When Innocenti went bust in the 1970s, Scooters India bought all the Lambretta tooling to make the Vijai Super, also supplying kits to Allwyn for the Pushpak
My lasting memory of the Vijai Super is its exhaust note — it was loud enough to travel up to the fourth floor, so I knew my girlfriend’s uncle was on his way home for lunch and it was time for us to take out our books and, well, behave. That was in the nineties when the Kinetic Honda was at its peak and the only reason David uncle still rode the Vijai Super — and if memory serves me right continued to do so for another five or six years — was he loved that scooter. I think it was his ride in college, which eventually was given away to one of the mechanics in his garage which used to service Tatas and had such a good rep that Mercedes PDI’d their first W124s there — a nice bonus to dating and eventually marrying his niece. Anyway, that’s me on a #ThrowbackThursday ramble which I seem to be getting quite good at on Instagram! Point is, we all had Kines and I couldn’t care less for the Vijai Super and this is actually the first time I’ve actually gotten astride one.
To read the gone but not forgotten blog of Bajaj Priya, click here
Anyway, no point giving you a road test of a seventies scooter, it will never be anywhere close to a modern scoot especially when it comes to the brakes. That’s what really gives me the shivers every time I get astride these old bikes, they just don’t stop. But they do move, especially this well-maintained two-stroke, a 150cc engine at that, the chainsaw exhaust note (which I’ll never, ever forget!), adding another 5 horsepower along with a big fat plume of white smoke and a lovely aftertaste of petroil.
The Lambretta does feel surprisingly small and darty, and I guess that helped all those racers who campaigned it quite effectively. Actually, I should say bravely. Riding these old bikes really puts into perspective how brave racers of the years gone by were, to do what they did on those brakes, those tyres, and with the ever present danger of the two-stroke seizing on you. But, apparently, the Lambretta handled quite well thanks to its chassis.
When old man Innocenti wanted to get into making scooters after World War II, he also saw it as an opportunity to get his bombed-out steel tube factory back up and running. However, the aeronautical engineer he contracted to design the scooter insisted on using pressed sheets. Rock met scissors and the engineer stomped off to old man Piaggio and created the monocoque Vespa while Innocenti got two other aeronautical engineers to incorporate rolled tubes in his scooter. Thus was born the Lambretta that had the distinction of not having an engine hanging off on one side, which made it better balanced and more suited to a spot of enthusiastic riding.
In 1972, Scooters India bought the tooling for the Lambretta, re-assembled it all in Lucknow with the assistance of Italian engineers (since everything was in Italian), and even sold kits to the likes of Allwyn to create the Pushpak. There was also the Kesri and Falcon which I know nothing of. They didn’t call it Lambretta because that was already in India, courtesy API (Automobile Products of India) that had started assembling it back in the fifties. And that’s why you see Lambrettas with all sorts of names!
What they all had in common was that loud exhaust note — even today when I hear it, on reflex, I sit up and behave.