No, i didn't maked a mistake. The scooter in the pic above, although the appearances, is not a Vespa...but a Vyatka! The history of the industrial production in Soviet Union is full of examples copied from Western products: cameras, watches, weapons, and, obviously, also cars and motorcycles. Anyway, it's quite surprising to see a perfect Russian copy of the most famous scooter of the world! This is the incredible story of this brand (many pics are taken from the Italian magazine "Motociclismo").
The beginnings: the Russian Vespa!
The VPMZ of Vyatskie Polyany, in Siberia, was established in the 1940 for the production of weapons (first pic above). After the war, it was reconverted to the civilian production: mainly grammophones (!), but also cages for animals and scissors to shear the wool of the sheeps (!!!). In the 1956, because of the crisis of the grammophone market, the factory passed to a totally different production: the scooter! The National Institute for the motorcycle production (called SKEB: see also the page about the Vostok motorcycles) choosen the Vespa 150 as basis for the production in Vyatske Polyany: the "Russian Vespa" was called Vjatka "VP-150" (second, third and fourth pics above), and it was a perfect "clone" of the Italian model. There were few differences: the bigger size of the wheels (4.00x10") and the increased thickness of the coachwork's metal sheet, for a better adaptation to the terrible Russian conditions. Moreover, there was a vial incorporated in the fuel cap (the Russian fuel stations didn't have the oil/fuel mix), and the headlight was easily adjustable through a command on the handlebar (the Vespa didn't have this feature!). But the performances were lower (max speed 80 km/h), because of the higher weight, and the construction less refined, with quite rough weldings. Anyway, it was an enough solid vehicle, although less in comparison with the "true" Vespa. A point of curiosity: in Russia, because of the total isolation from the world, the people thought that the Vespa was copied from the Vyatka...the power of the propaganda!
However, the production of the "Russian Vespa" was relatively limited: 300.000 exemplars till the 1965, an high number, but less in comparison with other Soviet motorcycles. In that year, it was replaced by a totally different model: the Vyatka "V-150M" (four pics above), equipped with the same engine of the previous model (therefore copied from the Vespa), but adapted in central position, with a strange arrangement and with final chain drive. Also the frame was totally new, tubular (Lambretta-style) instead of monocoque, and the suspensions, with different layout, were equipped with two-shock absorbers, probably more efficient on the hard roads. This model was realized also to avoid the protest of Piaggio aginst the prevoius model, and because also in Russia some people lamented the typical unbalancing caused by the side engine.
The "V-150M" (in the first pic above, the prototype, with the turn-lights incorporated in the handlebar and not in the coachwork; in the second pic, another exemplar) was updated in teh 1973 with the electronic ignition (and called "Electron 3"). The production was stopped in the 1979, after a production of over 1.000.000 of units. In the third pic, an electric version: of the "V-150M", there are only part of the frame and of the coachwork, adapted to the different engine.
The motorcycle production of the VPMZ (that changed name in "Molot") was resumed only in the 1999, with a scooter 50 cc. , called Molot "Strish" (first, second and third pics above), and equipped with front disk brake. The engine was produced by the former-DDR brand Simson, air-cooled without fan, four-speed gearbox, final chain transmission, therefore strictly derived from the mopeds of the German brand. Now, after the closing of the German factory (failed in the 2002), the engine is produced directly by Molot (the Russians have bought the production lines). This engine (fourth pic) is provided also to other motorcycle factories.
Therefore, this brand, after the production of the Vespa's "clone", tried to produce an own vehicle, instead of copy the Italian scooter. Probably, even the Russians understood that a copy is not like the original...especially if the original is the most famous scooter in the world!
Pics taken from Motociclismo, , www.scootermaniac.org , www.molot.kirov.ru