The Motor Scooter in Miniature – Lambretta

By Dave Turner

 

As if seriously collecting model Fords and Rileys,  as well as model railways, didn’t strain the spare funds and time enough, the life long fascination with motor scooters had the inevitable effect and a number of inexpensive model scooters have slowly been accumulated over the past 40 years or so. For many years these were rather neglected and no positive effort was made to identify or study them until recently.

One of many long standing literary activities has been producing short pieces for the local classic car club each featuring a picture of a vehicle owned in the past along with a picture of a model of the exact vehicle, not possible in many cases as there has never been models of many specific variations of the real thing. As a bit of a novelty one piece was produced featuring the first vehicle owned by the writer – a 1958 Vespa 125. Several black and white snaps were taken at the time – the late 1950s, but as the model scooter ‘collection’ had never been properly studied, the presence or absence of the appropriate 92L2 model Vespa had never been determined – there was not one!

However in the long process of checking through the models it became apparent that not only were there several duplicates (and even triplicates) trying to identify each model became a project in itself – and is far from complete. Having accumulated all this information, and there is far more to come, to us compulsive scribblers the obvious next step is to put it all down in some form of understandable text.

The history of real motor scooters has been set out a few times in book form, in fact the little Auto Review booklets on the subject should have inspired the need to continue with a study of models of them (Dave is the Author of  Auto Review 04 Scooters Part One and Auto Review 10 Scooters Part Two both still available on the Oxford Diecast website or from Auto Review direct). For some reason, no doubt total lack of time, nothing happened as far as an in depth study although a few pages of these little books touched on the subject. Obviously the foregoing is not claiming to be a complete listing of model scooters, they crop up all the time and many made by small operations have yet to be discovered. Information on those missed will be gratefully accepted.

If only because the models have been sorted first, Lambretta will start the ball rolling. This scooter had its roots back in 1931 when Ferdinando Innocenti, a plumber began the production of pipes and tubing but following the Second World War an alternative product was sought and a motor scooter seemed in demand. Production began in 1945, the name Lambretta being derived from the area of Milan that the factory occupied – Lambrate. Experience with tubing manufacture made the choice to give the new machine a tubular frame obvious, while all the early types featured exposed mechanicals and initially lacked suspension.

The first offering from Lambretta was the Model A made from October 1947 for just 12 months, a total of 9669 were made. A model of this has been made and marketed by The Bradford Exchange.

Another of the earliest types to be found in model form is the 125C made from February 1950 to November 1951. This formed the basis of the Lambretta for many years with its single tube frame and trailing link front suspension. The Italian die cast range of Mercury produced these in 1952 in 1:28 scale and featured some simple detail with a bent wire stand to keep the model upright. A partly enclosed front wheel was not typical with the real 125C but was no doubt employed on the model to give the axle some support, reproducing the trailing link suspension in diecast would be quite fragile for a toy.

In common with many other Mercury subjects, the 125C has been reproduced by Scottoy and is almost exactly the same – the axles have a rolled end at one side and the wire stand is slightly simplified.

Appearing shortly after the 125C, the 125LC was the same scooter but fully enclosed and with a larger apron in the manner that we came to associate with the later LD. This was also modelled by Mercury in 1952 and makes a fine companion to their 125C looking so much more modern. It was also reproduced by Scottoy.
In 1951 the 125D and fully clothed 125LD arrived and featured a re-designed frame and many other improvements. They came in four series between December 1951 and 1961, a choice of 150cc engine from the second series while the fourth series were made in France.
A 1:12 scale 125D was made by New Ray in 2012 but just which of the three types of 125D is not certain.

Going back to the early 1950s a 1:11 scale plastic LD 125 was made by Mettoy. Obviously a toy as it featured a flywheel motor driving the back axle on which were a pair of small plastic wheels that enabled the scooter to travel upright. Twin portholes on the rear flanks suggest that it is of the 1st Series of LD made from December 1951 to May 1953. This example was quite well battered when found many years ago, it has had to suffice as no other has ever been found. No marking suggested a maker, although the front licence plate reads “MTY 134” suggesting it was a Mettoy product and a pair of “Made in Gt Britain” logos are stamped below the twin port holes on the side panels. When new these came with a plastic rider.

At the other end of the extreme a very nice plastic model 1st Series 125LD came from Solido in 1:18 scale. Featuring movable steering, a spare wheel and plated carrier it has plenty of delicate looking detail including a kickstart, folding stand, brake and clutch levers. Rather a model than a toy.

The TV175, first of the Li Series in September 1957 set a new benchmark for Lambretta with more modern styling and easily identified by the fixed front mudguard with headlight on the front apron. This was followed by 125 and 150cc versions in September 1958 and all three were produced until October 1959 when the Series 11 Li arrived. Easily identified again, this time by the headlight being placed on the handlebars rather than on the front apron. These were made until September 1961 when the subsequent “Slim Style’ body was adopted.

A few models of the Series 1 Li have been made and include the Xonex at around 1:18 from about 20 years ago. A smaller one came from CLM Hitech and an even smaller example from BTS that was derived from the old Spot On S.11 Li. The Bradford Exchange offer a S.1 in resin around 1:18 scale.

As far as the S.11 versions go, as just mentioned Spot On did one in 1966 and this was later reproduced by BTS. It has also suffered at least one plastic copy from Hong Kong. The Bradford Exchange marketed a S.11 in Rallymaster guise complete with little screen, racing number and stripes. The real Rallymaster version of the 150 was discontinued in September 1962. Curiously the same models in a different scale are known to be marketed under the Hamilton Collection umbrella. Both these operations seem to be interested in dealing only online.

