Lot 85 V Dorotheum’s Vienna-Vösendorf Motor Vehicle Centre Scootermania sale, April 6, 2018: Lambretta DL 200 Electronic scooter, 1971. With an opening price of €500, the vehicle sold for €11,500. Some reasons for the high price:
As with much twentieth-century design, the story of the scooter pivots around World War II. Scooters were first produced after the first World War, but the use of motorcycles by Allied forces in Europe during World War II proved appealing for navigating cities to a postwar European working class, including an increasingly mobile population of women. Ferdinando Innocenti, a manufacturer whose factory had been bombed during the war, saw the scooter as a vehicle for capitalizing on Italy’s reinvigorated economy. He rebuilt his factory in Milan to return to his bread and butter of producing steel tubing—and also established the brand Lambretta as a low-cost scooter for mass consumption. Famed aeronautical designer Corradino D’Ascanio devised the original, but, after disputes with Innocenti, instead contributed his design to Piaggio & C. S.p.A. to create the Vespa. Engineers Cesare Pallavicino and Pier Luigi Torre finally realized the Lambretta scooter for Innocenti in steel tubing in 1947.
BLACK RUBBER AND BRIGHT COLORS
But the scooter’s market life was short. “During the ’60s, when almost everybody could afford a car, scooter manufacturers got into trouble,” explains Wolfgang Humer, head of the Classic Car and Motorcycle Department at Dorotheum. In 1967 Lambretta hired Nuccio Bertone, whose designs for Lamborghini had reinvigorated the automobile industry, to refresh the scooter, leading to the DL/GP and Luna lines. The DL boasted slimmer leg shields and narrower handlebars than previous models, a rectangular headlight, and plastic features such as the glovebox and grilles; as a nod to popular mod aesthetics, it came in bold colors, such as red, yellow, and blue, with contrasting black rubber tires. As a notable technical innovation, an electronic model—the one in Dorotheum’s auction—was introduced in June 1970. The DL’s twin, called the GP (short for “Grand Prix” and marketed to racing enthusiasts), was described in English-language advertisements as “for virile men who know how to handle the fast things in life.” Designed to convey sport and sophistication, it was Lambretta’s sleekest and technically best performing scooter to date. It was also its last. “Lambretta was always very innovative, but also expensive,” Humer says. Facing financial and labor difficulties, Innocenti’s son Luigi sold Lambretta to the British Leyland Motor Corporation, which faced additional strife and closed the shop in 1972.
VIRILITY WITH VALUE
Dorotheum’s Scootermania sale included about a hundred scooters, as well as dozens of mechanical parts—encapsulating a veritable history of the scooter itself. This massive inventory was acquired from the holdings of one collector: a Vienna-based enthusiast who had planned a future museum, even erecting a building to house the scooters. But the collector died before the vision came to fruition, and the scooters rolled to the auction block. Even at auctions of automobiles, scooters do not make consistent appearances, making this a notable sale as well as one that was difficult to price. “We wanted the market to decide [the price] and therefore went for these low starting prices, depending on what it was, what condition it was in, and how much of it was there,” Humer says. And the market responded with mania: “The auction day was crazy,” he reports, citing three thousand absentee bids even before auction day and a shortage of bidding paddles the day of. From the same starting price as other top-tier scooters, the Lambretta DL 200 emerged as the top seller. “It was the very last top-of-the-line Lambretta model before production ceased,” Humer observes. “It had some patina, but that only added to its charm.” With an already global story, the Lambretta scooter has left its European roots, sold to a private collector in New Zealand.