In 1931, Ferdinando Innocenti’s steel tubing factory was destroyed by bombing. He had seen the Cushman models throughout Italy during the war and decided that might be the future of affordable private transportation, with some adjustments.
His goal was to provide a scooter that offered more protection from the weather, was cleaner to operate and easier for a woman to drive. A woman wearing a dress or skirt could not “modestly” ride a motorcycle.
Innocenti hired aeronautical engineer Corradino DAscanio to create the design. The problem was that the frame of DAscanio’s design was made from molded and beaten metal parts. Innocenti wanted to use rolled steel tubing because of his pre-war profession.
The disagreement between the two led DAscanio to take his design to Enrico Piaggio, who began producing the Vespa in 1946. Lambretta scooters were not released until the following year.
The Innocenti/Lambretta name was sold to British Leyland Motor Corporation (BLMC) during the late 1960s. But, the company was plagued by financial difficulties and eventually closed in 1972.
Automobile Products of India (API) acquired the factory but not the name in the same year and was operational until 2002. The models were sold under the brand name “Lamby”. The API models were never considered “originals”, which are valuable collector’s items.
Lambretta scooters sold in the US in 2008 were manufactured by “Scooters India, Limited” or SIL. The release made headlines, but were not complimentary. Most of the negative press came from devoted “scooterists”.
Over the years, the use of the name has been a subject of much legal debate. Who owns the rights to use the name is the major point of the controversy. It seems that Italian racing team and manufacturer Engines Engineering have decided that they have the rights. SIL may take action against them.
Old Lambretta scooters have sold for over $20,000. New ones are scheduled to be released in 2010.