Vespa 125 & 150

General Information

The VBA/VBB Vespas get their name from the prefixes of their VIN numbers. The VBA/VBB were the successor to the handlebar "widebody" Vespas. The VBA/VBB was the 150cc models and VNA/VNB was the prefix for the 125cc models. The "A" were the first ones produced, and were then followed by the "B" models when the rear of the frame was flattened out. In following the handlebar Vespas, these scooters had a completely new body and motor design which was the basis for almost all following largeframe Vespas. The motor was a rotary inducted design which increased reliability, fuel consumption, and decreased oil consumption as compared with the piston ported handlebar motor. The carburetor was relocated from under the seat to the top of the motor case. The chassis was narrowed a bit and restyled to match. An enclosed headset now replaced the open handlebars on all models, while on the other hand, the eight inch wheel set up of the older models was retained. The VBB replaced the VBA in 1960 and introduced a much needed four speed gearbox to the smaller scooters. Four gears had previously been reserved only for the top of the line Gran Sport. Furthermore, VBB had aluminum trim on the cowls and a flat section under the tail-light to affix a license plate. All of these scooters were styled and engineered well, and the VBB/VBA are as beautiful and classic a design as the G.S. 150.

Note: The VNA/VNB was also sold by Sears department store and badged as an "Allstate" scooter. These scooters were virtually identical to the VNA/VNB sold by Vespa dealers with a few notable exceptions. The Sears bikes were only one color. Early VBA's were a minty green color, while all later ones were painted red with white wheels. Most notably, Allstates had a simple front fork which lacked a dampener, and had only a coiled spring for suspension. Allstates did not have a lock for the glovebox. They also tended to have older motor and body designs than the equivalent year Vespa 125cc scooter. For example, when a Vespa might have a clamshell shaped speedometer, the Allstate would have the older small square speedometer; or Vespa 125's had a four-speed gearbox, while the Allstate still had a three-speed, etc.

Style

With the exception of the headset, the bodies on the VNA/VBA and VBA/VBB are identical. The advent of the VBA was the most significant evolution of the Vespa up to that point. The body was totally changed from that on the handlebar Vespa. The frame was significantly narrower, and the legshield was more curved. The body was made horizontally flat behind the seat. The glovebox cowl on the left side was retained, but it was made flat at the bottom. A keyed lock was standard except on Allstate models. VNB/VBB models had an aluminum trim strip added to the seam in the cowls on both sides as a styling detail.

Other frame details included a choke lever which was located on the frame above the fuel valve and a re-designed brake pedal. Early models had a "seamless" front fender which was made from a single piece of metal, whilst later models had a front fender which was made from two pieces of metal which were welded together and had a seam down the middle. The headlight size was enlarged to help with lighting, and included a wide chrome ring. The horn design was changed to one which had a "shell" design on 150 models, and to one which had horizontal lines on the 125. The handlegrips and the cowl gaskets were made of grey rubber, while the floor runner rubber was black on all models.

Taillights were different on different models and years. Early 125cc scooters had a small taillight which was similar to that on the handlebars. The 150's had a beautiful two part taillight with a red running light on bottom and a yellow stop light on top. This was the same as the one used on the G.S. models. The design was later changed and it had a red lens on top. This taillight was then used on the 125cc models, but the old style taillight continued to be used on Allstate models.

The speedometers used on these models were different from the 125 and the 150. All of the 150cc models used the beautiful "clamshell" speedometer which was also used on the G.S. The 125cc models used a small square shaped speedometer. Late 125cc Vespas used the clamshell speedometer as well. However, all Allstates used the square speedo.

Early VNA's had a split headset design which allowed for easy access to the control cables. The headset iself came apart in two halves when a clip was detached behind the headlight. When open, all of the cables connection and wiring was easy to work on. This design, while handy, detracted aesthetically from the headset. One can only imagine that this was the reason that Piaggio discontinued using this design on later versions of the VNA, and did not add this feature to other Vespas until the advent of the P-series in the late 1970's.

All models came with a single saddle seat as standard. There was a package tray located behind the seat as well. There was an accessory passenger seat which could be attached to the package tray. Later model dual saddle seats will fit on these scooters, and they are often found with dual seats rather than the single saddle. I believe the dual seat was an accessory available in Europe, but it is not clear if American Vespa dealers sold these in the early 60's.

The 125s had a "Vespa" badge riveted to the right side of the legshield. The 150 had a "Vespa 150" badge riveted to the right side of the legshield. The Vespa and Vespa 150 badges were made of flat aluminum. Both models had a "Piaggio" shield affixed to the center of the legshield just below the headlight. The Allstate had a raised badge in the shape of the United States with "Allstate" in the middle attached to the right side of the legshield in the place of the "Vespa" badge, and no "Piaggio" shield was placed on the scooter.

Motor

The motor on the 125 and 150 was a major improvement over the same size motors on the preceding handlebar Vespas. Both motors were essentially the same except for the size of the piston and bore. The motor is a rotary valve design which allowed a 2% two stroke oil mixture. The motor case was simplified and integrated the swing arm and the housing for the flywheel magneto. The carburetor was moved to an airbox which was housed on the top of the motor just above the crankshaft rotary valve. The air was filtered through the body and the air box was connected to the frame through a rubber hose. VBA and VNA's had three speed transmissions, whilst VBB's and later VNB's had a four-speed transmission. Pistons changed from deflector to domed top through the production run on both motor sizes.

The 125 and 150 used a few different magneto systems. The early 125's used a small high tension ignition coil which was housed on the stator plate, and had fewer coils. The 150's and later 125's had a stator with three coils and a large external high tension ignition coil housed in a bakelite case. All had points ignition.

The motors on these scooters were a pinicle of simplicity and ruggedness. They formed the basis for all of the largeframe Vespas that followed, and their basic design lives on to the present day with the P-series Vespas. The motors in the VNB/VBB are so underpowered as to be virtually indestructible with routine maintenance. Piaggio used to advertise that the motors only had "three moving parts" and they warranted the Vespa transmission for the lifetime of the scooter.

One footnote: The very early VNA/VBA motors for 1958 had a motor with a sort of "hybrid" design. They had a similar layout to the later motors, but were not rotary valve. These motors were piston ported, but had the carburator sitting directly on the cylinder, similar to the G.S.'s design. They used a 5% two stroke mixture. By 1959, this system was gone in favor of the vastly superior rotary valve design.

Bottom Line

The Vespa 150 is a robust scooter and capable of use on today's roads. It suffers from poor acceleration, especially on three speed models, but can reach 50 mph eventually. On the other hand, the 125's are a bit too slow to keep up with traffic. Acceleration and top speed limit them to side streets and slow roads only. Poor 6 volt lighting hampers all in the range. Furthermore, the 8? tires employed on all of these scooters makes them less than stable, and hitting a pothole at any speed can be a major problem. As mentioned above, the motors on these scooters are simple and very reliable. They just keep running and running! It is easy to bore the 125 cylinder to a 150, so you often find motors with this modification for just a bit more power.

Most parts for these scooters are available. Virtually every motor part is available and all the body parts are being remade. Perhaps the only thing that you can't get is the headset, otherwise, it is clear sailing

Number Produced:

Frame Numbers: VBA1T, VBB1T-VBB2T: 348,811
Frame Numbers: VNA1T-VNA2T, VNB1T-VNB6T: 418,029

Years Produced:

VBA/VBB 150cc (1958-67) VNA/VNB 125cc (1957-66)

Power Output:

?

  • Rough but restorable = $600-1200
  • Drivable, but not show = $1500-2500
  • Restored or Excellent Original Conition = $3000-5500

Buyers Guide