Magazine article Management Today

Motor Mouth Young at Heart

Magazine article Management Today

Motor Mouth Young at Heart

Article excerpt

How do you know you are having a mid-life crisis? Well, Popes appear younger for one, but another reliable indicator is that you no longer understand popular music - the DNA fires its irrevocable switches and, against your conscious will, one day you find yourself hollering: 'Turn that bloody thing off.' But the dead giveaway is when you start thinking about motorbikes.

Real saddos buy Harley-Davidsons. Talk about a contra indication of sexual prowess. Those Saturday Chelsea cowboys with grey temples, rumbling V-twins and fringed saddlebags may as well use a megaphone to tell all of the King's Road they haven't had an extramarital affair. A more wholesome option is to buy a scooter.

Why do we all love scooters? In the same way you can't get cross with a koala bear, there is something about a scooter's shape, sound and associations that excite only positive responses. Scooters improve the landscape, and it's hard to be hostile about something from a culture like Italy's that has produced so much beauty and delight.

The scooter is the symbol of modern Italy. Just as underemployed engineers at SAAB decided to build a car, those at Piaggio in 1946 also chose the profitable alternative to thumb-twiddling. Like SAAB, Piaggio was an aircraft manufacturer and the original Vespa was, through designer Corradino d'Ascanio, much influenced by aerospace technology. Like a modern plane, the Vespa used a monocoque structure where everything you see is efficiently load-bearing and pleasingly aerodynamic. Its most distinctive feature, however, was inspired by sociology, not science. Suspecting the majority of users (whether priests or women) wore skirts, d'Ascanio gave the Vespa its characteristic step-through frame to preserve modesty and dignity alike.

The bright and buzzy Vespa was a huge success, a simple idea executed with passion and style and as a result it soon passed into international iconography. I promised myself not to refer to it but I can't avoid saying Rock Hudson and Roman Holiday. But by the '70s, its elegant simplicity had done a paradigm shift and become heavy and crude. Compared with ever more sophisticated and reliable Japanese competition, the Vespa was a bit of a clunker. …

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