Words: Tim McIntyre
There’s very little not too like about the 946. You certainly don’t need to be predisposed to scooters. Even hardcore motorcyclists, the kind who regard scooters as a two-wheeled sub-species, find their biases swept away by the 946’s attention to detail and purity of form.
Created as a homage to the original Vespa, the MP6 prototype, the 946 is Vespa’s flagship scooter. Or let me rephrase that, its most expensive scooter. The 946 has been around in various guises since 2013 but unlike other Vespa scooters, it is typically produced in limited editions annually. The 2016 Emporio Armani Edition was a hugely popular previous edition. In 2017, this was followed by the fourth version in this series, the lovely red number known as the Vespa 946 Red.
This all-red siren is the result of a partnership between the Piaggio Group and non-profit organization (RED) (www.red.com) in 2017. (RED) was created by Bono and Bobby Shriver in 2006 to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in Africa. One thing that parent company Piaggio are extremely proud of is that the Vespa 946 is the only product in the automotive world to have been chosen by (RED).
The mechanics of the arrangement are straightforward. For each Vespa 946 RED sold, Piaggio will contribute US$150 to (RED). This amount is reportedly enough to guarantee over 500 days’ worth of life-saving medical treatments for HIV patients. Another way funds will be used is in helping prevent infected mothers from passing the virus onto their unborn children.
The affiliation with (RED) has given birth to a scooter with not-so-subtle applications of red everywhere – frame, wheels, seat, grips, and mirror stems get the scarlet treatment. If you are trying to remain low-key while out and about, this is not the scooter for you. Red, black or blue, Vespa 946s can’t help but call attention to themselves.
Beyond that sea of red, the Vespa 946 is no different from earlier 946s. The bodywork is steel flanked by aluminium fenders, seat, side and handlebar panels. The 157-kg scooter is powered by a 125cc single-cylinder four-stroke engine that makes just under 12hp. For those who may be worried about wheelspin, Vespa have equipped the 946 with traction control. Dual disc ABS brakes are standard as well. Top speed? You could probably get the scoot to nudge 100 km/h although effortless, fast, inner city gallivants are more its thing.
The Vespa 946 (Red) is available in Singapore at a cost of $20,779, excluding COE and insurance. More information at the authorised Vespa dealer, Mah Motor.
DID YOU KNOW?
- Founded in Genoa in 1884 by twenty-year-old Rinaldo Piaggio, the company was initially involved in outfitting luxury ships and later expanded to building rail carriages, luxury coaches and engines, trams and special truck bodies.
- Before and during World War II, Piaggio was one of Italy’s top aircraft manufacturers. For this reason, its plants were important military targets and its factories in Genoa, Finale Ligure and Pontedera were irrevocably damaged during the war.
- Enrico Piaggio, a son of Rinaldo Piaggio, decided to focus on personal mobility in the aftermath of WWII. Thanks to the extraordinary design work of the aeronautical engineer and inventor Corradino D’Ascanio (1891-1981), a prototype of the first Vespa, the MP6, was built in 1946.
- On seeing the scooter, Enrico Piaggio is said to have exclaimed: “It looks like a wasp!” “Vespa” is Italian for wasp, and so the name was born.
- The first Vespa – the Vespa 98 – went into production in 1946. It was powered by a 98cc engine that delivered 3.2 bhp at 4,500 rpm, and had a top speed of 60 km/h.