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History of Gas Scooters

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk


History of Gas Scooters

Larry Johnson
December 20, 2005

Gas scooters have come a long way over the past 50 years. They are functional, fun, convenient and cheap. What more could you ask for?

The first patents for scooters go back as far as 1921. The Razor scooter was later developed by Gino Tsai in Shanghai, Taiwan and became an instant hit with the public. It didn't take long for motor scooter popularity to expand all over the globe.

Even before 1950 there were as many as 110,000 scooters on the road in Italy alone. It has been just a little over 50 years since the Vespa-Douglas Corporation in the UK sold their first gas scooters. The Douglas corporation was on the verge of bankruptcy when they first began selling their gas scooters. It was a big hit at the 1950 Motorcycle Show and saved the company from possible financial ruin.

From 1950 to 1958 Vespa sold over 125,000 of their gas powered scooters in the UK. Why the great success? During this period the European countries didn't have a great deal of money and there was not much gas available to the public. Due to the scarcity of gasoline and the high gas mileage of the gas motor scooter it's popularity quickly escalated.

It didn't take long for the Italian models (the Piaggio from Vespa and the Lambretta from Innocenti) to branch out to other countries. In France they became so popular the French tried to get in on the boom by manufacturing their own. By the early to mid 1950s the sale of gas scooters climbed to about 1 million a year in France alone.

Other countries wanted to profit from the newest craze and tried to climb on the band wagon. While some were successful others were not. Germany began to manufacture larger touring models, but this did not satisfy the public in the way the smaller, cheaper and more fuel-efficient models from Italy and France did. These smaller models were extremely popular in the European market.

Tourist Scooters Manufacturers in Germany built some very strong and powerful versions and were the first to install electric starters. These larger versions were great for traveling, touring and even racing, but were not as popular as the smaller, cheaper, more efficient models used for traveling shorter distances around town.

Vespa began marketing a couple of very popular gas powered scooters from Piaggio, the GS 125cc and the GS 150cc. These were improved versions of the earlier models for several reasons. The biggest reason is probably because the heavy gear mechanism rods were replaced by smaller and lighter cables.

France's Roussey Scooters tried to one-up the Italian competition by coming out with a 175cc model. These were very nice vehicles and included the first water-cooled engines along with other new features, but because it had a pull-start it could not compete with the newer models from Italy that were already offering versions with electric starts.

As these wonderful vehicles have evolved over the years they have become increasingly more popular all over the world. Today they are everywhere. They are cheap to purchase, economical to operate, and are very handy and functional. These are not toys and are genuinely a lot of fun to ride. There are electric, gas powered, foldable, mobility and utility scooters.

The electric types are often used by kids and teens, but are also popular with the elderly and handicapped. Models for the handicapped are usually called mobility scooters. Folding varieties can be folded up and conveniently stored under desks, in closets or in other tiny areas and utility types are used for many different purposes. They are more popular than go karts, mini bikes or go carts. Scooters, sometimes called mopeds or go peds, are very functional, convenient and are here to stay.

About the Author:

J Larry Alan is a freelance author providing information about a variety of scooter topics including gas scooters, gas powered scooters and motor scooters. For more information go to http://www.my-gas-scooters.com.

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