Perhaps among the smallest model scooters is a 1:76 plastic S.11 that comes from Hornby in a set of “city people’ in their range of model railway trackside accessories. Despite its modest size it is sufficiently detailed to be identifiable as S.11.

Next in line, the Series 111 Li, known as the Slimstyle due to its narrower build, was produced in numerous forms from December 1962. the 125 version lasted only to October 1964 but re-appeared as the GP125 in December 1969 for just two years. The 150 however, produced in various forms – Grand Luxe, Special Pacemaker, SX and GP, lasted well into the 1970s although Lambretta production continued in India until 1997.
A TV175 version of the Series 111 was made from April 1962 for just under 2 years but larger engined 200cc machines in GT, SX and GP variations were made into the 1970s.

Some models/toys of scooters are difficult to identify, some are simply products of a creative mind and toys for youngsters as a result. For example, a 1:13 scale clockwork plastic toy came from Ace Toys in Hong Kong featuring a pair of plastic wheels at the rear. It does look very much like it is meant to depict a Series 111 Li Lambretta, the side stripes echoing those on the GP200, the real examples of which were latterly made in India.

Britains are well known for their farm and agricultural models in 1:32, no surprise that their Slimstyle Li came in that scale. Simple but attractive model it seems almost dwarfed by the young couple on board.

Looking very similar but much more highly detailed are the Lambrettas from Recollections that not only have the kickstart pedal and silencer featured in the nether regions but the side panels lift off to reveal a fully detailed engine, fuel tank etc. Still at 1:32 the CLM HiTech range of models includes a S.111 while moving to larger scales, the Bradford Exchange offered a 1:18 GP/DL 200 and Black Country Metal Works did several S.111s in 1:5 scale. These included a 1963 depicting the Quadrophenia ‘star’ from the film, a 1968 150 Special and a 1966 200SX.

A range called Globo Telethon offered diecast Series 111s under the Heavy Metal label and are said to be 1:12 scale. That scale was also used by the Road Signature 1965 TV 175 while the plastic kits from Pyro and Retro make a SX200 at 1:16.

Produced for three years from 1966, the J range of scooters was aimed at the lady rider and came in J50cc, Cento 100cc. and Starstream 125cc versions. So far the only model to be recorded was by BTS.

Known Models

Model A
The Bradford Exchange 126B1033 05 1:18 resin
125C
Mercury Italy 213 1952 56mm 1:28 diecast
Scottoy  repro of Mercury 56mm 1:28 diecast
125LC
Mercury Italy 214 1952 59mm 1:28 diecast
Scottoy – repro of Mercury 59mm 1:28 diecast
125D
New Ray 2012 150mm 1:12 diecast
CLM HiTech CLM 018 1:32
125LD
Mettoy UK 134 1952 160mm 1:11 Plastic/flywheel
Solido China 534657 98mm 1:18 plastic
IXO TXO M7 1:24
Li Series 1
Xonex China 1998 TV175 100mm 1:18 diecast
BTS UK TV175 mod from Spot On 1:42 diecast/resin
CLM HiTech CLM 013 Li 125 1:32
The Bradford Exchange 126B 1033 04 1:18 resin
Li Series 11
Spot On UK 229 1966 Li 150 47m 1:42 diecast/plastic
? Hong Kong plastic copy of Spot on 44mm 1:42 plastic
BTS UK Li 150 repro of Spot On 47mm 1:42 diecast/resin
Hornby China R560 1990s 25mm 1:72 plastic
The Bradford Exchange 126B 1033 03 Li150  Rallymaster 1:18 resin
The Hamilton Collection  Li150 1:12 diecast
Li Series 111 
Ace Toy Hong Kong GP200 134mm 1:13 Plastic/Clockwork
Britains UK 9685 56mm 1:32 diecast
CLM HiTech CLM 015 1:33 diecast
Recollections UK 1995 TV175 58mm 1:34 diecast
Recollections UK 1995 GP200 56mm 1:35 diecast
Recollections UK 1995 SX200 58mm 1:36 diecast
The Bradford Exchange 126B 1033 02 GP/DL200 100mm 1:18 resin
Globo Telethon 31085 1:12 diecast
Black Country Metal Works 1963 Quadrophenia 330mm 1:5 Tin
Black Country Metal Works 1968 150 Special 330mm 1:5 Tin
Black Country Metal Works 1966 200SX 330mm 1:5 Tin
Road Signature 41507RB 1965 TV175 150mm 1:12 diecast
The Hamilton Collection 1967 Li150 1:12 diecast
The Hamilton Collection 1969 GP D/L 200 1:12 diecast
Pyro M155 X200 1:16 Plastic kit
Retro SX200 1:16
 J125
BTS  UK

Illustrations:

BTS 1:42 diecast and resin from UK, repro of Spot On: Lambretta Li Series 11

1:42 plastic from Hong Kong, copy of Spot On: Lambretta Li Series 11.

Recollections 1:32 diecast from UK: Lambretta Li Series 111 GP200.


Recollections 1:32 diecast from UK: Lambretta Li Series 111 TV175

Scottoy 1:28 diecast, repro of Mercury: Lambretta125C

Mercury 1:28 diecast from Italy: 214 Lambretta 125LC.

Mercury 1:28 diecast from Italy: 213 Lambretta 125C

Britains 1:32 diecast from UK: 9685 Lambretta Li Series 111

Ace Toy 1:13 clockwork plastic from Hong Kong: Lambretta Li Series 111 GP200

Hornby 1:72 plastic from China:R560 Lambretta Li Series 11

Mettoy 1:11 flywheel plastic from UK: 134, Lambretta 125LD

Xonex 1:18 diecast from China: Lambretta Li Series 1 TV175

Solido 1:18 plastic from China: 534657, Lambretta 125LD

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