“Bazooka Vespa”: The scooter that can destroy the French paratrooper’s tank


From forceful fighter jets to tough-as-hell tanks, the world’s militaries often use monster machines to flex their might. But intimidation comes in all sizes. And if we’re going by the most perniciousness per pound, no tech tops the tiny military scooter French paratroopers briefly (and successfully) employed in the 1950s.

Seeking a modern version of a pack mule that could be dumped out of the back of a cargo aircraft behind enemy lines, France’s post-World War II military equipped its airborne armies with a light, simple, and nimble vehicle that could descend into battle under a parachute.

Vespa 150 TAP History: Paratroopers Used Bazooka Vespas in Combat

Paratroopers Used Bazooka Vespas in Combat

Absurdly, the Vespa 150 TAP (Troupes Aéroportées; airborne troops) was based on the updated version of the goofy and gutless civilian Italian motor scooter seen in the 1952 movie Roman Holiday. The French vehicle company Ateliers de Construction de Motocycles et Automobiles (ACMA) built the scooters near Dijon from 1956 to 1959, fashioning around 600 for French military forces.

This Vespa Was Designed to Take on Tanks

This Vespa Was Designed to Take on Tanks

The world’s fightingest motor scooter sported a beefed-up frame and lower gear ratios than the standard models. It bristled with equipment racks for lugging gear and wore a dull olive drab or sand-colored paint scheme in the place of flashy civilian colors like Metallizzato Grigio Azzurro. The bike was powered by a 145.5-cubic-centimeter, single-cylinder, two-stroke motor with a rotary valve design, which allowed a 2 percent oil mixture. Soldiers wryly said the 246-pound machine could attain speeds of about 40 miles per hour … eventually.

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R.I.V.A.R.S. Registro Italiano Veicoli Abitativi Ricreazionali Storici

The most striking feature of the mini war machine on 8-inch tires, however, was the American-made M20 75-millimeter recoilless rifle under the seat. Giving new meaning to the moniker “crotch rocket,” the burly M20 wasn’t exactly like the bazookas that preceded it. In fact, instead of firing a solid fuel-powered missile, the M20 belched out a 22-pound projectile moving at 1,000 feet per second with the help of a perforated artillery shell casing.

The “Bazooka Vespa”: The Scooter that Could Destroy Tanks | History Daily

Rear of Bazooka Vespa

The unique thing about the high-powered weapon is that it was so light. By venting propellant gases out the rear, the 75mm had almost no recoil and no need for a weighty breech block, which meant it could be carried by a soldier—or, in this case, even an Italian motor scooter. The gun could fire smoke, high-explosive, and HEAT anti-tank rounds that were advertised as capable of punching through nearly 4 inches of armor at 7,000 yards.


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