Lambretta Model Lore
In the fifth and last part of our series, we deal with the scooters of the Italian vehicle manufacturer Innocenti, more specifically the Lambretta, which enjoys great popularity and cult status with fans of motorized two-wheeled classics. In our four previous blog posts on model lore, we looked at the history of the Wideframe, Largeframe, Smallframe and Modern Vespa models.
The name Lambretta has stood for classic scooters "Made in Milan" for many years. From there, Lambretta scooters conquered not only the streets, but even the hearts of scooter fans to this day. It all began in 1945, when engineer Pierluigi Torre was commissioned by company owner Ferdinando Innocenti to produce design drawings for a scooter. At that time still operating as Innocenti to produce steel tubes, the future goal was to produce an inexpensive two-wheeled vehicle that would be affordable for everyone in the post-war period. A name was also found immediately: Inspired by the Milan district of Lambrate and the Lambro River near the factory, the scooter was christened Lambretta and released in 1947 with the A series.
The result was an inexpensive, motorized scooter with a tubular steel frame and sheet metal parts as well as an encapsulated swingarm in a lightweight and compact design. Initially equipped with a simple frame with splash guards for the feet in the front area, later models offered an increasingly sophisticated design with further technical and visual features. The models also continued to develop on the engine side. Until the official end of Lambretta production, many models were released with different engines, ranging from the two-stroke 125 cc engine with 4.3 hp to the 200-cc engine with 12 hp. Initially still operated on 7-inch wheels, one changed also in later series first to 8 and then to 10-inch wheels.
At a time when traveling by public transport was still very arduous, the Lambretta models turned into a bestseller within a very short time of their release. So much so that the manufacturer Innocenti was quick to distribute licenses to other countries worldwide, even the British postal service used models for its deliveries. Manufacturers such as NSU in Germany, Serveta in Spain, Fenwick in France, Pasco in Brazil, Auteco in Colombia, Siambretta in Argentina and SIL in India brought the Lambretta feeling to their respective streets. At the same time, Lambretta models were distinguished by their high quality and, time and again, by new technical innovations. For example, Lambrettas were the first scooters to feature electric ignition and even the first two-wheelers to come with a standard disc brake.
The Lambretta models (A-F) from Innocenti in detail
The most famous Lambretta models today are those of series 1-3 - and in particular the Li versions, which not only have the largest fan bases, but for which there is also the largest selection of tuning accessories.
Lambretta TV 175
The first representative of the model series 1 was the Lambretta TV "Turismo Veloce" 175, presented in April 1957 and designed as a competitor to the Vespa GS 150. Unlike those of the A to F series, the front fender was now fixed to the body. The new models continued to have a tubular frame. This had a headlight integrated on the leg shield and a speedometer integrated in the handlebar. The rear section was completely covered, with air intakes on the side hoods and a recessed taillight.
Furthermore, the model had 10-inch tires. Also on the engine side, the model with chain drive and a horizontal cylinder had a lot to offer: 175 cc, about 9 hp and a top speed of 102 km/h left hardly anything to be desired. Instead of the previous cardan drive, a duplex chain was now used. Despite the many positive features, there were negative points: The engine's technology in particular was considered complicated and not very reliable. With the introduction of the Lambretta Li 125 and Li 150 and the newly developed engine, most of the problems were eliminated.
Lambretta Li 125 and Li 150
With the two Li models, Innocenti got back on the road to success. From the bodywork, the two models of the Li series were identical except for a few details, the air intake for the carburetor and the kickstarter mechanism of the TV 175. While in the beginning the carburetor sucked through the frame, later it was routed through a normal air filter box, which was continued with the series 2 and 3. While the Lambretta Li 125 had aluminum treads, those of the Li 150 were made of rubber and fitted with end pieces. The details on the steering wheel were painted on the 125 version and polished on the 150. The smaller version was only available in two shades of gray, the larger version with several color details. Starting with the TV 175 in April 1957 and ending with the Li in October 1959, over 150,000 units were sold.
