For a total of four short years, Piaggio built automobiles in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The Vespa 400 was a two seat, rear engine car was about the size of contemporary microcars such as the BMW Isetta and Messerschmitt, which is to say, just a tad smaller than the Fiat Nuova 500. With a top speed of around 50 mph from its 400cc air cooled two cylinder engine, the 400 was intended to be more of a city runabout than a cruiser for the Autostrada. This 400 for sale in St. Louis has had a cosmetic refresh including new paint and upholstery.
In Italian Vespa means wasp, which couldnt be more appropriate for this bright yellow and black Vespa 400 coupe. Introduced in 1957 and engineered by Piaggio, the Italian manufacturer of the ubiquitous motor scooters which inspired a generation of La Dolce Vita, the Vespa automobile was built in Piaggios French factory. A rear-mounted 393cc 2-stroke twin produced 20 brake horsepower and drove through a 3-speed transmission to the rear wheels. Only one body style was offered, a 2-door coupe with folding fabric sunroof, but it weighed only 850 pounds at the curb. It was only 112 long; two could fit comfortably perpendicular to the curb in an average American parking space. Good performance encouraged weight loss by its occupants -- a couple of generous sized Americans could increase a Vespa 440s mass by 50%. In other word, a Vespa 400 is small. Finished, as mentioned, in yellow with a black folding roof, black upholstery and interior trim piped in yellow, this little wasp has been cosmetically redone recently with fresh paint, upholstery and a detailed engine compartment. It is much more unusual than Isettas, Jollys and Fiat 500s and will bring smiles and cheery waves from onlookers wherever it appears. It is ideal for running errands, weekend jaunts or as a shore tender for classic yachts. In a vehicle this small (and it is small) packaging is a challenge, so if youre looking for the battery, its on a tray that slides out from between the headlights.
Realistically, most of these Vespa microcars tend to sell in the $15,000 to $23,000 range. This 400 appears to be a very tidy example, but is priced quite a bit outside the normal range. There are those rare instances where cars, such as the Amphicar back at Barrett Jackson a few years ago, brought serious money. Perhaps a city dweller that is well to do and needs something small and efficient for around town driving would be willing to pay top dollar for the best example of a Vespa automobile that he can find. Time can only tell.