When Sting, aka Ace Face, rides in on his silver Vespa GS in Quadrophenia, he’s the envy of every Mod. In 1962, the Vespa GS160 Mk 1 was the pinnacle of speed, technology and style. Mods in the sixties didn’t look back. They wanted the newest, most advanced, futuristic, stylistic machine on 2 wheels to hit the market. The Italian scooter was the premiere choice for the discerning Mod. The Vespa and the Lambretta hit every criteria.
Aside from being a very convenient mode of transportation, make no mistake, to a true Mod, a scooter IS an accessory. It’s a way to impress and be seen, a great excuse to attract attention, a guaranteed head turner, a canvas for self expression, a beacon for the opposite sex, a way to assert your individuality and stand out from the crowd. Let’s be honest, it’s a very noticeable way to “make an entrance”.
It’s a shinny accessory that can take you from point A to point B. Girls have jewelry, Mods have scooters.
The origins of the love affair between Mods and scooters began in the early sixties. The reasons why the first Mods adopted this way of travel are numerous.
Some are practical. For instance, a Mod can ride a Vespa to an all-nighter in his best threads and the legshield will protect him from the elements, for the same reason he will wear a fishtail parka. In reality, everyone who has ever ridden a vintage Vespa in the rain knows that a legshield the size of a Hummer won’t make much of a difference.
The engine being encased behind side panels also keeps nasty grease from ruining your tailored mohair suit. That was not the case for the oil spewing British motorcycle. When you spend a lot of time ironing your pants and achieving the perfect crease, you don’t want nasty dirt stains destroying your look.
Second, a Vespa or Lambretta was affordable. They were inexpensive to operate and relatively cheap to acquire. Sometimes you could find a Lambretta LD for a song and a dance. Of course, a top Mod would not dream of being seen on a LD. A Vespa GS or a Lambretta TV175 series 3 would be at the top of the list. Some scooter dealers offered payment plans to those who wanted the latest model, often including the tax and insurance in the deal.
It was also a very convenient way to help fit all of a Mod’s daily activities. Between going to work, shopping for new clothes, hunting down rare soul records, meeting fellow Mods at the coffee house and going to the clubs, you didn’t have time to rub elbows with the common man on the bus. Plus, you can park a scooter anywhere. Let’s face it, Mods are a busy species.
But the real reason why the Italian scooter is a Mod’s first choice is simple. It’s damn cool! On the hip scale, it’s a 10. OK, it hasn’t always been that way. For the longest time, scooters have been considered toys. Especially in North America, the scooter always suffers from an inferiority complex when it’s parked next to a Harley Davidson. But who cares about that. We know we are cool, right?
I bought my first scooter in 1997. It was a brand new, yellow SIL GP200 Lambretta. Looking back, it might have been a smart idea to invest my hard earned cash in another scooter, but I didn’t care. I wanted to parade on it every chance I got. This photo was taken during the summer of '97 during my cross Canada trip. I'm holding the break leaver I broke when I slipped on small pebbles going 5 miles an hour.
On a nice scooter, it’s easy to claim your independence. Just like the famous Who song goes: I can go anyway, anyhow, anywhere I choose…