Fiat had total domination over the Italian small car market and would not allow an incursion into their territory by an upstart car manufacturer. Piaggio had a sister company in France, A.C.M.A., which was already producing Vespa scooters at the rate of 260 per day, and with nearly 3,000 employees, it had production capacity to spare. Also, France had no small-car manufacturer able to produce a microcar in sufficiently large quantities.
An announcement at the Paris Salon of 1956 whetted the public’s appetite, and prototypes were seen being tested during that winter. The car’s formal introduction to the public took place in the Principality of Monaco, with three renowned grand prix drivers. It was a huge sensation at the Paris Salon of 1957.
The pretty little coupe with a rollback roof compared favourably with the stylish Autobianchi Bianchina, apart from its smaller two-stroke motor. The shell was a monocoque, with a unique and advanced strut suspension that could handle France’s cobblestones with ease. The battery was in a pull-out drawer in the nose, and the motor was high-tech, with the carburettor intake fitted to the crankcase, a form of rotary valve, requiring a much leaner than usual 50:1 oil-gas mixture. The engineers at A.C.M.A. feared engine damage by repeated careless 20:1 gas station fill-ups and they soon developed an on board oil metering system.
This lovely Vespa 400 comes from a private collection. It was completely restored in 2016 and it is now in a lovely driveable condition. Finished in a classic and fantastic yellow, this car is sold with its French registration paper.