Monday November 25, 2019
A few weeks ago, we featured a blog about the Vespa 400 – and Eric Christoffersen is the proud owner of two examples.
Few people in the UK are familiar with this splendid machine and so when he is out and about, the public reaction is often one of confusion.
‘Sometimes they say it's some kind of Fiat 500, but then they see the Vespa badge, and it's a surprise - the usual comment is, "I never knew Vespa made a car!”’.
Eric has owned his two 400s for ‘about five years.
I had three but sold one. I've had a lot of cars, bikes and scooters but I'd only ever seen some old pictures of the Vespa 400, then about six years ago I went to a microcar rally in my DAF 33 and saw one in the flesh’.
Mr. Christoffersen ‘couldn't believe how small they were’ and he was so impressed that he embarked on a mission to find one.
In his opinion, the Vespa is ‘nothing like your usual microcars’ and are ‘beautifully engineered!’.
The 393cc two-stroke twin-cylinder power plant is ‘very well made and even the front suspension is like something from an aircraft and turns on bearings. The bottom swivel joints are self-adjusting and if kept greased will never wear out - works of engineering art!’.
The Vespa was small even by the standards of 1950s light cars, and it looks incredibly compact by today’s standards but ‘there's plenty of room inside for a six-footer or a bit more. They have a decent heater - and decent air conditioning with the roof down!’.
On the road, the 400 ‘handles really well once you get going’ although the performance is ‘not earth-shattering’.
The green model is powered by the standard engine and it ‘will do about 55mph (all day long), but I've tuned the purple one; it accelerates better and will sit at about 65mph on the motorway’.
Eric has even ‘done 100 miles nonstop on the A1’ in his high-powered Vespa and despite the fact ‘they’re a bit noisy; he was not ‘overtired’.
As for gearbox, ‘changes can't be rushed but are precise - you just need to remember that you just need to remember that reverse is where first would be on a normal car!’.
The Motor tested the 400 in early 1959 in a report headlined ‘practical and comfortable motoring at low cost’.
The tester stated the Vespa was ‘soon to be exported’ but it was never officially marketed in the UK although ‘about 60 RHD cars were made, finding one is the Holy Grail for me!
I think most RHD went to South Africa, and one or two came here’.
Today, Eric finds that ‘you can't go anywhere without getting stared at, smiled at or pictures being taken.
When you park up there's usually someone looking at it when you come back or taking photos, and they want to talk to you!’.
And with a vehicle as fascinating as the Vespa 400, it is very easy to understand why.
WITH THANKS TO – ERIC CHRISTOFFERSEN
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