The J-50 (50cc), Cento (100cc) and the Starstream (125 cc), also known as Junior, or J-range models, were designed to compete with Piaggio's "Vespa 50" which by the mid-60's was selling in vast numbers throughout Europe. A 50cc model of the J-range was made in several versions, but was never sold in the US. However the Cento and Starstream were officially imported by Innocenti to the U.S. in small numbers. This scooter was designed to be small and lightweight. This was thought to appeal to women. Innocenti believed women found the LI/TV models to be too heavy and hard to kickstart. With the J-range, Innocenti was also aiming for a budget market in Europe which was hungry for a no-frills, reasonably priced scooter.
One other thing to note. Some people believe that the J-range scooters should be called the "I" range. They believe that since the "I" in the Innocenti logo looks like a "J", and that the letter "J" does not exist in Italian, these scooters could not have been named J-range. Though the letter "J" does not exist in normal Italian, it appears to be fine to use it with foreign words. Italian car companies used "Junior" as a name for some car versions, and it appears that Innocenti did the same thing with the J-Range. "J" stands for "Junior Range".
The J-range bikes are markedly different from any other Lambretta model. The frame on these models was solid pressed steel which was welded together from several pieces. The J-range had built-in legshields much like a Vespa and unlike the bolted-on legshields of the other Lambrettas. There was no tube frame and the whole frame was welded together, rather than bolted on a tube backbone as on the LI/TV Lambrettas. The forks were also different on the J-range, as was the headset and cowls. The whole scooter was physically much smaller than the LI/TV. A single saddle was standard on the early models, but a dual seat was also available. Late model Starstreams had some styling differences which are most noticeable in the legshields, which are narrower.
A "Super Starstream" was also made in very limited numbers for the English market. The only difference between the standard Starstream and the "Super" was that the Super Starstream had a turning front mudguard, much like a Vespa.
The barrel on the motor faced straight up as opposed to forward on the LI based machines. All Centos had 3 speed gearboxes. The early Starstream also had a 3 speed gearbox, however, by 1965 the Starstream had been uprated to 4 speed. Though the motors are different from the LI/TV models, there is some "family resemblance." The J-range had a duplex chain drive, and were essentially laid out the same as their larger cousins.
Generally, I would advise against buying either a Cento or a Starstream. Both of these scooters are slow, have a serious problem with vibration, and (in my opinion) look pretty ugly. They were not particularly popular when they were new and didn't sell well, especially in the US. They were too expensive to appeal to budget buyers, and too poorly made to last very long in general. Since they were never very popular, parts are difficult to find for them. This, on top of the fact that they have poor performance, are generally unreliable, and vibrate like crazy makes them a scooter to avoid. I would only own one as an oddity, not as serious transportation.
Number Produced:17,642 (100); 16,052 (125)
Power:4.7 hp @ 5,300 rpm (100); 5.8 hp @ 5,300 rpm (125)
- Rough but restorable = 200-600
- Drivable, but not show = 800-1500
- Restored or Excellent Original Conition = 1500-2000
The J 50 was the baby Lambretta, and as you would guess, was powered by a mighty 50 cc motor. Though it was never officially sold by Innocenti in the US, a handful of these bikes were recently imported by private parties. They have a similar body shape to the other J series scooters mentioned on this site, but lacked some of the amenities that the alredy spartan Cento and Starstream boasted. The 50 suffered from the same problems as the other J range bikes; vibration problems, poor styling, and were dangerously slow - yes, it was a winning combination. Unless you are a serious collector looking for an odd-ball scooter, I would pass up, nay, run away from, any J 50 you have the misfortune of finding.