Finally, a Vespa totally out of reach
I have no idea when I'll get the chance again to watch the showy lower nobility of the inner city mingle with die-hard Vespa fans, one of whom approached me before the launch party of model 946 in Budapest. The outlandish figure was showing me pictures on his mobile. One-off machines covered in straw mat, jeans material and other unusual things were flashing before my eyes, then I learned that it is well worth embarking on building a scooter without having any money or expertise.
I plan to pay a visit to the garage of this guy, as it never hurts to tank up some enthusiasm for the further makeover of one's own PK. The Hungarian club is a heterogenic lot, which anyone can make sure of by rolling off to Heroes' square where some of them regularly meet up on Thursday evenings. The gateway drug to becoming a Vespa maniac these days is a half dead, cheap 50 cm3 Vespa, but be careful, it's very hard to quit later on.
As the skin-tight veil was still covering the new 946 after the warm-up talk, Mr. Sipos and I, like two Gerald Durrells started to watch the well-dressed crowd in the bar where the event was held. The only performing act, singer Linda Király once again proved that the standard of her public speaking skills is exasperatingly below that of her singing voice. Standing on stage she actually threatened her father standing in the audience with getting a scooter no matter what. I'm not saying this was embarrassing, but I would gladly have missed the big revelation.
Other celebrities were present too, and I experienced the recognition that comes with having a brand new Canon 7D camera hanging from your neck in a social circle keen on keeping up appearances. Objects are of utmost importance in life, you see. After the music was through and all of the air had been used up, a motoring show-host burst onto the scene. He said something about the Aston Martin, the Vespas, and the recession, but I can't recall the details.
Then Mr. Sipos and I went outside to get some fresh air, and by the time we submerged again, all we could see was that the two displayed Vespa 946s were covered by greasy fingerprints. The 946 sign is a nod to the first ever scooter called Vespa, the MP6 launched in the spring of 1946. The new model is one that doesn't resemble any of the former, is neither practical, nor simple, and is not easy to manufacture, as the chassis is welded together at 320 points. None of this matters, though, as the target audience of Vespas has long since shifted. Back in the day, Vespa buyers were people who actually used to test if their helmet fitted into the box below the seat before pulling the credit card. The Vespa buyers of today are people who get overwhelmed by its cuteness when they see one.
The bottom of the Vespa 946 is erotic. The wide seat for one above almost seems to be hovering in the air. The body itself is very lean (730mm) and long (1403 mm), storing anything inside or on top of it poses a problem unless you buy a complementary luggage carrier. I may get impaled, but the cocks tail reminds me a little of the shape of the Honda Shadow scooter and the Aprilia Habana, the biggest difference being that this Vespa isn't made of plastic. The whole chassis is pressed of steel plates, just as those of its predecessors. It's highly recommended to have a closer look to realize that the details are finished with finesse and the joints are precise. The makers have adamantly stuck to the concept that I got a taste of at a Milan motor show years ago.
The 946 has LED lights all over. Not just the turn indicators, the headlights are made up of light-emitting diodes too. It has ABS and ASR, but the electronic dash panel is still strange to me, in fact I don't know what to make of it at all. The electronics is said to be connectable to the smartphones to monitor the operation of the machine. Considering the vintage shape, a simple analogue solution might have been a better choice, though. It has beautiful details: the switches in aluminium housing, the polished bag-hanger hook, read, everything that the buyer is exposed to on a daily basis while keeping his dirty items of clothing hanging from the machine in the living room. He might as well hop on and actually take it out on the road. As for its size, I would place it between the small size LX and the big size GTS models. It was fitted with the brand new three-valve, air-cooled engine which is characteristic of the small model. This 12 ps, 125 ccm engine doesn't make it a rocket, but it guarantees that the scooter won't be put to shame in city traffic. It's fortunate that the 12-inch tyres have been pulled over vintage style rims, so there's one more detail that ensures the 946 can't be accused of being cheap or repetitive.
The new Vespa will certainly never become a mass produce. We found out unofficially that the Italians have raised its price gradually before settling on the current number. The Vespa 946 costs 2.6 million forints (approximately USD 11,300) in Hungary and is imported to order. Have you come round? Now add the revoltingly high registration tax of over 400 dollars. It costs about 4400 dollars more than the most expensive GTV so far. It's a ridiculously expensive scooter, but after getting a glimpse of something that I won't ever see again, I am not surprised. It still hurts, though, that the new Vespa remains a whim out of reach.