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.
Lambretta Model Lore
How was the Lambretta range born and why was it so special?
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
Lambretta 125 m model series A
The success story began in October 1947 with the Lambretta 125 m model series A, of which Innocenti produced almost 10,000 units by October 1948. In the course of time, three series of the Lambretta 125 A (m) were created through constant further development, with different gimmicks and technical refinements.
The construction was as simple as it was ingenious: the body was divided into two parts, the front section consisting of a pressed square tube with the steering head and fork on top. The rear section was made up of chrome tubes. From today's point of view, the brake shoes made of steel as well as the brake block firmly installed in the drums seem a bit strange - however, this was not unusual for the time. Cables and cables ran inside the ducts, which made for a simple, elegant design. The Lambretta Serie A was powered by a 125-cc engine with a cardan drive, which was advanced for its time, reaching a speed of around 65 km/h with 4 hp.
Lambretta 125 model B series
Due to the positive response, the successor, the Lambretta B 125, was launched in November 1948, which was more or less an evolution of the first model and sold over 35,000 units by January 1950. On the technical side, the elastic suspension on the rear wheel and the pull-handle gearshift, now located on the handlebars, are particularly noteworthy. The latter innovation was even adopted for all future Lambretta models. On the engine side, Lambretta continues to rely on the tried-and-tested 125 cc naturally aspirated engine with cardan drive and 3-speed gearbox. As with the predecessor, there are some adjustments over time. By the way, the Lambretta B 125 was the first scooter from Innocenti, which found its way onto German roads thanks to import.
Lambretta 125 of the model series C & LC
The third model from Innocenti was the Lambretta C 125, which was built from February 1950 to November 1951. As with the two previous models, the manufacturer relied on the tried and tested 125 cc engine for the Lambretta C 125. But otherwise, things changed: Thin handlebars, a large round headlight on the handlebars and a circular tail light above the license plate could also have come from a bicycle. Only a short time after the Lambretta C 125, the manufacturer released an LC version. The "L" in the name "LC" stood for Lusso and was virtually the luxury version with better weather protection. In the nearly two-year production period of both models, a total of around 13,000 Lambretta C/LC 125s were sold.
Lambretta 125 and 150 model range D & LD
Visually quite similar to its predecessor at first glance, the fourth generation from December 1951, however, had a few optical adjustments on closer inspection thanks to a new frame. The series also continued to develop on the engine side. So, the D 125 got a new powerful engine with about 5 hp, with which up to proud 80 km/h could be reached. To the D version there was also again a somewhat more luxuriantly equipped variant with more elegant fairing, and/or full bodywork. Until the end of production of the two 125 models, just under 125,000 units were sold. Almost three years later, in 1954, Innocenti launched a 150-cc model for the first time. Until January 1957, several model variants with different technical and optical details appeared.
Lambretta 125 model series E & F
The chronological order overlapped somewhat with the release of the Lambretta E and F 125. In 1953 Innocenti already launched the E model series for "Economico" (German for economical/economic), which was intended to appeal to price-conscious buyers. To save weight and costs, the design elements were simpler. The new frame was based on the C version, but without the seat tube. Thus, the fuel tank was located at the height of the driver's seat, while the luggage compartment was positioned under that of the passenger. The engine was still 125 cc. The model was started by a cable. This was to change with the F 125, which was essentially identical in construction but equipped with a kick starter. Although the economy model was available at a reasonable price, the Lambretta E 125 was not very well received by buyers, which is why production was discontinued as early as 1954/1955.
Lambretta Series 1 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
Lambretta Li 125 und Li 150
After the first series was discontinued, Innocenti launched the second series in October 1959. With only minor adjustments to the appearance, the headlights now integrated into the handlebars, the successors were improved in detail. While the Lambretta Li 125 came with a bench seat and aluminum rails with pattern in the step-through, the Li 150 had a double seat and aluminum step rails with rubber profile and end pieces. With 270,000 units sold by November 1961, the Series 2 of the Lambretta Li 125 and Li 150 turned out to be the best-selling series of the Italians up to that time.
Lambretta TV 175
The TV 175 also gets a successor with the series 2. As with the Li variants, the 175 version was equipped with the newly designed steering head. In the step-through, as with the Lambretta Li 150, aluminum step bars with rubber profile and end pieces were installed, as well as the double seat, which could also be optionally converted to single seats. Other features were the additional front shock absorbers. Frame adjustments with reinforcement, enlargement of the rear light and horn grille are just some of the major adjustments made over time.
