Being born in Italy, Piaggio-land, I have a familiarity with mopeds since a young age. A Vespa 50 – and then 125 and more – was the true objet of desire, but often we had to be happy with a slow, automatic moped before joining the upper league of scooter owners. And rare were the lucky ones, rich family heirs, that when 14 years old could already ride a true 50cc bike, something very sexy, like a Fantic Caballero.
Most common moped was Piaggio Ciao. A white Ciao. White Ciaos were the equivalent of black Ford Model T. They were “The” moped. Or “motorino”, as we call it in our country. I had one too. Bought it used. It was supposed to be bored to 60cc, with a Polini exhaust, so to reach faster speed. But, as usual happens with amateurish modifications, better performances lasted just a few weeks. Then, if you did not check and re-adjust the engine, it started to go slower and slower. We used the mopeds all year long as our one and only mean of transport and in the colder winter months we used to put windscreens on it. So my own white Ciao, needing an engine check and equipped with a quite wide widescreen, had a top speed of around 25 km/h. It was so painfully slow! I laugh while I write.
Quite common were also the Ciao more grown-up Piaggio models like the Bravo or the Boxer. Or the Peugeot 103, quite quick, ugly, and often orange. And many others. A friend of mine had a blue Garelli with three-speeds and the simple fact that he could move through the gears made him look like as a Kawa triple rider.
While we boys stepped up to Vespas as soon as we could, girls stayed with mopeds. Painted rose, light blue and with flowers or Snoopy stickers. So it’s not weird that ad campaigns often showed blonde, cute teen-agers girls, as in the ads showed in this same post.
Even if I owned several nice scooters, from ’80s PX200 to classic Vespas and Lambrettas, and then several classic, luxury and sports cars and motorbikes too, I will never forget that white Ciao of when I was fourteen years old.