The Vespa PX125
The only true classic scooter left in production
If you want to buy a brand new scooter and want the only Italian geared scooter left on the market the PX125, or 150, is the scooter for you. Don’t hang around for long though because you won’t be able to buy one in 2017 thanks to those meddling emissions folk. Euro 4 has arrived to spoil the party and the two stroke PX is living on borrowed time. Manufacturers have surrendered and allowed the 2-stroke to be culled, rather than clean things up so they can continue to build these fantastic engines. In comparison a 125cc four stroke is duller than a rainy day in Blackpool.
I’ve owned a PX of one kind or another since December 1987, the day I turned 17. Since then I’ve had a fair few T5’s and PX’s and still own one of each to this day. That familiar engine note, timeless style and character are endearing, it’s a scooter with soul and character. You don’t get that feeling with a modern four stroke but we’ll have to get used to it I’m afraid, aside from buying used there will be no other choice once manufacturing stops.
The P 125 X was originally launched in 1977, the same year Elvis left the building for good. 150 and 200cc models quickly followed and it gathered quite a following around the world. In the UK it became a rally favourite.
To date, the PX has sold over three million units around the world and is still a dependable workhorse for many, thanks to its simple mechanics and reliable engine (simple it may be but keeping my highly tuned 210 running is down to the correct alignment of Jupiter and Mars). Modern automatic scooters may have taken the place of this iconic machine to a certain extent but scooter purists still have a soft spot for a geared metal scooter with a two stroke engine.
There’s something special about the way those revs begin to rise, hitting peak power and living on a knife edge… fighting to harness that fickle power and use it to it’s full advantage. If you’ve never experienced it, especially on a fast two stroke you won’t really know what you’re missing.
In 2008, Piaggio pulled the plug on the Vespa PX, the model had served its purpose and the new cleaner burning four stroke Vespas were quickly replacing its popularity in certain markets and wouldn’t be missed… or at least that’s what the Italians perceived. Most manufacturers around the world had already started phasing out their own two strokes. Similarly, ever-tightening emissions laws were the excuse used for killing off this iconic Vespa. Even though legally they could carry on until now. Like many other fans, I was quite upset to see this part of scootering history disappear.
There was a slight twist to the story though, the Indian LML Star, a scooter once made under licence for the local market and now exported around the world saw an increase in sales. The PX clone didn’t have quite the same kudos as a Vespa but geared scooter fans would rather buy an LML than a modern four-stroke automatic like the GTS. Not to be outdone by those Indian imposters, the Italians were forced to do a bit of fettling to the design and in 2011 they dusted off the production line and started making our beloved Vespa PX again.
We all know that killing the two-stroke by using the thinner than a wafer thin mint ‘emissions’ excuse is just an easy way to pacify those clean up fascists, we also know a cleaner burning two-stroke engine doesn’t take a rocket scientist to develop. A savvy manufacturer could clean up (pardon the pun) by producing a modern, cleaner burning emissions friendly two stroke. Such a machine would help to inject life back into the stagnant smaller capacity market and enthuse youngsters once again.
To bring the 2011 PX back to market, a Piaggio R&D man cleaned things up in his dinner hour by fitting a catalytic converter to the exhaust and an air recirculation system to cut down on nasty fumes, our hero slept soundly that night. Ultimately he’d saved face for the company, sod the planet. His lunchtime mods sapped a little bit of power but as we all know there are loads of PX aftermarket tuning products and performance exhausts available to bolt on extra power if the owner requires it. Simply swap the exhaust for a SIP Road 2 (or expansion pipe) to get rid of the unloved cat and you’ll gain both torque and power. Add a kit, bigger carb and a bit of tuning and you too can have dirty hands like me.
The beauty of a simple carburettor fed engine, as opposed to a fuel injected motor is that they’re easy enough for most owners to tinker with at home rather than having to get them plugged into a dealer’s diagnostics machine just to unearth a simple fault…but not for much longer. Since January 2016 all newly developed machines of 125cc and over must have OBD (On Board Diagnostics) and ABS as standard as part of the new Euro 4 regs. Current machines have until early 2017 to comply, or be exterminated. Damn those meddling do-gooders.
