In 2021, the name Vespa is as synonymous with scooters as Kleenex is with tissues. Is it any wonder, then, that a small Japanese boutique is stirring up scooter fan excitement with the promise of some new-old stock Bajaj Chetak 125s? Maybe it is if you don’t know that Bajaj made Vespas under license way back in the day. Still, it seems incredibly likely that this extremely limited-edition run of 30 units won't take long to find loving homes.
The story goes like this: A company called CK Design, which makes all kinds of boutique custom scooters and bikes in Japan, got its hands on a cache of new-old stock Bajaj Chetak 125 parts. In 2021, it’s about to sell them to eager customers. That particular air-cooled 125cc smallframe design evolved from Bajaj’s early involvement with Vespa, all the way back in the 1960s.
Back then, Vespa fans in India enjoyed Vespas for a great many reasons. They featured sturdy steel construction, were simple to work on, and those leg shields absolutely worked a treat for protecting riders from mud and grime on roads. Besides, their small wheels and ease of maneuverability for most people made them ideal machines for less-than-ideal roads—in India, just as much as in Italy and elsewhere.
Eventually, Bajaj and Vespa’s paths diverged. Soon, the company took what it had learned from Vespa, and was making all kinds of little tweaks to better suit the local market. After all, any time you take a thing developed in one place and time and move it somewhere new, adaptation is key to survival. Food, fashion, technology—it's a tale as old as time, with principles that remain the same across niches.
Back to the Venus Roma 125 Bajaj Chetaks on offer in 2021 from CK Design. These scoots are full of evocative smallframe Vespa styling, which is extremely popular in the Japanese market. However, they also have interesting innovations like the Princess Step on the left side. Since many Indian women traditionally wear saris, this Bajaj-developed feature made it easy for women to ride sidesaddle on the back of a scooter.
Crucially for classic scooter fans, the Venus Roma 125s also have manual-shift, four-speed transmissions that operate with a twist grip. They are two-strokes, as well—so it’s essentially a full retro experience in a brand-new package. The price is set at 678,000 yen, which converts to about $6,184, and does not include tax. They’re currently for sale at Moto Beat Shift Up in Yokohama.