Vespa Largeframe Model Science
In our first blog post on Vespa model lore, we explained how the idea for the Vespa came about and what made the first Vespa models, the so-called Wideframes. In the second part of our series we now deal with the series that followed the Vespa Wideframe at the end of the 60s: the Vespa Largeframe. The third part of our series is now also published: Vespa Smallframe.
Thereby we clarify questions like: Why was the Vespa Largeframe series developed and what are the differences to the Vespa Wideframe? What technical changes has the model series undergone? What do abbreviations like VBA or VBB mean and what special features and curiosities were there within the Largeframe series?
How to recognize a Vespa Largeframe and what are the main features?
Engine concept of the Vespa Largeframe is changed
With the introduction of the Largeframe models, the engine concept was changed. While the swingarm and engine were bolted together separately in the Wideframe series, both parts were now manufactured in one casting in the Largeframe. This made the engine block not only more stable, but also significantly slimmer. Thanks to these technical changes, there was now also more space for the cylinder, which in turn had a positive side effect for the carburetor, which now found space above the cylinder. The carburetor flap, which still sat prominently in the tunnel area on the Wideframe, thus became obsolete. Piaggio's engineers also worked on other technical details, such as simplifying the control of the kick starter, which was still relatively complicated and vulnerable on the Wideframe series.
Design of the Vespa Largeframe becomes slimmer
But not only in the inner life of the model series changed a lot, also externally Piaggio revised the concept of the Vespa with the introduction of the Largeframe models. So now there was no longer a single cast frame, but a left and a right press mold, which were then manufactured in one piece. The handlebars were also split at the beginning. However, this was discarded a short time later – and only reintroduced some 20 years later. The revised engine design also eliminated the cutout on the right side cowl, in addition to the aforementioned carburetor flap. All these changes had the effect of making the vehicle lighter, stiffer and overall slimmer, which can also be seen in the more compact cheeks and narrower leg shield.
The most important Largeframe models
Until today the success of the Largeframe models continues, which began their triumphal procession in 1957/58 with the Vespa 125 VNA and were produced with the model Vespa PX up to and including 2016. But in this long period of time there were of course numerous smaller and larger modifications and thus also a relatively large variety of models. The most important models and changes we present to you in this article.
Models of the Vespa Largeframe series
The VNA model series of the Vespa Largeframe
The VNA was the first Largeframe model and came, as already mentioned, 1957/1958 on the market. Many details that the VNA series had at the beginning were discarded, changed or completely redesigned over time. This is not very surprising. After all, many components of the VNA were still from the Wideframe series. Among them, for example, the one-piece fender, the still relatively wide leg shield, the Vespa lettering and the lamp, which with its 105 mm diameter was taken over from the "Struzzo". Also, floor rails in the tunnel area as well as swinging saddle and luggage rack were still part of the basic equipment on the VNA. But there were other details that were different on the first Largeframe than on the successor models. First, the engine still had a direct intake. This was later controlled by a rotary valve – special models excepted. Second, the VNA already had a split handlebar, which was extremely advanced for the time. But this was discarded with the second generation and only reintroduced decades later.
The VBB model range of Vespa Largeframe
On the second Largeframe model, the VBB, not only the frame but also the fender was now made from two parts. In addition, the headlight was enlarged to 115 millimeters in diameter. As already described, the cast handlebars were now again made from only one piece, as was the case with the GS150, the last sport model in the Wideframe series. Another interesting detail that was changed with the VBB were the floor rails, which here were only mounted on the floor board and replaced by a rubber mat in the tunnel area. With the VBB model series Piaggio now also changed the engine concept from direct intake to rotary valve intake.
VNA stands for V=Vespa, N=125 cc, A=early model series
VBB for V=Vespa, B=150 cc, B=for later model series
GS4 or GS160 and SS180
This scooter, the successor to the GS150, introduced many important new features and tech innovations. For example, the GS4 or GS160 was the first Largeframe model to feature 10-inch tires out of the box. In addition, the swinging saddle disappeared and was now replaced by a bench seat. The spare wheel was also repositioned: instead of being located in the front, it was now under the removable side cowl. A small flap in the side cowl served as the luggage compartment on the first series of the GS, while the second series had a glove compartment at the front.
