The liquid-cooled Vespa GS that never happened

Paolo Martin is an Italian car designer who has also dabbled with two wheelers as well over the years.

Designer Paolo Martin with the concept H2O GS Vespa.

Amongst others, he’s known for his work with names such as Bertone and Pininfarina during the 1960s, De Tomaso, Ghia in the 1970s, designing and styling cars for brands like Alfa Romeo, Ferrari and Fiat. He’s also done some work for Piaggio, as the image above may suggest…

It would appear Martin drew a car for Piaggio and also some mopeds, for both Piaggio and the Gilera brand which they also own. But of course it is the Vespas we want to know more about, isn’t it.It seem Martin did a few Vespa related jobs for Piaggio, and I’ll filter the details through over the coming days.

But we’ll start with this, possibly the biggest ‘what if’ in the world of Vespas. The 1980s began well for Piaggio, their Vespa P-range dominating the market, but it wasn’t long before the Japanese began to gain ground with their cheap plastic automatic scooters. Unfortunately for all concerned, the 80s were also a decade of angular design, so everything looked pretty awful too! Whether this is what prompted Piaggio to head in that direction or not, we don’t know, however looking at Mr Martin’ portfolio suggests when it came to angular designs, he was the man!

Now while this scooter may ring some bells, the images were actually named “GS H20”. We know that Piaggio had been working on a fuel injected PX200 engine, and this suggests that liquid-cooling was also on the cards at one time. And if you’re going to produce a all new, top of the range and presumably sportier engine (that’s the only reason to add the expense of liquid cooling a scooter’s engine, to gain performance) then why not bring back one the great Vespa names of all time – the Gran Sport?

Some dates suggest this project was from 1986, but it could possibly have begun a year or two earlier. You can see from the mock-up being built above that a Vespa PX was being used as a base for at least this example. The design however, is quite a radical departure from the Vespa as we knew it then.

The water-cooled engine could even have been a 4-stroke, though 2-stroke is more likely, and while the Japanese scooters were all automatic with CVT transmission, all the drawings we’ve seen suggest a geared Vespa scooter, although the image of a concept vehicle at the Piaggio factory in Pontedera below does suggest different.

As angular as it is, Martin’s Vespa GS H20 does have design cues of the future both with the sweeping front legshields and slightly elevated rear end. There are also diffuser type spoilers either side on the front legshields, which together with the rear grab rail/spoiler really does remind how much a ‘sporty’ look cars generally had during the 80s. Ford Sierra Cosworth ring any bells?
One thing that is also a little confusing is some drawings seem to show the front fork legs on the left side of the scooter, as they are on the modern auto Vespas of today. Martin’s signature on the drawings is correct suggesting they’ve not been accidentally flipped for the internet, so was he farther ahead of the times than we think?

Sadly Paolo Martin‘s website has been updated since I found these images earlier this year and the galleries no longer seem to work. I hope he doesn’t mind us publishing these (and more in the future) because it is an interesting chapter in the history of the Vespa.

And if you think the scooter above may look familiar, take a guess who it was that penned the Vespa Cosa? Yep! 😉

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9 thoughts on “The liquid-cooled Vespa GS that never happened

  1. Hi,i have a Cosa 200, just finished tuning the engine,this futuristic image of the Cosa family is absolutely fantastic, does it still exist? It’s a total work of art, light years ahead of any scooter I’ve ever seen,bellisimo!!

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