Among the iconic designs of Italy’s vibrant postwar period, few capture the essence of La Dolce Vita like Vespas and Lambrettas, the free-spirited motor scooters that brought mobility to the masses and became beloved across Italy, and subsequently, the world.
While the two companies still make scooters, those early models — whose whining two-stroke engines spew plumes of aromatic smoke — are by far the most sought by collectors, some commanding up to $30,000.
But just as vintage scooters are reaching a new peak of popularity, a wave of emissions regulations aimed at reducing pollution threatens their access to Europe’s city centers. Within every regulation, though, lies an opportunity, and one lifelong scooter enthusiast has seized it firmly by the tailpipe.
Niall McCart, an Irishman from the city of Armagh, got his first Vespa at 16. De rigueur for a youth swept up in Britain’s early-1980s Mod revival, the Vespa was eminently practical as well.
Retrospective Scooters, occupies a 3,500-square-foot warehouse in the East End town of Walthamstow.