by Stephen “Hell Cat” Heller
In honor of the 100th MMM issue, I thought I would write about 100cc scooters. Pretty clever, right? The 100 cubic centimeter engine capacity is a displacement trapped in limbo. In states with a moped law, 100cc is too large to be considered a moped. And it is pretty small for someone riding with a motorcycle endorsement. So scooters with this engine size have met with more failure than success.
In 1978, Vespa released the aptly-named Vespa 100 and the 100 Sport, which was only for the United States market. Both models used the engine from the Vespa 90 with a larger bore. Adding “Sport” to US-market scooters is a bit of a misnomer because there wasn’t anything more “sporty” about the 100 Sport besides its chrome headlight ring. All of the parts that differentiate the 100 Sport from the regular Vespa 100 sold in the rest of the world were to make the scooter US DOT compliant. This included an ignition switch on the headset, blinkers and 12-volt ignition. These additions to the electrical system are more of a problem than benefit and have put the 100 Sport, along with the early 70’s Vespa Super with similar electrical “upgrades,” into the category of scooters to avoid.
Lambretta had even less luck with their 100cc scooter than Vespa. The Cento, Italian for 100, was a completely new design. It took a page from Vespa by ditching their tubular frame for a monocoque chassis. The Cento, or Baby as it was called in some markets, was met with indifference when it was introduced in 1964 and was also wrought with problems. The biggest being the poorly-designed frame that tended to break in half! Around 17,000 of the 3-speed 2-strokes were produced before it was redesigned 2 years later into a 125. Although much-improved structurally, sales remained flat, and it was discontinued in 1969.
That isn’t to say that 100cc scooters haven’t been successful. They have; just not in the US. A larger version of the venerable Honda Cub was introduced in the 80s for the Asian market, and is still very popular today. The Wave, another 100cc scooter by Honda, which was supposed to take over for the larger Honda Cub but now is sold along side it, can be found on any corner in any Asian metropolis. Besides the Honda scooters, there are a number of manufacturers making 100cc scooters in 2-stroke and 4-stroke variations. The Taiwanese manufacturer, SYM, makes the Mio in 100cc, but we only get the 50cc version here. Peugeot makes a few sporty 100cc models, but unfortunately Peugeot doesn’t sell any scooters in the US. The lone 100cc scooter sold in the US is the Delfino 2-stroke by Daelim, a South Korean manufacturer.
A 100cc scooter may not be a success here, but 100 issues is a great accomplishment. Congrats! I look forward to 100 more.