I suppose I should state first that a number of our American readers probably know about this scooter, as it was a model produced for sale in the USA.
For those not living on the other side of the pond, I’ll briefly explain. If you’ve ever heard of the Allstate Cushman or Allstate Vespa scooters, then you’re one step ahead. One of the biggest chains of department stores in America is called Sears and it began branding motor vehicles with American built Cushman scooters in the 1940s, to which it added the Allstate brand name. The store then added Allstate badged Piaggio-made Vespas from Italy to its catalogues in the 1950s. Puch scooters and motorbikes were also imported and sold in a similar way for a while.
Anyway, a one time rival of Sears was the Montgomery Ward chain of department stores. It sold various mopeds, scooters and motorcycles during the 1950s and 60s which were branded as Riverside. This list included French Motobecane mopeds, small capacity Benelli motorcycles from Italy, the Japanese Mitsubishi Silver Pigeon and also some Lambrettas from Innocenti in Italy.
Old literature suggests that there may have been a Series 2 Lambretta offered by Wards, alongside the aforementioned Silver Pigeon (which doesn’t seem to have any Japanese branding on it, no doubt due to the fact that the Second World War was still fresh in many American minds).
What we do know for sure is that Innocenti supplied Wards with a Series 3, because Scootopia in Weston-super-Mare currently has this very example in the showroom. Scootopia also has a stock of Italian made Safa batteries labelled as being for ‘Wards Riverside’ as well as a box of genuine Innocenti Riverside badges.
Not only does this suggest that the Riverside Lambrettas were a big deal for Innocenti, or at least it was hoped they would be, but along with the Innocenti factory drawings for the Riverside badge (date 10-12-62) that these scooters were specially made just for Wards. The badges themselves were fitted to the legshields and each side panel and have pins on the reverse, as any other Lambretta badge did, so the bodywork would have been drilled and the badges fitted at the factory.
Other unique details we’ve found are the ‘Made in Italy’ sticker under the toolbox door, and also the extra ‘running in’ sticker on the inner legshields, offering mixture information in pints and referring to ‘gasoline’.
The greeny-blue colour too is unique, and Dean at Scootopia tells me no reference has been found to this shade (possibly blue sky Iseo) in any old Innocenti parts books either, so hopefully someone at Montgomery Wards knew the paint code for any touch ups required!
The low mileage of this particular Lambretta, just 370, not only offers the chance to appreciate a ‘factory fresh’ 50-year-old Lambretta, but also makes a number of assumptions such as the paint being original. The few other Riverside Lambrettas that have surfaced in America also suggest this colour was standard for a Series 3 Li from Wards. Interestingly, this particular scooter has the headlight lens fitted at an obscure angle. Again with no sign of this being a replacement, the assumption is made that the quality control team at Innocenti had possibly more work than it could handle at times…
Lambretta v Lambretta
America is obviously a huge market and one that both Lambretta and Vespa struggled to conquer as they had with European countries. Innocenti obviously thought Wards would help with national coverage, with a few hundred stores in the chain, but it also imported and sold the same scooter directly itself, via the Innocenti Corporation office in New York.
The Riverside Lambretta is a 125cc Li Series 3, this particular version being a DeLuxe which means the pillion seat, spare wheel and even speedometer are extras over the standard version. The advert printed here is dateless and the prices are $415 and $369 respectively. Innocenti Corp’s leaflet from May 1962 lists the basic Li 125 at $373 with the speedo and seat as optional extras at $12.50 each.
The Riverside at Scootopia has a normal engine and chassis number, the prefix being 125 Li 3 as any Italian Lambretta Li would have. Early Riverside models have a VIN 066xxx up to 068xxx then later models are 070xxx up to 072xxx, this one falling within the early bracket. Apparently early models have their Riverside badges below the regular Lambretta ones, and late Riversides have them above.
If any readers can enlighten us further about the Riverside Lambretta story please do drop us a line at the usual address or email firstname.lastname@example.org and if you have an unusual scooter you would like to know more about and share with the rest of the scootering world, please feel free to drop us a line.
Thanks to Gene at Scooters Originali (USA) and Stuart at the Lambretta Museum in Weston-super-Mare and Scootopia for additional information.