows, sliding windows, windshield, engine cover, and engine-vent door. Five new whitewall tires were fitted, the hubcaps polished, and new brake lines were installed, along with rebuilt wheel and master cylinders. Brake linings are original and reported by the consignor to be excellent. All chrome was restored, and new seals were installed on the bumpers and door handles. New front parking-light lenses and taillight lenses were installed. The consignor advises that the Vespa is a peppy performer and capable of reaching 50 mph. Rare, highly collectible, and charming throughout, this 1959 Vespa 400 is a wonderful find and ready to admire and enjoy.

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