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The Vespa had been extremely popular throughout the 1950's, but by the early 60's it became clear that new designs were needed to keep Piaggio at the forefront of scooter sales. One problem hindering sales were new rules and regulations in place in much of Europe that limited who could qualify for a motorcycle license.
Fifty cubic centimeter motors were exempt from these license and age restrictions, and Piaggio decided to jump into this niche with a new scooter. It was an area of the market that had previously been the exclusive purview of mopeds. Piaggio's decision to enter this market and build the smallframe Vespa proved to be one of the best choices they ever made.
The Vespa 50 ended up being the highest selling scooter in Piaggio's history and one of the highest-selling vehicles of all time. Indeed, they were so popular that the classic-styled smallframes were produced from the early 1960's.
The VBA/VBB Vespas get their name from the prefixes of their VIN numbers. The VBA/VBB were the successor to the handlebar "widebody" Vespas. The VBA/VBB was the 150cc models and VNA/VNB was the prefix for the 125cc models. The "A" were the first ones produced, and were then followed by the "B" models when the rear of the frame was flattened out. In following the handlebar Vespas, these scooters had a completely new body and motor design which was the basis for almost all following largeframe Vespas.
The engine was a rotary inducted design which increased reliability, fuel consumption, and decreased oil consumption as compared with the piston-ported handlebar motor. The carburetor was relocated from under the seat to the top of the motor case.
The chassis was narrowed a bit and restyled to match. An enclosed headset now replaced the open handlebars on all models, while on the other hand, the eight-inch wheel set up of the older models was retained. The VBB replaced the VBA in 1960 and introduced a much-needed four-speed gearbox to the smaller scooters.
Four gears had previously been reserved only for the top of the line Gran Sport. Furthermore, VBB had aluminum trim on the cowls and a flat section under the tail-light to affix a license plate. All of these scooters were styled and engineered well, and the VBB/VBA are as beautiful and classic a design as the G.S. 150.
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