What makes this model so special, however, is the direct intake. Actually no longer used in the Largeframe series, this model was equipped with it, as was the subsequent SS180. Another special feature is the front fork, where a shock absorber was installed on both models. Thus there was for the first time shock absorber and spring in one – unique until the Vespa PX, which came on the market in 1977. The cylinder arrangement, the angled exhaust and the arrangement of the stud bolts were also unusual, as they were not installed in this form again until the Vespa Rally. Furthermore, 60 mm stroke and a somewhat more compact engine were other distinctive features of the two advanced "outliers" of the Largeframes series.
The Vespa GL
At the beginning of the 1960s, Piaggio decided to modernize the design of the Vespa. Not only were the scooters becoming faster and faster, reaching speeds of up to 100 km/h, but the requirements were also changing. As a result, the frame geometry was revised and the frame was designed to be stiffer. In the course of this, the steering head angle as well as caster and wheelbase were optimized so that the subsequent scooter generations should be easier to steer.
But the Vespa GL also had to look a little sportier. Piaggio therefore decided to make the shape more angular overall and to equip the model with a trapezoidal headlight. The horn cover also became a bit wider and more angular, just like the side cowls. In addition, all 150 cc models now had a spare wheel in the leg shield as well as a luggage compartment, while the larger displacement classes had a glove box and the spare wheel under the side cowl.
The Vespa Rally
At the beginning of the 70's Piaggio brought the penultimate model of the Largeframe series on the market, which at the same time also represented the crowning glory for many: the Vespa Rally. This was initially produced as a 180 cc version, later the Italian manufacturer also brought a model with 200 cc displacement on the market. This made it the fastest Vespas available at the time. On the engine side, the more powerful versions can be recognized by the somewhat crooked manifold and the different arrangement of the cylinder.
Purely visually, however, the Vespa Rally impressed with the headlight enlarged to 135 mm, which was also retained in the last series of the Vespa Largeframe – the Vespa PX. In addition, a glove box and a spare wheel under the left side were part of the equipment. Before production ended in the late 70s, the Vespa Rally received an electronic ignition, which again made it a pioneer.
The last Largeframe model can look back on a history of no less than almost 40 years, which only came to an end in 2016. In its long history, numerous models of the Vespa PX found their way to the market, which brought many changes over time. Among them, adaptations to the horn cover, choke and fuel tap or the separate lubrication.
The latter was established with the Vespa PX Lusso in all displacement classes. This had the advantage that gasoline and oil were refueled separately and the oil therefore had to be topped up much less frequently. Another important change was the disc brake, introduced in 1998, which gave the scooter a completely different braking feel. The clear glass headlights were also an important milestone, because thanks to the reflector technology, Vespa riders now had much better illumination in road traffic.
As with many of its predecessors, the name of the Vespa T5 is significant. So the Vespa GS stands for "Grand Sport", the Vespa SS for "Super Sport", the Vespa T4 for "Touring", the Vespa "Rally" for rally riding and the Vespa T5 for Traversi cinque (T=Traversi=overflow, 5=Cinque=Five). This engine had for the first time five overflow ports installed, through which the gasoline-air mixture could enter the cylinder. This type of cylinder layout was unique at the time and has since become the standard for modern two-stroke engines.
The Vespa T5 was Piaggio's attempt to transport the PX visually into the 80s. In doing so, they also jumped on the trend to angular shapes that characterized the time. For example, a sheet metal box was attached to the rear end above the standard rear end, which lengthened the PX rear end overall. This had the advantage that the seat could also be made longer and more comfortable. The tail light, bumper, large speedometer with integrated tachometer and the square headlight are also unmistakably designed in the 80s style.
The Vespa T5 also had a lot to offer under the cowl. Because Piaggio had managed with this kind of modern cylinder arrangement for the first time to construct a 125 cc that could hold a spark plug to a 200 cc model in terms of performance. While the PX200 was the most powerful model to date with 12 hp, the T5 could boast the same performance with less displacement and was very pleasant to ride at the same time.
Visually controversial, interesting by the standards of the time, and frowned upon by our experts Olli and Jesco: this is the Vespa Cosa, which was built from 1988 to 1998 and offered some interesting details. Storage compartment under the seat, a hydraulically operated integral braking system and an optionally available anti-lock braking system on the front wheel (EBC) were just some of the technical refinements that the model brought with it. Not only did the carburetor come with an electronic-based fuel tap and automatic starting system out of the box – a completely new feature at the time was an electronic tachometer with an analog display positioned in the center of the dashboard. Although the manufacturer wanted to replace the Vespa PX with this model, it not only continued to be built in the meantime, but was also produced and delivered long after production of the Vespa Cosa had ended.
