Two-Stroke Microcar: 1960 Vespa 400

When you think of the name “Vespa,” images of old, 2-stroke scooters tend to come to mind. As the grandfather of all scoots, Vespa production started in 1946 and continues today, although the bikes are much more modern now than back in those days. And for a short period in the 1950s and 1960s, there was a Vespa microcar whose little engine required the mixing of gasoline and oil. This 1960 version of the Vespa 400 is a running project that needs some TLC. Located in Yorba Linda, California, it’s available here on eBay where the bidding has reached $9,000. Offers and trades will be considered. Thanks, Ethan, for the tip on this one!

Although licensed to be built all over the world, Italy is the home base for Piaggio, the parent company of the Vespa scooter. Thinking that some of the technology used on scoots would apply to small cars, Piaggio commissioned French manufacturer Ateliers de Constructions de Motos et Accessoires (ACMA) to build the 400 in France to their specifications. Produced between 1958-61, some 28,000 of the microcars are said to have been produced, with only about 1,700 being imported into the U.S. for the middle two years.

The Vespa 400 got its name from its 394cc vertical, twin-cylinder 2-stroke, air-cooled engine that was borrowed conceptually from the scooter but built just for the car. It put out a whopping 14 hp and would propel the car up to 50 mph. The motor is positioned in the rear like the VW Beetle in a car of unibody construction, much like the Vespa scooters which have a one-piece monocoque body. The car’s suspension was independent at all four corners and supported by coil springs. And the machine rode on 10-inch wheels, the same as the scooter, but wider with tires meant for passenger car use.

As a microcar, you’re going to only get two adults inside and maybe a couple of small children stuffed in the back. The car had backward opening doors and a roll-top convertible roof that peeled back to the rear decklid. The seller has been working on this 1960 example, having already replaced the floor pan on the driver’s side of the microcar. Once that was done, he installed a new interior, and the windshield is currently out of the car but ready to go back in.

This is said to be a running car built for U.S. consumption, which may make it a rare sight today. These cars aren’t as plentiful as vintage Vespa scooters, so parts aren’t found as easily as those for the bikes. The 400 comes with some spare parts and gaskets and rubbers for the buyer to install once the body is whipped into shape, Rust may not be a huge issue except with the bumpers, but dents and dings do abound in the limited amount of sheet metal each one of these automobiles requires. The title that the seller holds is the original one from 1964, four years after the car was assembled. Like the scooters, this car looks like it would be a lot of full to drive – but only on secondary roads!


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  1. RayT Member

    I remember seeing a couple of these, nicely restored, when I lived in Southern California. Neat little cars!

    Doesn’t appear to be the worst job for a reasonably good driveway mechanic, though parts have to be problematic, at best. A quick internet search revealed one guy making repro bits…if you need a set of dash knobs or replacement glass for the speedometer. My worries would run more toward replacement items for engine, brakes, etc….

    But it looks like a perfect winter restoration project.

    Like 6
    • Jim in FL

      I’m guessing the engine is similar to a vespa scooter engine. So engine parts are probably available through the 2 stroke scooter networks. My 75 Vespa scooter runs a 150 cc. I’ve got to think many of the items were parts bin for the larger engines.

      I could be wrong though. The picture of the engine doesn’t look familiar. First off there’s a generator. My scoot is magneto only.

      Like 4
    • Gray Wolf

      You can always put in an LS!!🤣😂😜

      Like 3
  2. PaulG

    Looks like you could transport it in the bed of the Tundra!
    Cool find, but 9k cool?

    Like 6
  3. Will Fox

    These came with two handles for a reason…………

    the car doubles as your coffin in a bad wreck.

    Like 11
    • Jimmy Novak

      How many handles do motorcycles have, with two less wheels and zero body protection? (Okay, yeah, the fenders …)

      Like 1
  4. Ben T. Spanner

    You could always move up to a Fiat 600 or in my case to a Honda Z 600, and later a Fiat 850 Coupe. (Not quite 850 cc’s) Closest to a real car the Honda which even had a minature brake booster..

    • Bill McCoskey

      Ben T Spanner,

      The Honda Z600 needed a brake booster? That suggests to me the brake system was so poorly designed for their tiny microcar, that perhaps they made a mistake in raiding the Honda bike parts bins, only to find the brake system now required a booster.

      I’ve always liked your choice for a name here on B.F. It reminds me of a real life friend in school. His first name was Benjamin. His family name was Dover. In school he always insisted on using the full version of his first name instead of Ben.

      Like 1
    • chrlsful

      3 good’uns !

  5. Tom p

    I know where there are two of these, parked on a one car transport trailer.

    Like 6
  6. PairsNPaint

    It might be fun to use as a golf cart. Actually, I think my Club Car is bigger than this.

    Like 1
  7. Gerard Frederick

    I love micro cars, but not the Vespa, my favorite being the Messerschmitt K201 (roadster) and the Goggomobil 400 Coupe. This one always struck me as being very homely. They produced a far better looking industrial delivery van. Piaggio incidentally produced aircraft before WW2.

  8. Steve Clinton

    And I thought the ‘Smart’ car was dangerous!

  9. Howie Mueler

    So how many clowns does it hold?

    Like 6
    • Mike

      It’s so tiny that it can only hold just 2 clowns.

      Like 3
  10. Gary

    Put in a hayabusa motor, be a real death machine

    Like 3
  11. SMS

    I used to drive a lotus se7en on the freeway and the idea of driving this on the road gives me the willys

    • Jimmy Novak

      I gave my neighbor a ’53 Willys.

      Like 1
  12. Vance

    I have shoes bigger than this car.

    • Bill McCoskey


      You were a clown?

      I was a regional Mall Santa back in the 1980s! It was good money, and what I’ve always felt was the perfect job, because you got to mess with kid’s minds [in a mostly harmless way].

      Like 1
  13. chrlsful

    great for then, great for now (but not the 2 stroke). Like the suicide doors as entry means, much of the engineering, and consumer design too. I’d take it over a Fit & some others…
    Thought this might be a Scotty write up~

    Like 1
  14. Stevieg Member

    Even with the 95 pounds I lost in the last year, I still don’t think I would fit in this lol.
    Cute little car though!

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