Baby Blue: 1959 VESPA 400 Micro Car

Look what reader Michael found here on craigslist. From the folks at Piaggio who have provided us with Vespa scooters since 1946 comes this cute little “almost a car.” If you’ve always wanted a car with suicide doors, here is your chance. The $29,975 asking price seems kind of high given how little car there is here. Microcars began in Europe after the war and provided cheap transportation when resources were limited and folks didn’t have much money. In Italy, Vespa began building motor scooters. Several microcar models were produced into the 1960s. This little Vespa wasn’t launched until 1957 and only lasted a couple of years. It sold well the first year but sales were very poor the second. Besides being tiny they also are noisy and slow. This example is an original survivor with only about 5,000 miles. It is in “perfect running order”, the interior is nice, the top is new and the paint looks great from a distance.

There’s not much room inside. The interior really is in nice shape. The door panels are nicely designed to give you a little more elbow room and will allow you to get a little more personal with the oncoming motorist in a side-impact crash.

Here’s the 25 CID 2 stroke 2 cylinder engine. The gas tank is conveniently located to provide a nice signal fire after your Vespa has been run over. With a top speed of only 50 miles per hour, that just might happen.

Even up close, the engine looks tiny. It is clever, compact and simple. Just remember to add oil to the gas.

This cute little car is kind of like the pet rock or Cabbage Patch Dolls; a passing fad. It wasn’t very practical and was soon forgotten. It is a good example of value being only what someone is willing to pay. There’s very little use for this as practical transportation today and this little Vespa had a very small impact on culture, history or automotive development. It is rare, though, and micro cars are popular at the moment, so perhaps there is someone willing to pay crazy money for it.

Vespa’s latest idea is really new and unique. They have designed a robot to follow you around and carry your stuff. I guess the idea is to leave your hands free for your smartphone. If Vespa actually markets these, do you think there is any chance this will succeed or will this be just another fad? Can you imagine people shopping with one of these following them around, or will it be like the Vespa microcar? Also, has there ever been a wheeled vehicle you couldn’t race? People race everything from motor scooters, lawnmowers, wheelchairs and even mobility scooters. Maybe one day we will see Vespa robot racing?


  1. Rube Goldberg Member

    I suppose the price is somewhat justified, considering the rarity and condition of something like this here. Lot of scratch for a novelty car, tho. Perfect for city streets, but the way people drive, I’d almost feel safer on a motorcycle. We ( I) chuckle at something like this, but can you imagine, while during this time, our parents had V8, 4 barreled tanks, and this was the best that it got for some folks in Europe. Wow!

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  2. jdjonesdr

    You’d need to mount those round generic turn signal lights on each side of the roof (orange front, red rear) just so people could see you when you’re going to turn or stop

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  3. Jeepster

    Paging Lane Motor Museum …. Then again, betcha Jeffery has a pile of these down in the basement.

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    • James HGF

      Yes, the Lane Motor Museum has a really nice ’58 Vespa 400 and their stats show that 34,000 were manufactured. When sold in the US the price was $1,080. Petrolicious touts them, their history, and todays enthusiasts in their article “Exploring The French Countryside on the Vespa 400 Microcar’s 60 Birthday”. Even one of the six or seven Pichon-Parat Vespa 400 beach cars built was present for the birthday party.

      BTW Pichon-Parat was Raymond Lowey’s carrosserie of choice.

      Great photos – Click to slide through in large format.

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      • Wrong Way

        Thanks for the read! Pictures were awesome to! I really never heard of these little cars! I agree with the owners of these cars, how could you not love them? :-)

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  4. dean

    Super cool and quite a surprise for me … never ever heard of this model ! Way safer than a Messerschmidt I guess. Remarkable all original low miles example sort of justifies asking price …. certainly a great museum candidate.

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    • Dink-A-Trailer

      Way safer than a Messerschmidt?? Huh, any collision with more than a bicycle and dead is dead, whether you died in the Messer or the Vespa. But what the heck, if you want to see a truly dangerous micro-car google “Bond Minicar Mark C” – both the gold one and yellow one that come up were mine at one point, and yes, I drove them in traffic!

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  5. Wrong Way

    I must point out that even today stores will not let backpacks in! I don’t know how they would feel about something like that? Lol, just had to get my two cents worth in :-)

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  6. Maestro1

    The price is high but I’d buy it if I had the money to spend just to have it. It’s adorable.

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  7. Adam T45 Staff

    The Vespa 400 was originally intended to be built in Italy. However, at that stage Fiat was under the influence of what we shall refer to as “outside forces” (it’s Italy. I’m pretty sure that you can work out what those forces were). These forces acting on behalf of their own vested interest in Fiat placed great pressure on Vespa as they saw the Vespa as direct competition to the Fiat 500. As a result the Vespa was built in France.

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  8. chad

    mini, hillman, Isetta, 350, 600, vespa, tortilino, ALL better than a bike in that ur outta the weather.
    After that – I’m not sure the utility. Still need sompin “4 da road” & winter…

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    • John L

      The design and production of those cars can be traced to the fuel shortage caused by the Suez Crisis, which began in 1956. Due to the closure of the Suez Canal, in Europe gas was in EXTREMELY short supply and it was once again rationed in the UK. Sales of large cars slumped and the demand for mini cars/bubble cars boomed. Their brief boom was a by-product of geopolitics. Unlike those others, the Austin Mini survived the Crisis and flourished, as it was not such a “hair shirt” compromise of automotive utility/comfort as most of the others you cite.
      Granted, the Suez Crisis and the Canal’s remediation was over about the time the Mini went into production; but the start of its design was contemporary to the beginning of the Suez Crisis.
      Viewed in context of the geopolitical circumstances that lead to their rushed development, to their being marketed, they are not so foolish or funny as it may seem viewed out of context of that moment in history.
      USA was a petroleum exporter in those years. We were not impacted much by the Suez Crisis. So, the Suez Crisis is not taught in USA schools, excepts to History majors in colleges.

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    • Andy

      When the weather is good, being in the weather is the whole point of a motorcycle. Oh well, more for me.

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  9. Drink-A-Trailer

    These show up several times a year on eBay so a number of them must have been sold here. Why I don’t know, it was pretty hard to beat the VW back then

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  10. Jacob

    Everytime someone says “Please don’t flag this ad” it just makes me want to flag the ad.

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    • Steve65

      I looked over the ad, and didn’t see any obvious issues. Can’t find any evidence that it’s been spammed non-locally either. I suspect s/he fixed whatever the issue was. I’m half tempted to contact the seller to ask.

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  11. Richard Lewis

    I am not aware of any of these selling in this price range. There are a lot of other Microcar/Minicar offerings that you could get that are more practical and less money. The Citroen 2CV 602cc would be a lot easier to get around in. These cars are very small and very cute. I’m told they are subject to backfires that blow all the seals or gaskets out and then it requires an engine rebuild.

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  12. Beatnik Bedouin

    Fun li’l cars. A Vespa-fanatic buddy of mine’s got one in Melbourne that he uses quite regularly.

    For those who think that stock engine isn’t enough, there have been builds that add a few ponies…

    Like 1

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