When you see these two Italians together, little do you realise that a whopping 350 kilometres separate Fiat’s Mirafiori plant from Piaggio’s Pontedera facility. Even though they have different parenthoods and completely different attributes, they seem as if they are related to one other. On a lovely Sunday morning, with the rainclouds threatening to dampen our enthusiasm, a mellow light falls on the organic shapes of both these machines and to my eyes, they look as if they were born of the same mother. Call me romantic, call me sentimental, whatever, but you cannot fail to be moved by the sight of these two great Italian classics seen millimetres away from each other. That too, in matching and fetching colours!
The Vespa is from 1970, while the Nuova 500 rolled out a year later. What’s interesting is that the Agnelli family – who owned Fiat – bought a controlling stake Piaggio in 1959 and held it for about 40 years. So you could technically say that these two are siblings but any resemblance is coincidental!
There are of course sound reasons for both machines to share some connections. The 500 was engineered by Dante Giacosa, who has to his credit some of the greatest Fiats ever, including the first Cinquecento (aka Topolino) which was the world’s smallest car in 1937. And he repeated history with the Nuova 500, which is so unbelievably small in the flesh – well, it was actually smaller than the Mini! Now Giacosa was an aeronautical engineer who stumbled into the automotive field.
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