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2-for-1: 1959 Vespa 400

When it comes to classic cars, a 2-for-1 deal is always going to be hard to pass up. That’s precisely what the next owner will be getting with this 1959 Vespa 400. Not only will there be a car which is on the verge of being completely restored, but a second car is also included, and this one could also be a good base for a second restoration project. Located in Lebanon, Indiana, you will find this cool little duo listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding on the pair has currently reached $888, but the reserve hasn’t been met.

For such a tiny car with aspirations of bringing transport within reach of those on lower incomes, the choice to launch the Vespa 400 at a star-studded gala in Monaco seems like a curious decision. Interestingly, many different sources state that the company had three celebrity racing drivers on hand for the launch, but no-one seems willing to say who these three individuals were. What is known is that when the car later appeared at the Paris Motor Show, it received an endorsement from no lesser person than the legendary Jean Manuel Fangio. As endorsements go, they didn’t come any bigger than this in 1959. The white car from this pair has been undergoing restoration, and this process is close to completion. It appears that it is now at the point where it will only require final assembly. The red car is surprisingly solid and is definitely a decent prospect for restoration. The floor on the driver’s side looks to be quite good, but the passenger side may need some work. The body has a decent coating of surface corrosion but should respond quite well to media blasting. In spite of how it appears in the photos, this little car is also largely complete, and the pair do come with a decent collection of parts.

The restoration of the white car has included a completely new interior. The choice of blue and white upholstery is a nice one, and once again, it looks like it is just awaiting final assembly. The interior of the red car will require a full restoration, but important components such as the seat frames are present. These will need to be cleaned, but I’d be inclined to ship them off with the body for media blasting because they do appear to be solid.

The 393cc engine for the white car has been fully rebuilt, including new pistons, and just needs to be refitted to the car. These little engines pump out 13hp, which is sent to the rear wheels via a 3-speed manual transmission. While engine power might not sound impressive, handling is said to be extremely good. In fact, looking back on contemporary reviews of the Vespa, it was said to be more sure-footed than its most obvious competitor at the time, the Fiat 500. Given how good the 500 was known to be, that is no faint praise. It isn’t known how healthy the engine for the red car is, but it does look to be complete.

If the Vespa 400 had been launched in the US in 1959, it would have been a massive sales failure. The little car with the tiny engine would have been considered irrelevant in a market where volume-selling cars with engine capacities 15 times that of the Vespa were common fare. Today, the Vespa has developed a strong following in the world of the micro-car. Sure, this might not be an effortless highway cruiser, but as a conversation starter at a Cars & Coffee, it is probably a good option. The buyer might even have the option of owning a matching pair. How good would that be?


  1. Kenneth Carney

    I’d finish the restoration of the white car, and use the red one as a base for a really cool EV. I’ll bet the drive train from a golf cart would slip right in with a little work. Put some grippy tires and a trick suspension on the red car and you’d an EV you could really have fun with. Sure beats these other knotheads who stuff these poor cars with Harley Davidson motorcycle engines. Always wanted one but Can’t afford it now. Just put A/C in my
    workshop and need the cash to finish it up. Great find Adam!

    Like 2
  2. Ben T. Spanner

    1959 Fiat 500 had 13 HP.The muscle car was the Isetta with 19.5 HP.

    Like 1
  3. CK

    What’s the purpose of the big fan assembly off the side? Air cooling?

    Like 0
  4. Lance

    Last time I saw one of these it was on top of a tall pole advertising a junkyard.

    Like 0
  5. moosie moosie

    Buy it and build one like this one.

    Like 3
  6. Rube Goldberg Member

    Send in the clowns,,,just amazes me what the Europeans drove. I think we had more powerful pedal cars,,,

    Like 0
  7. stillrunners

    Looks like a turbo….and wasn’t this cousin It’s car ?

    Like 0
  8. grant

    JUAN Manuel Fangio would appreciate not being called Jean…

    Like 1

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