Tips for entering the Largeframe world
If you want to enter the Largeframe world and get a taste of it, you'll find a good start with a Vespa PX model, because these are already available from around 2,000 euros in good condition (as of July 2021). The PX Lusso in particular is one of the inexpensive Vespas, while the PX models from 98' upwards offer slightly better technology, but at the same time are very prone to rust.
If you are into retro looks, you should rather look for a VNB, VBB or Sprint or Sprint Veloce, whose prices range between 2,000 and 3,000 euros. If you want to own a Vespa GS4 or Vespa Rally, you will have to dig a little deeper into your pocket. For models in good condition, the prices here are quickly in the five-digit range.
The advantage of the cheaper variants is that you can install a modern engine in all Largeframe models at any time, since the Largeframe engines are seamlessly interchangeable. This makes the purchase of such a model particularly interesting, because an oldie with a modern engine, for which a great many accessories and tuning parts are available, promises hours of tinkering and riding fun.
Vespa Largeframe models in overview
Vespa 125 (VNA1T-VNA2T)
years of construction 1957 to 1959
115.431 produced units
Vespa 125 (VNB1T-VNB6T)
years of construction 1959 to 1966
302.603 produced units
Vespa 125 GT (VNL1T, export model CH + F)
years of construction 1963 to 1964
Number of units produced unknown
Vespa 125 GT (VNL2T)
years of construction 1966 to 1973
51.582 produced units
Vespa 125 GTR (VNL2T, the "R" stands for "rinnovato")
years of construction 1968 to 1976
45,000 to 52,000 produced units
Vespa 125 Popolino (VNA1T, VNS1T - VNS6T, special model for the Italian and Swedish market)
years of construction 1958 to 1964/65
Number of units produced unknown
Vespa 125 Super (VNC1T, last Vespa on 8 inch wheels)
years of construction 1965 to 1969
24.146 produced units
Vespa 125 TS (VNL3T, stands for Turismo Speciale, transition model from GTR to PX)
years of construction 1975 to 1978
28.745 produced units
Vespa 150 (VBA1T, first model with fuel supply according to the rotary valve principle, produced only for the Italian market)
years of construction 1958 to 1960
124,040 produced units
Vespa 150 (VBB1T-VBB2T, VBB is the direct successor of the VBA)
years of construction 1960 to 1965)
272.260 produced units
Vespa 150 GL (VLA1T, The GL is visually larger, more luxurious and edgier, the engine is similar to that of the VBB but without nose piston and with modified transmission)
years of construction 1962 to 1965
79.854 produced units
Vespa 150 Sprint (VLB1T)
years of construction 1965 to 1974
203.922 produced units
Vespa 150 Sprint Veloce (VLB1T)
years of construction 1969 to 1976
144.168 produced units
Vespa 150 Super (VBC1T, successor of the VBB)
years of construction 1965 to 1979
553.808 produced units
Vespa 160 GS (VSB1T, in D "GS/4")
years of construction 1962 to 1964
62.461 produced units
Vespa 180 Rally (VSD1T, first top model with rotary valve controlled intake)
years of construction 1968 to 1973
26.495 produced units
Vespa 180 Super Sport (VSC1T, Successor of the 160 GS (GS/4) and predecessor of the Vespa 180 Rally.)
years of construction 1964 to 1968
35,700 produced units
Vespa 200 Rally (VSE1T, first Vespa with electronic ignition)
years of construction 1972 to 1979
41.275 produced units
Vespa Cosa (125 (VNR1T), 150 (VLR1T), 200 (VDR1M), 200 (VSR1T)
years of construction 1988 to 1998
Vespa P 200 E (VSX1T, it is also called "PX old" together with the PX models up to the Arcobaleno/Lusso)
Years of construction 1977 to 1982
About 160,000 produced units
Vespa PX (P 125 X, P 150 X / PX 150 E, P(X) 200 E, PX 80 E, PX 80/200 E Traveller, PX 125 E, PX 125 T5, PX 200 E (GS), PX 125, PX 200, PX 125, PX 150)
1977 until 2016
Source: wiki.germanscooterforum.de / Wikipedia