Due to the positive experience with the Li motor in terms of cost and reliability, it was adapted on the TV 175. It kept the same stroke at 58 mm, but the connecting rod was lengthened to 116 mm. This ensured smoother running in the engine, which was bored out to 175 cc. The model's performance increased to 8.6 hp and 104 km/h. Production ended, as with the LI 2nd series, in November 1961 and, with almost 42,000 units sold, is also very convincing.
Lambretta Series 3 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.
Lambretta Smallframe range from Innocenti in detail
The Lambretta Smallframe series was designed to tap into the market of cheaper mopeds. For this reason, the models were significantly simplified visually, and their technical specifications were scaled down. Innocenti decided to engage the well-known designer Nuccio Bertone to design the models. The result was a trendsetting, timeless design that still inspires today.
Lambretta Junior 50, Junior 100 (Cento) and Junior 125 series
In 1964, Innocenti released the Junior family of the popular scooter manufacturer, which was intended to appeal to price-conscious buyers due to its low prices. Visually based on the Piaggio models, these had a self-supporting body made of a sheet steel construction with a connection to the air filter, like that of a Vespa. The engine was in the middle of the chassis and was based on the Li models, but here the cylinder was again constructed upright.
In the course of the time appeared with the Junior 50, Junior 100 (Cento) and Junior 125 (Super Starstream) altogether four versions with in each case still own remarks in their cubic class: Begun with a 50 cc engine with 1.47 HP and three-speed transmission, a 4.7 HP strong aggregate of the Junior 100, up to a 125 cc model with three and/or four-speed transmission and 5.8 HP, with which proud 80 km/h were reached. Visually, the model series also received small adjustments again and again. The series came to an end with the Junior 125 (Super Starstream) in 1969 and a total of over 143,000 units sold. In order to give the following model generation a new look, Innocenti hired the well-known designer and constructor Giuseppe "Nuccio" Bertone, who was responsible for the Lui series.
Lambretta Lui 50 and Lui 75 series
Innocenti launched the Lui series in March 1968 under the slogan "All for Lui, and Lui for all". Bertone's influences were clearly recognizable and manifested themselves in a "spacey", timeless design that was ahead of its time. While the front part consisted of the familiar tubular frame, the rear part was now made from a single casting. Suspension as well as mechanics were taken from the Junior series. The brake drum was made of steel. Six versions were built until the end of 1970 and were repeatedly revised both visually and functionally.
Only shortly after the release of the Lui 50, the Lambretta Lambretta Lui 75 was presented. In contrast to the 50 models, these versions had an electric system with more power for high beam and brake lights as well as a more powerful engine with 5.2 hp. The distinctive feature of the Lui 75 was mainly the Lube-Matic, a separate lubrication system located in a separate tank and mixed to the fuel through a pump. From the start of the model series in March 1968 until the end in December 1970, a total of over 36,000 units were sold.
Crisis and end of production of Lambretta
At the end of the 1960s, the first cracks in the success story were visible. The crisis with the end of the previous hype of the scooters and an intensified competitive situation by Vespa and Co. made it difficult for the popular manufacturer. So much so that in 1971 the last Lambrettas were to roll off the production line in Milan. One year after the official end of production and the plant closure, the production machines there were taken over by the manufacturer Scooter India Ltd. (S.I.L.), which continued to produce Lambrettas in Asia based on the DL series, even until the end of the 1990s. Also, the manufacturer Serveta, which had previously produced the models under official license in Spain, produced on the basis of the Series 3 the LI as well as SX series under the names Lince/Lynx, Series 80 and Jet 200 until the mid-1980s. During this period, Lambretta models were given technical innovations such as larger headlights, shock absorbers on the fork and parts made of fiberglass-reinforced plastic.
Today, the Lambretta enjoys cult status not only among fans, but also among lovers of classic cars and the scooter community high popularity. Thus, tuning parts are developed by many manufacturers and brought to the market.
Lambretta Model Lore Part 1
Lambretta Model Lore Part 2
Lambretta Model Lore Part 3
All spare parts and accessories for LAMBRETTA scooters can be found in our webshop in the LAMBRETTA category right here: