Funky Motoring Facts: Motor scooters

As the world struggled to get on its feet in the early years after World War II, it became obvious to industry leaders, that getting their populations on wheels was a priority.

The car makers were relatively quick off the mark with several marques filling the need for a new generation of customers who were rapidly becoming more affluent.

For those populations that were more slowly getting their lives back to normal and could not yet get aboard even a basic Austin, Morris, VW, Renault or similar ‘peoples cars’, there were motor bikes and their quirky cousins the motor scooters.

In the motor scooter division, Vespa and Lambretta led the way in 1946 and 1947 respectively and carried generations of riders to the joy of freedom on wheels.

These were pretty basic and got better as volumes ramped up with a shot of styling and eventually better performance.

But what to do if you wanted a little more of both? Zundapp, a German motor cycle manufacturer who produced numerous flat twin models, including their famous KS750 which was widely used by German troops in WWII, saw a new opportunity and seized the moment with their Zundapp Bella.

Often spoken of as the “Rolls Royce” of scooters, it took the little ‘wasp’ concept up a notch or two. From 1953-1964, the stylish Bella produced some 130,000 examples, with engine capacities ranging from 150 cc to 200cc.

All models were slightly longer than their Italian counterparts and offered genuine two seater capacity and later the luxury of an electric starter.

The prominent air tunnel along the centre line of the chassis took cooling air to the rear mounted single cylinder engine without the need for a cooling fan, and provided the basis for the scooters prominent long ‘running board’ style foot rests.

Power such that it was ranged from 7.3hp at 4700rpm for the 150cc, with the 200cc version knocking out 10hp at 5200rpm. Not much by today’s expectations, but a quantum leap from Piaggio’s earlier offerings of 50cc, 90cc, 100cc,125cc, in its Lambrettas.

But by the mid 60s, the Bella’s star was waning as more competition from low priced cars became a reality and they pulled the plug leaving the scooter market to Lambretta/Vespa and the new boys on the block, a virtual bevy of Japanese scooters from the likes of Honda, Suzuki et al.

Today we enjoy a whole new generation of ‘scooters’, with all the mod cons coupled with modern engines up to 650cc giving fans the opportunity to cruise safely at highway speeds for the first time.