2022 marks Lambretta’s 75th anniversary, and the Italian scooter manufacturer has some big plans in store to celebrate. To kick off the next 75 years, it’s hosting an exhibition at Fuorisalone 2022, also known as Milan Design Week. That annual event regularly hosts the newest, brightest offerings from all kinds of designers, including many notable automotive and mobility-focused creators.
From June 6 through 12, 2022, Lambretta and the Lambretta Museum will host an exhibition called Infinity—Heritage to the Future. It will take place at the Brera Pavilion Milan, in the minor cloister of San Simpliciano. Just like the name says, there will of course be plenty of Lambretta’s rich history to draw upon, but the future will be present as well.
Fuorisalone 2022 is where Lambretta intends to pull the wraps off its brand-new G350 Special and X300 scooter models. So far, no details have been released at the moment, other than that it’s a global launch event, and one that will be livestreamed so all Lambretta fans around the world can join the celebration simultaneously.
Here’s a quick history lesson on Lambretta, for those unfamiliar. The Italian scooter maker gets its name from a mythical river-sprite who was said to come from the river Lambrate—after which the Lambrate area of Milan was also named. It’s also where the Lambretta factory was originally located, back when Ferdinando Innocenti founded the business. However, to get a fuller picture of how this scooter maker came to be, we need to go back in time just a little bit.
Italian automotive history fans likely know Innocenti’s name, and so may be familiar with this part as well. The year was 1922, and Innocenti had just founded a factory specializing in steel tubing—in Rome. Things went well enough that by 1931, he relocated to a larger factory in Milan, where he employed thousands of workers in his new steel tubing factory. Then World War II happened, and the factory was bombed into rubble.
One Designer, Two Scooters?
It’s at this point that the story starts to sound just a little familiar if you’re familiar with a certain other legendary Italian scooter maker. Looking at the ruins, and thinking about all those Cushman scooters that the U.S. military was using in Italy, Innocenti got inspired (much like Enrico Piaggio, but we’ll get to him in a minute).
Enter General Corradino D’Ascanio, the aeronautical engineer who also crafted Agusta’s first modern helicopter. Innocenti talked to him about designing his ideal scooter, because he believed scooters would be an extremely useful tool to help regular Italians in their everyday lives, rebuilding after the war. Scooters, he reasoned, were more useful than motorbikes—and they could also keep your clothes reasonably clean.
If you know your Vespa history, you also know D’Ascanio’s name—and if you’ve seen any Vespa in your life, you absolutely know his work even if his name doesn’t ring a bell. He’s responsible for one of the most iconic vehicle designs of all time, whether his name is hanging out somewhere in the recesses of your brain or not. But wait—did he also design the first Lambretta, you may ask?
Remember Innocenti’s pre-war business in manufacturing steel tubing? While the man steadfastly believed in creating a form of transportation to help Italy get back on its feet, he also didn’t want to completely abandon the business he’d already spent so many years building. Thus, Innocenti envisioned a scooter frame that involved rolled steel tubing—of the kind that his factory was very good at producing.
That, it turned out, was a problem. You see, D’Ascanio’s scooter design relied on a stamped spar frame, which was absolutely a no-go for Innocenti. Realizing that they couldn’t come to an agreement, D’Ascanio took the design he’d been working on for Innocenti over to Enrico Piaggio instead—and thus, Italian scooter legend Vespa was born in 1946.
Innocenti, meanwhile, still wanted to make a scooter—but he wanted to do it his way. Thus, he recruited two other aeronautical engineers—former Caproni technical director Cesare Pallavicino and engine designer Pierluigi Torre. The first Lambrettas rolled out of the factory in Milan in 1947, just one year after Vespa made the scene.
The following 75 years would be filled with a whole lot more ups and downs, changes of ownership, and intellectual property battles. Through all the turmoil, though, Lambretta is fighting its way back into the international scootering spotlight in 2022.