Vespa Super Sport
The Super Sport, or S.S., was the successor to the G.S. 160 and was built from 1964 to 1968. With the exception of the increase in cc's, the motor and suspension design are very similar on the two scooters. On the other hand, the styling of the S.S. was totally new. The new design was much more angular than the rounded G.S.'s Squared off edges and a trapezoidal shaped headlight gave the scooter a thoroughly 60's appearance. This shape was based on the earlier Vespa G.L. However, the S.S. took the styling to an extreme. It was the G.L./S.S. body design that would influence all of the following full frame Vespas into the middle of the 1970's.
The S.S.'s cowls are positively massive and stick out farther than any other Vespa's cowls. As opposed to the round-shaped cowls on the G.S., the S.S.'s cowls have more edges, both at the back and along the top side of the cowls. The S.S. retained aluminum trim as on the G.S., but in a simplified form. The aluminum trim on the S.S. is shorter than on the G.S., and is flat both on the front fender, and the rear cowls. The S.S. retained the G.S. 160's body configuration with a glovebox behind the legshields and a spare tire hidden under the left cowl. On models equipped with a battery, it was housed in a bracket in the middle of the spare tire.
The Super Sport was the first largeframe Vespa to be available in a choice of colors. It came in either white, red, or blue. There were several different shades of red available.
On the headset, the more angular theme continued. Part of the sharper look was the switch from a round headlight as on most other Vespas, to a trapezoid shaped headlight. However, some later U.S. market models had a round headlight instead of the trapezoid unit. These late-model S.S.'s used the same headset with a sealed beam headlight that was used on U.S. market Rally and Sprint models. On the trapezoid headlight models, the speedometer used was still the large clamshell style speedometer. One big difference with the G.S. was that this new headset was open on the bottom, and had threaded mounting points for a rear-view mirror or windscreen. On the S.S., there were removable metal covers for the bottom of the headset which attached through the threaded mounting points. These covers were often discarded, and are quite rare today. Other features to note are the ignition switch at the top of the headset, which still only used a blank key, and the integrated electrical/kill switch on the right side of the handlebars. Late models with the trapezoid headset did not have the key switch.
The Super Sport had three different taillights in the U.S. market. The first was the same as the European market version. This Siem brand light was a larger, and more square interpretation of the old "acorn" taillight. It had a chrome metal base with a red plastic lens. The lens had a red reflector at the middle of the rear light area. The shape can best be described as a small rectangle on top of a large rectangle. There were also two special U.S. market taillights on the S.S. One was a wide and flat taillight with two reflectors at either bottom end. This taillight was also made by Siem, and is often called the "Mickey Mouse" taillight because the hanging reflectors are reminiscent of Mickey's iconic ears. The other was the round taillight and license plate holder found on many other late 60's U.S. scooters. This taillight, often called "tractor style", was not flush mounted to the body, as the earlier taillights were, but was attached to the body by a metal stalk, which also served as a license plate holder. The stalk, and the round metal taillight housing were painted the same color as the body. A small rectangular reflector was added to each side of the housing in accordance with Federal regulations at the time. As far as I can determine, the tractor style taillight was only affixed to very late model S.S.'s which also had the round headlight style headset.
The badges on the S.S. were different than on other models at the time. The Super Sport had thick brushed aluminum metal badges which were attached through peened-over metal tabs attachced to the rear of the badges. There was now a badge attached the rear frame just below the seat. The front legshield badge said "Vespa S.S." and the rear one "Super Sport" in cursive font. There was also a shield shaped "Piaggio" badge at the center of the legshields.
The motor on the Super Sport was an evolution, rather than a revolution from the G.S. This followed Piaggio's efficient design philosophy of incremental change. It still used the piston ported design of the G.S., but simply bumped up the size of the cylinder to a 180cc displacement. There were other minor changes to the motor internally, but essentially, the Super Sport motor was little changed from the previous G.S. 160's motor.
In addition to the motor, the suspension and wheels were virtually unchanged from the previous G.S. The front shock was still a single piece unit which incorporated the dampener and the spring. The wheels were the same as on the G.S. and the rims were center-split.
The S.S. was fast for its day, and is still reasonably fast today. It can safely keep up with traffic in terms of acceleration and top speed. Flaws include poor 6 volt lighting and on early models, a distressing tendency to seize when not jetted correctly.
As with the G.S. Vespas, it is important that you find a S.S. 180 that is complete. Some of the internal wear parts for the motors are now being reproduced, but not much else that is unique to the S.S. 180 is available. Since the motor design is essentially unique to the 180, many motor parts are very difficult to source. Therefore, make sure your motor is all there before you buy one. Body parts are also especially hard to come by, even moreso in the U.S. Expect that any missing part, even something that is seemingly small, will take a long time and a lot of money to obtain. Unless you are an experienced scooterist or mechanic, it is wise to shy away from a "project" S.S. The cost of restoring one can quickly exceed the cost of buying one that is already in good condition
One thing to note about the S.S. 180 is that the motor mounting points are the same as on the later largeframe Vespas. This makes them a perfect candidate for a motor swap. Many S.S. 180's have had the original piston-ported motor removed, and replaced with a later model P-series motor for the increased reliability and ease of parts availability that they provide. Of course an all original S.S. is worth more to a collector than one which has been modified, for a scooter that is ridden often, the motor swap can make a lot of sense. This is just something to look out for, and consider when looking to buy a S.S.
- Rough but restorable = $800-1500
- Drivable, but not show = $2500-3500
- Restored or Excellent Original Condition = $4000-8000