The history of the Moscone Piaggio outboard, the 1950s “Vespa of the sea”


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outboard moscone piaggioDesign is one of Italy’s strengths, Made in Italy is an internationally recognized “brand.” Among the companies that have most contributed to the recognition of Italian style is undoubtedly Piaggio, with its iconic Vespa. Perhaps not everyone knows that soon after the Vespa, another great icon, a small revolution in the nautical sphere, saw the light of day in Piaggio: the
Vespa of the seas
, the outboard Moscone. And it is not just a Piaggio outboard, but one of the first outboards to really conquer the Italian market. It was back in 1949…

Outboard Moscone Piaggio, the Vespa of the Seas

The Vespa, the Ciao, and even the highly efficient Porter. All icons of Piaggio’s house but, we “sea lovers” also like to remember him, the legendary Moscone, among the first mass-produced outboards in the Belpaese. The Vespa of the Seas (this is how it was advertised) was the revolution for so many, small fishermen first and foremost, who found a friend ready to ease their labors. But let’s take a closer look at the epic story of the Moscone.

The Moscone outboard engine on display at the Piaggio Museum in Pontedera, Pisa, dates back to 1957.

Piaggio Moscone – The Story

Outboard motors have actually existed for almost a hundred years. Indeed, with the 1930s they began to gain great fortune, but their intended use was purely for speed. These were engines, 250, 500 and 1000 cc, developed and used for pure competition, in the era of big water racing. They still have nothing to do with the wide use we know today. In short, they were engines for their own sake, pure power to be delivered for a unique sprint, and Piaggio’s foresight is right at this juncture.

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After World War II
Enrico Piaggio
realized the absence of the outboard in the field of practical use. That is, he realizes the great potential that could be gained by adapting it from the racing world to the everyday world, both for the recreational and for the field workers. Linked to maritime affairs by family (he comes from a Genoese family), Piaggio decided that he would be the one to introduce this small revolution, understanding, perhaps first, its great and potential contribution. After all, it is the same concept applied in the making of the Vespa: utility, practicality and economy.

With the end of 1947 then, there is turmoil in Piaggio. Corradino d’Ascanio, Goffredo De Betta, and the entire staff are working and reasoning on the development of this engine, especially related to the rotary pump dedicated to cooling, which they have decided must be water-powered. In 1948 the actual project took shape, to be christened in May 1949, at Milan’s Idroscalo, immediately following its presentation the previous month at the Fiera Campionaria. The Vespa del Mare is an immediate success.

At Piaggio, however, they did not limit themselves to just the Moscone, but in fact designed a special boat (they invented the “package”!), to be sold in pairs with the outboard, so as not to limit production to the single outboard need. It is a “dinghy”-type hull model built in the Finale Ligure shipyards in the Savona area (run by Enrico’s brother Armando).

The pair comes to cost 218,000 liras, while the single engine stops at 98,000. An inevitable success: 405 units built in the first 9 months, more than 1,000 per year in the decade to follow, capturing an important slice of the market, both in the tourist and professional sectors.

Piaggio Moscone – Data Sheet:

Piaggio Moscone 2 overlapping horizontal cylinders
Distribution controlled by the drive shaft
Bore 40 mm
Running 39.6 mm
Displacement 99. cc.




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