In 1934 aircraft and locomotive manufacturer Enrico Piaggio hired Corradino D’Ascanio, inventor of the helicopter, to design a helicopter for production. After several failed attempts and the outbreak of World War II this never happened. Instead Piaggio asked D’Ascanio to design a new two-wheeled vehicle that was simple, cheap, utilitarian, and unisex. This lead to the patent of the Vespa scooter in 1946, named for its similarities to a Wasp. By 1967 Vespa was selling well over 200,000 scooters per year.
On October 11, 1967 Vespa introduced its first moped, the Ciao, at Genoa’s Maritime Exhibition. Thanks to its small size and weight, the Ciao’s consumer base was composed almost entirely of sexy women, who helped comprise the hotest moped advertisement collection in the history of mopeds. Following the success of the Ciao, Vespa introduced the Boxer, Bravo, and Si.
In 1969 Piaggio purchased Italian motorcycle company Gilera. Eventually, Piaggio was manufacturing two lines of mopeds: Vespa and Gilera. The Gilera moped line included the Eco, CBA, and CBI. Starting in 1978 the CBA was slightly modified and was sold in North America as the Vespa Grande. Between 1976 and 1981 the Vespa and Gilera moped brands were Piaggio's biggest seller.