Lambretta Series 2 in detail
With the Lambretta Series 3, the manufacturer Innocenti achieved its most successful model series from 1961 onwards, which was also called "Slimline" in specialist circles and represented a major turning point. The name was no coincidence: thanks to a significantly slimmer design, the models not only looked sportier, but also reduced the amount of material used in production - technically, however, they remained largely the same.
Lambretta Li 125 and Li 150 (Special)
Both Lambretta Li versions - i.e., Li 125 and 150 - had single seats fitted as standard but could be converted to a bench seat if desired. Technically, there were only detail improvements. A repositioned SH carburetor and a revised intake and exhaust system provided better fuel economy and optimized performance. The chassis, however, remained basically the same. However, most of the changes were made gradually due to long production time. For example, the concept of the ignition changed over time, details on the handlebars and the gearbox, which was re-stepped and became known as the Pacemaker transmission. The Special models that Innocenti launched two years later were the sportier versions of the Lambretta Li 125 and 150 and were effectively positioned between the Li and GT (abbreviation for the TV models in England) or TV models. The bodywork elements of the model range were based on the Lambretta SX.
Lambretta TV 175 and TV/GT 200
In 1962 Innocenti launched the TV 175 Series 3 model range. In terms of design, it was based on the Li versions, but the series offered many different details such as modified mudguards and steering head and an engine with a 175-cc displacement. In addition, the Lambretta TV 175 had something that was completely new in the two-wheeler sector: while all motorized two-wheelers had previously been equipped with a drum brake, the TV 175 was the first model to come with a disc brake as standard.
In the history of the Lambretta Series 3 there was another evolution in 1962/1963: following the great success of the TV 175 in England and the efforts of a major importer of the models, a more powerful version, the TV (Gran Turismo) 200, was developed for the English market. Thanks to a larger displacement of 200 cc, better pistons and a longer gearbox, the model reached up to 110 km/h with 10.75 hp, but this resulted in massive vibrations. Later, the 200 model was sold in other countries such as Scandinavia, France, Switzerland, and the USA - but never in the country of origin, Italy itself.
Lambretta SX 150 and SX 200
The Lambretta Special X 150 and 200 models were produced from 1966 to 1969 and were a further development of the Lambretta Special and TV versions. Compared to the Special, the SX 150 models had chromed fins, otherwise the models remained visually largely identical. The SX 200, however, differed enormously in appearance and can be regarded as the successor to the TV/GT200. Special side covers and a longer kick starter were responsible for this. On the engine side, there were also changes to the exhaust, pistons, engine housing and cylinders. Around 9 hp and 105 km/h of the SX 150 and 11 hp with a top speed of around 105 km/h, were achieved by the two Lambretta Special X models, of which over 50,000 models were put on the market during the three years of production.
Lambretta DL 125/150/200 or GP (England)
From 1969, the LI, Special, SX and TV models were replaced by the DL models (GP in England), which now offered revised engines and a completely redesigned body by Nuccio Bertone with many detail changes. In the process, many chrome as well as rubber parts on the body were replaced with matte black components. The frame was shortened at the front so that the handlebars could be lowered, which favored a sportier seating position. A visually refined leg shield with so-called "Shark Teeth" style elements, rounded off the concept in the new Bertone style very successfully. A total of three displacement variants were released: the DL/GP with 125, 150 and 200 cc, of which 55,000 were produced by the end of production in 1971, including all Special versions. A particularly popular collector's item today is the DL/GP 200 painted in ochre or red, of which there were only around 9,500. The "holy grail" among collectors is the 200 "electric" version, which was fitted with an electronic ignition system and was thus a pioneer on the market as standard. According to unconfirmed information, only 200 to 2,000 units were built, making it an extremely rare and highly traded model among enthusiasts.