BK Micro Car Collection BK GROUP - Helsinki
Designed by Ateliers de construction de motocycles et d'automobiles

Vespa 400 - 1959

The Vespa 400 is a rear-engined microcar, produced by

ACMA (Ateliers de construction de motocycles et

d'automobiles) in Fourchambault, France, from 1957 to

1961 to the designs of the Italian Piaggio company. Two

different versions were sold, "Lusso" and "Turismo".

Celebrity launch

The   car   made   its   public   debut   on   26   September   1957   at   a   press   presentation   staged   in   Monaco. The ACMA   directors   ensured   a   good   attendance   from   members   of   the   press   by   also   inviting   three celebrity racing divers to the Vespa 400 launch.

The car

The   400   was   a   two   seater   with   room   behind   the   seats   to   accommodate   luggage   or   two   small children   on   an   optional   cushion.   The   front   seats   were   simple   tubular   metal   frames   with   cloth upholstery   on   elastic   "springs"   and   between   the   seats   were   the   handbrake,   starter   and   choke. The   gear   change   was   centrally   floor   mounted.   The   rear   hinged   doors   were   coated   on   the   inside with   only   a   thin   plastic   lining   attached   to   the   metal   door   panel   skin   allowing   valuable   extra internal   space.   On   the   early   cars   the   main   door   windows   did   not   open   which   attracted   criticism, but   increased   the   usable   width   for   the   driver   and   passenger.   Instrumentation   was   very   basic   with only    a    speedometer    and    warning    lights    for    low    fuel,    main    beam,    dynamo    charging    and indicators.   The   cabriolet   fabric   roof   could   be   rolled   back   from   the   windscreen   header   rail   to   the top   of   the   rear   engine   cover   leaving   conventional   metal   sides   above   the   doors.   The   12   volt battery   was   located   at   the   front   of   the   car,   behind   the   dummy   front   grill,   on   a   shelf   that   could be slid out. The spare wheel was stowed in a well under the passenger seat.


The   high   profile   launch   paid   off,   with   12,130   cars   produced   in   1958.   That   turned   out   to   be   the high   point,   however,   and   output   fell   to   8,717   in   1959   despite   a   price   reduction   for   the   entry level   2-seater   "normal"   coupé   from   345,000   francs   to   319,500   francs   between   October   1957   and October   1958.   Commentators   suggested   that   the   chic   image   created   at   the   time   of   the   launch was   not   always   matched   by   the   car   itself,   with   its   awkward   gear   change,   poor   sound-proofing and,   especially   before   a   modification   to   the   carburetor   specification,   high   fuel   consumption. The   car's   origins,   developed   by   a   leading   producer   of   motor   scooters,   was   reflected   in   the installation,   in   the   Vespa   400,   of   a   two   stroke   (motorbike   style)   engine   which   required   oil   to   be added   to   the   petrol/gasoline   whenever   the   car   was   refueled.   During   the   summer   of   1958   the cars   were   fitted   with   a   semi-automatic   device   for   adding   oil   to   the   fuel,   but   a   fully   automatic fuel mixing device was not included until two years later.

Road test

The   British   Motor   magazine   tested   a   400   de   luxe   saloon   in   1959   recording   a   top   speed   of   51.8 mph    (83.4    km/h)    and    acceleration    from    0-40    mph    (64    km/h)    in    23.0    seconds    and    a    fuel consumption   of   55.3   miles   per   imperial   gallon   (5.11   L/100   km;   46.0   mpg-US).   The   test   car   cost 351,725   "old"   French   Francs,   usefully   cheaper   than   the   374,000   "old"   French   Francs   domestic market   starting   price   quoted   towards   the   end   of   1958   for   the   cheapest   version   of   the   larger   but (even) less powerful Citroen 2CV.


Engine Two   cylinder,   two   stroke,   air   cooled.   Bore,   stroke:   63   mm   x   63   mm   (393   cc).   Motor   cyclists   at the   time   were   used   to   mixing   oil   into   their   fuel,   but   the   manufacturer   belatedly   realised   that this   might   compromise   the   400's   standing   as   a   "car",   and   from   the   summer   of   1958   "two   stroke oil"   was   held   in   separate   reservoir   with   a   semi-automatic   dispenser   on   the   right   side   of   the engine bay. Compression ratio 6.4:1 with 12 hp, later increased respectively to 6.6:1 and 14 hp. Suspension Four   wheel   independent.   Four   double   acting   hydraulic   shock   absorbers   with   coil   springs.   Front anti-roll bar. Manual transmission 3 speed plus reverse, with 2nd & 3rd synchromesh. 4 speed available in non-U.S. markets. Brakes Hydraulically operated drums of 6.75 in (171 mm) diameter. Performance With   only   18   hp   (13   kW),   top   speed   is   50   to   55   mph   (80   to   90   km/h),   depending   on   road   grade, wind   conditions,   etc.   Achieving   top   speed   takes   a   leisurely   25   seconds.   Fuel   economy   is   about 5L/100KM.


Engine 393 cc 2 cylinders Power 14 HP Top speed 90 km/h Lenght/width 2,85 m/1,27 m Weight 360 kg The collections Vespa 400 was bought from Italy.
Photos mainly by Matti Kreivilä. Historical facts and technical details of the vehicles provided by Wikipedia. Movies YouTube.