Benbros TV Series & Mighty Midgets
No.15 Vespa Scooter
Benbros TV Series No.15 Vespa Scooter was a clever choice. Anyone who visited Italy during the 1950's & 60's would have noticed the number of scooters in every town and their popularity spread steadily across Europe and to the UK. Benbros anticipated this with their model of the Vespa which was added to the TV Series/Mighty Midgets in 1956.
There were three casting variations of the Vespa scooter and two of the separate rider. The changes were made in an attempt to enable the heavy metal rider to sit securely on the scooter and at the same time make the model stand up!
The first casting of the scooter had wide handlebars, replica springs on the front wheel supports, a round hole in the base for the rider's 'peg', and a narrow stand underneath so that it stayed upright (which only just worked!). The wheels were metal on flat-head and crimped axles and painted with the body. Underneath was cast 'Made in England' and inside the rear mudguard 'Benbros' was added. The model was 53mm long.
The first issues were coloured pale-green or rich-yellow and appeared in TV boxes with large numbers on the picture faces (TV3). The riders were the type 1 casting (with a round 'peg' on the left foot) and were painted bright red (including the helmet) with black boots and gloves, a green scarf and a pale-tan face.
Soon after the Vespa appeared, Benbros switched the packaging from TV boxes to Mighty Midgets and the scooter received new colours. These were in metallic paint and the first new colour was a gold-ish metallic brown. Other colours followed, next a metallic green and finally metallic blue. All these had painted metal wheels with nail-head & crimped axles painted with the model.
The colours of the type 1 rider also changed. The black boots and gloves were dropped and the red paint became darker but the green scarf and tan (or dark-pink) face trim were kept.
As already mentioned, keeping the rider in place was difficult so Benbros eventually decided to improve both scooter and rider. The rider was re-cast with an L-shaped peg on the left foot and the scooter was changed to provide a larger hole for the peg to fit into. Also on this second scooter, the handlebars were shortened and the front 'springs' on the wheel supports were removed. It continued to have painted metal wheels but the axles were switched to round-head & crimped and were painted with the model. It was issued in metallic blue.
The type 2 rider was given two variations, both red but with different trim. The first kept the characteristic green scarf and had a pink or pale-tan face, though this was sometimes missed. The second variation had no green scarf but wore black goggles on a pale-pink face.
The third change to the Vespa scooter saw a switch to plastic wheels with black treaded tyres, plus a casting improvement to the support stand underneath, and the addition of a small strengthener to the front wheel braces. The colours chosen were metallic green and metallic blue, both with either red or blue plastic wheels. On these last issues, a small rubber ring was fitted to the stand because the plastic wheels and tyres were a little larger than the metal ones and added to the problem of how to make the model stand up.
Apart from the first issues in the TV3 box, all the Vespas were sold in Mighty Midget boxes. The last castings in metallic blue and green with the rider wearing goggles were also marketed in plain brown or off-white trade boxes with 'Vespa Scooter' normally stamped on each face.
With its several variations, the Vespa is an interesting model to collect. The pale-green and yellow scooters and the TV box, as well as the first variation of the rider (which often suffers from metal fatigue), are all rare. Of the other models, the brown metallic variation with metal wheels and the late models with blue plastic wheels are scarce.
Variation 1 : pale-green scooter (type 1), rider (A), TV3 box
Benbros No.15 Vespa Scooter
Rider Casting & Colour Variations
(A) RED Type 1 (round 'peg') BLACK boots/gloves GREEN scarf NO goggles TAN face
(B) RED Type 1 (round 'peg') RED boots/gloves GREEN scarf NO goggles TAN face
(C) RED Type 2 (L-shaped 'peg') RED boots/gloves GREEN scarf NO goggles TAN or none
(D) RED Type 2 (L-shaped 'peg') RED boots/gloves NO scarf BLACK goggles TAN face
Scooter Castings, Colours & Rider Combination Variations
(1) PALE GREEN type 1 scooter Pale-green pmw rider (A) TV3 box
(2) YELLOW type 1 scooter Yellow pmw rider (A) TV3 box
(3) METALLIC BROWN type 1 scooter Metallic brown pmw rider (A) or (B) MM box
(4) METALLIC GREEN type 1 scooter Metallic green pmw rider (A) or (B) MM box
(5) METALLIC BLUE type 1 scooter Metallic blue pmw rider (B) MM box
(6) METALLIC BLUE type 2 scooter Metallic blue pmw rider (C) MM box
(7) METALLIC GREEN type 3 scooter RED pw/black tyres rider (D) MM/Trade box
(8) METALLIC GREEN type 3 scooter BLUE pw/black tyres rider (D) MM/Trade box
(9) PALE MET. BLUE type 3 scooter RED pw/black tyres rider (D) MM/Trade box
(10) PALE MET. BLUE type 3 scooter BLUE pw/black tyres rider (D) MM/Trade box
Estimated Price Guide
(MINT models in MINT boxes)
(1) (2) £60-80
(3) (4) (5) (6) £40-60
(7) (8) (9) (10) £30-50
Variation 2: yellow scooter (type 1), rider (A), TV3 box
Type 1 Riders : variations A (left) & B (right)
Type 2 Riders : variations C (left) & D (right)
Variation 3 : metallic-brown scooter (type 1), rider (A)
Variation 4 : metallic-green scooter (type 1), rider (A)
Variation 5: metallic-blue scooter (type 1), rider (B)
Variation 6 : metallic-blue scooter (type 2), rider (C)
Metallic-blue scooters - type 1 casting (bottom), type 2 casting (top)
Variation 7 : metallic-green scooter (type 3), red pw, rider (D) Trade box
Variation 8: metallic-green scooter (type 3), blue pw, rider (D)
Variation 10 : metallic-blue scooter (type 3), blue pw, rider (D)
Variation 9 : metallic-blue scooter (type 3), red pw, rider (D) Trade box
Three scooter castings, type 1 (left), type 2 (centre) and type 3 (right)
Scooter colour variations