A Friendly Face: 1960 VESPA 400

This Vespa not only comes with a smiley face, it sticks it’s tongue out when necessary. Vespa is Italian but this little car is actually French, developed by Piaggio, the parent company, and built in France. It has several advanced features not usually found on microcars, like unibody construction, 4 wheel hydraulic brakes and 4 wheel independent suspension. It’s listed on eBay in Lancaster, Pennsylvania for $9,900. This microcar was completely restored years ago and then stored until recently. It runs and drives, but it has suffered a little rust and paint bubbling during storage.

Inside there is room for two and possibly a small child or 2 in the back. The suicide doors are almost an elegant touch. Could this Vespa be too small even for clowns?

There’s the 14 horsepower 400 CC Vespa 2 stroke engine. It was designed for this little car, and doesn’t share components with any Vespa engines. It can power the car to a reported 50 MPH, taking a mere 23 seconds to reach the first 40 MPH. The container on the right is for 2 stroke oil. In early versions of the 400 oil had to be added with fuel.

The underside is as immaculate as the rest of the car. You can see the well for the spare tire located under the passenger seat as well as the foot wells for the driver and passenger.

It really does appear to be sticking its tongue out, doesn’t it? That’s the battery tray, possibly the handiest place I’ve seen one on any car.

New hubcaps are included, but not shown. The top folds back for open air driving. The tires are oversized so they rub a bit. The asking price for this tiny Vespa seems steep, but microcars have become very popular and prices for microcars approach astronomical. For the same money there are a lot of cars you can buy that can actually be driven and enjoyed. Comments on this Vespa should be interesting and comical. Perhaps someone will suggest installing an LS 6 or suggest ways to get squished driving this. (Run over by a Prius?) This little Vespa will likely go to a microcar collector and not be driven much, but it would be fun to have this for errands and car shows. It is a unique and rare car.

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Comments

  1. Jason

    Very cute. No title, though. Seems odd that someone would go to so much trouble restoring it and not take care of that.

  2. sir mike

    No title in PA is a bad thing…cute car though.

    Like 1
  3. Carl

    Might be able to stop at the DMV and have them look at the VIN. Here in California if it has dropped off the radar, and I’m pretty sure this has, you can start all over again with a bill of sale. Not sure about PA, like Sir Mike said. The vintage Vespa and Lambretta community here in San Diego would go nuts for this. But, you can buy a Vespa/Piaggio 3 wheeler brand new from Tuk Shop in the UK and have it shipped to you for around $5800 US dollars. Just as cool, just as slow, but NEW! And it registers as a motorcycle. Bonus.

    • David Frank David F Member

      A new 3 wheeler sounds like great fun but it is not rare or collectable and not at all the same thing as a micro car. A 3 wheeler might be more fun, though, depending on your taste. Others might prefer a motorcycle or even a bicycle. There are, I understand, even folks that love microcars.

    • Dovi65

      It’s been a while since I tangled with a ‘no/lost title’ issue, but I recall in NY that after a certain amount of time without being registered, the vehicle drops off the DMV files. It wasn’t overly complicated to rectify .. all I had to do was get a notarized bill of sale from the seller, and I was good to go.

  4. Walt

    Had one of these when going to college at the University of Hawaii. I cut the top off altogether, bought MG top bows at a wrecking yard, narrowed it and had a top custom made. No windows, but didn’t care at the time. Shipped it back and drove it in Tucson for a while. (I remember slip streaming 18 wheelers on I-10 on the way to Tucson – how’s that for young stupidity; the trucker couldn’t possibly see the car.) Like Tom McCahill of Popular Mechanics said at the time, you can have as much fun in this car at 30 mph as a Ferrari and 100 – he was close to right, but not on the interstates.

    • Puhnto

      Just FYI, Tom McCahill wrote for Mechanix Illustrated. He was the first to do actual test drives of cars and write about them.

    • Dolphin Member

      Well Tom McC. was a special guy but I think I would differ with him on the Vespa vs. Ferrari comparison.

      The sound of the Ferrari alone would make it light years more fun and desirable than the Vespa.

  5. Zaphod

    Cute but useless. Reminds of one of my ex wives…

    • rich voss

      LOL ! …”one” of my ex wives….

  6. Ticketgeorge

    Carl–Any problem registering the new ones?

    Almost bought a p400 back in 94.
    Picked up a Moke instead.

  7. Rob

    My dad had one. It was dark blue with a white top. We called it Peanuts. I remember when you were doing 35 it felt like you were flying. He got it in a trade for his 650 BSA that had a seized motor. It didn’t take much to move it. Just get one guy on each fender well and you could lift it into a regular pick up bed.

  8. Adam T45 Staff

    I think that you need to treat this for what it is these days: A bit of fun. I actually quite like it and think that it would be a hoot cruising around the city on a sunny day with the top down.

  9. RobM

    These cars handle remarkably well (see Tom McCahill test) and have one of the best shifters in motordom (think Lotus Elan precise). Too small and too slow for most traffic situations. Take it to C&C early Sunday morning and be home before the crowds come out.

  10. Dairymen

    Vespa & Piaggio are moped builders, and that’s what this is essentially: a moped with 4 wheels and “full size” seats. Fun factor is high but basically useless.

  11. David

    The Vespa 400 was designed from the ground up as a microcar, with 4 wheel hydraulic brakes and independent suspension on both ends and an engine designed for the car, so much more than a 4 wheel scooter. Obviously “useless” for most purposes, it’s a microcar after all, and certainly not competitive with the Beetle, Mini and other little cars it was designed to compete with.

  12. Grid Member

    One of my customers had a new ’63 Dodge w/383, and was going on a road trip to Mexico, where he heard gas was awful. He was also doing some mountain driving. He wrote McCahill–and I quote: “What will happen if I lug my engine a few miles?” McCahill responded, “You’ll get a helluva hernia.” At that point I knew that I wanted to be a Q&A columnist. Took me 30 years, but I made it, thanks to his inspiration!

  13. DW

    I’m guessing that battery tray is right up front because putting it in the back would tilt the 400 and you’d be staring at the sky while doing a permanent wheelie.

  14. Skip

    Last week I caught part of the movie “The Italian Job” on TV, and they had a fleet of these little cars dressed up as police cars. I thought they were pretty neat, zipping around Rome the way they were. I’d love to have one, but this one’s waaaay overpriced!

  15. moosie Craig

    A starting point for this,

    • MikeH

      And they call the stock version useless—-.

    • rich voss

      Editor asked for it… you delivered “in Spades”, Craig !

  16. Jerry HW Brentnell

    wonder how much trouble it would be to drop a harley davidson v twin in this thing and have a neat car to haul your 300 pound mistress around in?????

  17. moosie Craig

    probably not hard at all for a gifted fabricator. Some of those guys oughta be preserved or run schools to continue the art. way too much CAD and other such mumbo jumbo that takes away thouight process of “Gee I wonder if that’l work”

  18. Wayne S.K.

    Just weld a couple of golf club racks on the back and have at it! Fastest cart on the course…

  19. Otto Nobedder

    “Non-paying Bidder” Its re-listed!

  20. rich voss

    It’s beautiful in it’s simplicity. Reminds me a lot of the ’57 Fiat 500 I had in Germany at the end of the 60’s. Though, LOL, that was bigger and faster ! I suspect if someone “loves” it too much, the title won’t be an issue…

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