As Gary Glitter once sang, ‘It’s good to be back.’ Shiny new PX’s started rolling off the production line in Pontedera in 2011 and I was quite happy to receive an invitation to the launch event in Rome (scooter launch rather than Glitters latest prison release).
The new PX (both in 125 and 150cc) hadn’t changed much from the final production run. Only minor styling details set it apart, like the single colour horncasting (rather than having a chrome grill), re-sculptured seat, new Vespa emblazoned handlebar grips and centre floor mat – and of course the new power zapping, fume munching exhaust. Other than that, things are as they were (better if anything) and that’s a good thing as far as I’m concerned.
Piaggio invested a few Liras into improving tooling, so underneath the headset the casting is much smoother than it was pre-2008. After having a good look around the new scooter at the launch, the only areas I could criticise were the dull finish on the glovebox door lock, a bit of dodgy paint along the bottom edge of the centre frame tunnel where it meets the runners (an area that has since proved troublesome to some owners) and the age old seam on the front mudguard which has always been prone to rusting (the mark one T5 mudguard was a much better solution). Other than that I was quite impressed, the inside of the glovebox had even been sprayed and so had the underside of the mudguard. Areas that had started to get neglected before production ended previously.
The new model was initially available in four classic PX colours, Rosso Dragon red, Mediterraneo Sky blue, Montebianco white and Nero Lucido black. Since the launch, Grigio Dolomite grey was released (and dropped), Midnight Blue arrived to replace the traditional classic Sky blue…but was dropped. Rosso red reappeared after being shelved for a while and then the PX Touring arrived in summer 2015 in silver. Incidentally, the paintwork is finished very well overall, after almost 40 years of PX production the company are still learning.
The PX starts easily on the button, (or kick-start if you’re feeling extra nostalgic!) and settles into a nice steady tick over.
Thankfully the Vespa still sounds just as good and distinctive as it always did, it’s the only way for a Vespa PX to sound and an aficionado can identify one from half a mile away.
Easing the scooter into the bustling Roman traffic for the first time I notice a minor flat spot which is probably due to the work needed to meet Euro3 emissions testing but other than that I was pleasantly surprised at just how well the scooter performed. Once on the move the PX 125 picks up speed quite quickly and will do close to 60mph, although we didn’t have enough of a clear road to thrash it for as long as we’d have liked but it certainly didn’t feel as heavily restricted as an LML Star. We had a chance to ride the 125 and 150cc models back to back. As you’d expect, the 150cc will out accelerate the 125 and pull away from it steadily but there’s only about three or four mph difference at the top end, which is nothing to worry about.
Rome is a very busy city and the roads are bumpy and covered in slippery cobbles but the PX took them all in its stride and wasn’t flustered at all. The suspension seems better than I remember from the older models, so I had no cause for complaint there and the Michelin S83’s aren’t a bad tyre, although I’d soon swap them for some stickier rubber. One plus point is that the PX comes with a spare wheel as standard again; you had to pay extra for it at one time. One thing you can’t really appreciate (and can soon forget if you haven’t ridden one for a while) unless you ride the Vespa through a busy city is just how lightweight and agile the scooter is. You can fit it into the smallest gaps and weave your way through stationary or slow moving traffic with ease, often without needing to dab a foot to the floor. It really is a well-balanced scooter, despite what people might lead you to believe about the engine being offset.
Overall the Vespa PX is still a magnificent scooter, a design classic. It’s not perfect but if it was we probably wouldn’t love it as much as we do. As it stands it is still the finest new-geared scooter you can buy. Sadly this year will be a turning point for the PX though. The 70th anniversary model arrives in May and may also become collectable in years to come. So if you’d like to buy yourself a part of scootering history be sure to pay your local Vespa dealer a visit soon and bag yourself one of the last two stroke 125’s in existence.
Once the stock has gone and Euro 4 kicks in you’ll be left wishing you’d bought one of the last unmolested ones…
Lab rating: 7.6
Engine: 124cc, two-stroke, air-cooled
Brakes: 200mm front disc, rear drum
Wheels: 3.50 x 10”
Suspension: Front single side fork with shock absorber, rear mono shock
Seat height: 810mm
Dimensions: Length 1810mm, Width 740mm, height 1110mm
Tank capacity: 8-litres
Warranty: Two years
Colours: Red, white, black, silver
Price: £3271 (150cc £3371)