Il Museo Piaggio

A few years ago I made the pilgrimage to Pontedera, Italy (map), the birthplace of the iconic Vespa motor scooter. My wife thought the “old scooter museum” was just a little side trip from Florence to keep me amused, but little did she know our entire two-week and three-country vacation was centered around the Museo Piaggio. We surprisingly both agreed it was one of our favorite parts of the trip.

Piaggio & C.SpA is the parent company of the Vespa brand and has been an industrial giant since the late 1800′s.  The company manufactured railway cars and   airplanes prior to World War II, but was completely destroyed by Allied bombing. Enrico Piaggio shifted focus to motor scooter production during the post-war reconstruction. He hired  aeronautical engineer Corradino D’Ascanio to design an easy-to-use scooter to help get affordable transportation to the masses. With it’s bulging rear section to house the motor, skinny floorboard “thorax” and a large leg shield to protect the rider, the little motor scooter came into being. Mr. Piaggio proclaimed “It looks like a Wasp” (Vespa in Italian) and the icon was born. The company  is still the 4th largest producer of Scooters and Motorcycles to this day. The Vespa is  the flagship marque of all Piaggio’s brands, and the designs of the Modern Vespas are reminiscent of the many classic models.

 

 

I’ve been a motor scooter collector for nine years so I’ve always wanted to visit the Piaggio Museum. Seriously, this little industrial town in Italy is hallowed ground to us scooter junkies. Every antique Vespa I’ve owned (way too many to list) was born at  the sprawling factory in the Italian region of Tuscany.

My 1966 Super Sport 180 and 2005 PX150 Sidecar Rig.

Getting to Pontedera, halfway between Florence and Pisa, was an easy train ride through the beautiful countryside. As soon as we stepped off the train at the little station we were staring right at the Piaggio factory.

The Piaggio Museum opened in 2000 in one of the factory’s old warehouse buildings. It is now home to original airplanes, iconic advertising, Gilera motorcycles, and of course, Vespa scooters.

 

The entrance with a Piaggio train car.

An entire wall showcasing Vespa models.

The Museum has a great collection of prototypes and some of the rarest Vespa motor scooters.

The model in front is the MP6 prototype from 1946. The little blue car is a 1957 Vespa 400.

A 1950's French Airborne Vespa 150. These carried an M20 cannon and were actually used in the Algerian War. This was Martha's favorite.

 

The Salvador Dali doodled Vespa.

 

The Vespa Ape had many different commercial applications. There are a few in the States at reasonable prices, no matter what those two Picker guys say.

Yeah, it's big.

Even with all the cool stuff inside the museum, just walking around the factory (as much as I could) was exciting. Apparently they don’t have ground floor windows to keep Vespa collectors from taking pictures of the assembly lines and scooters being made. This was a truly amazing experience and I would recommend the Museum to anyone who is a scooter junkie or not.

Thanks for taking the time to read about my adventure. Ciao.

- Grant Griffin

 

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A few vehicles and locations from Bottle Rocket.

 

Wes Anderson’s first movie, Bottle Rocket, was released in 1996 and was the first glimpse into the world of Mr. Anderson. Just like his subsequent films, the automobile, a bicycle, or even a minibike or go-cart adds a new dimension to his perfectly-placed characters and scenes. There are always some interesting vehicles in his movies.                 Yeah, he gets it.
There are a few locations from the film still standing around Dallas and Hillsboro, Texas.

“Whose house is this?” was our first quiz question and we had someone correctly answer that is was  Bob Maplethorpe’s. I wished I would have taken that picture before I sent my Honda Trail 70 to live out on the farm.

The driveway of the Frank Lloyd Wright designed house in Dallas:

Dignan riding a Honda Trail 70 (CT70). Candy Ruby Red was an original color from 1969-1972.

Bob’s getaway car:

Mercedes-Benz 280S (W108).

I believe the building used for Mr. Henry’s hideout has been demolished. If it’s still standing and someone can find it, please let me know. I’ll send them a copy of the film.

Is this Applejack's or Mr. Henry's Chevrolet Monte Carlo?

The guys try to rob Hinckley Cold Storage at the end of the film.

2005 Vespa PX150 on location at Hinckley Cold Storage.

Thanks to the Internet Movie Car Database for some of the images. Please be sure to ”like” the Sir Wheelsy Facebook page.  Thanks! – Grant

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Road Trip to Ruidoso

Even though the first Road Trip was credited to Bertha Benz (wife of Karl Benz, who we all know invented the gasoline-powered car), the Road Trip is truly an American Icon given in part to Route 66, American movies, and our own road trip memories. Just the idea of the road trip conjures images of Wyatt and Billy, Otter, Boon & Flounder, Clark ogling “The girl in the red Ferrari”,  or your own college shenanigans.

The last week of 2011,  I took off from Dallas to Ruidoso, New Mexico on my own road trip. As usual, I think getting there is half the fun.   My version of roadgeeking involves spotting interesting vehicles and driving through random towns along the way.  I won’t bore everyone with the number of Wagoneers or FJ-40′s I saw in fields, but here are a few pictures of my trip.

My choice of vehicle for this trip is the 80 Series Toyota Land Cruiser. Gas pours through this truck like it’s free, but the four wheel drive and scooter hauling capabilities make up for it.

It's 5:00 AM and take-off time. The truck is equipped with a scooter hauler in case I find a Lambretta in the middle of nowhere.

 

Barn-find Willys Jeep on a Trailer.

 

BNSF Line and Wind Turbines.

I pulled over to snap a shot of an old tractor in a small town, and much to my suprise was a mid-1950′s “handle-bar” scooter leaning against the barn.  It’s an Italian made Vespascooter that was sold by Sears under the Allstate brand. Just, fyi, I was able to contact the owner after a little sleuthing.

Very weathered and mising some parts, but still an interesting barn-find.

 

Many Allstates have surfaced in rural communities. Farmers and ranchers bought them right out of the Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalogue.

Piaggio is the parent company of the iconic Vespa motor scooter.

Texas license plate from 1964. Apparently the last year it was registered.

I continued west and stopped to hunt for  fossil specimens just south of U.S. 84. I’d heard this area was a good place to find Cretaceous area Pelecypods and Echinoids.

Here are the cleaned examples of the oyster fossils I found. I believe these fall under the genus, Texigrypheae:

BNSF Railway Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD pickup equiped with high-rail system.

I hit some snow in far West Texas as I crossed into Eastern New Mexico. I saw an interesting antique rideable train and had to sneak some photos. As soon as I hear back from my train experts I’ll post up what this thing is.

Yes, the golf cart is a Harley-Davidson.

These shots were taken through the fence of a great junkyard in Roswell, New Mexico. Thanks to my cousin, Bryan Wofford, for giving me the tip about this place.

After driving almost 600 miles I get into the mountains outside Ruidoso. I don’t recommend taking pictures through the windshield while driving on twisty mountain roads. I really don’t recommend photos that include borring Chevy Cavaliers either.

A few days later I coasted the entire way home. Thanks for reading. -Grant

 

 

 

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