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The Duck Before The Wasp: Maisto 1945 Piaggio MP5 Paperino

At the end of World War II, much of Europe needed to mobilize and get back on their feet. In Italy, Enrico Piaggio, whose helicopter factory was closed by the Allied Forces, was driven to start up production at his factory in Biella by offering a low-cost vehicle to the widest possible market. With this idea in mind, Piaggio rallied his designers, engineers and workers to produce a motor-scooter.

Designed by the engineer Renzo Spolti, the prototype motor-scooter was coded “MP5” for Moto Piaggio 5 and featured a fully-enclosed steel body that housed a 98 cubic-centimeter two-stroke single-cylinder motor with a 50-millimeter bore and 50-millimeter stroke. Mated to a continuous speed “Variator” gearbox, power is transmitted to the rear wheel via chain or cardan that propelled the motor-scooter to a top speed of 60 kilometers per hour.

The suspension of MP5 was rudimentary at best, with two tubular holders compressing a spring while drum brakes, which featured leading or forward braking only, were used at the front and rear wheels, which were wrapped in 4-inch-wide 10-inch tires. When production started, the assembly line workers christened it as “Paperino”, which is Italian for “Donald Duck”, and the name soon stuck. But Enrico Piaggio didn’t like the MP5, much less the Paperino nickname, and immediately sought another design, which eventually became the Vespa, which is Italian for “wasp“.

Piaggio produced about a hundred MP5 Paperinos before the factory retooled to produce the new Vespa scooters.  Among these hundred examples, only a few were able to survive and exist today and, like vintage wines, these full-bodied motor-scooters are highly prized by collectors the world over.

Fortunately, Maisto produced 1:18 scale models of the 1945 Piaggio MP5 Paperino so that collectors, especially those who have more enthusiasm and passion than money, could finally have one, albeit in miniature. The details of the model scooter are close to the actual MP5, which is saying a lot since these motor-scooters are rare and hard to come by.

Let us pretend for a moment that the COVID-19 pandemic is over and that we just bought a vintage MP5. Pretend further that we’re unloading the motor-scooter from our 1953 Ford pickup truck, which is dusty after several months of being parked during the quarantine period. Once it’s on the ground, we would naturally take a lot of pictures of our rare Piaggio Paperino.

Pity though about the disdain in reference to Walt Disney character: Had Enrico Piaggio knew that Donald Duck would become an international icon along with Mickey Mouse and Disneyworld; the MP5 Paperino would have been as popular and as successful as the Vespa, or even maybe more, judging by its global appreciation among motorcycle and scooter collectors today.

To review this week’s previous stories about our die-cast scale model collection including the ERTL 1970 Chevy Camaro Z28 RS (April 13, Monday), ERTL American Muscle 1970 Chevy Nova SS (April 14, Tuesday), ERTL American Muscle 1969 Dodge Charger R/T General Lee from “The Dukes of Hazzard” (April 15, Wednesday), Minichamps 2006 Panasonic Toyota Racing Team TF106 (April 16, Thursday), Jada Toys 1984-87 Toyota Trueno AE86 from Initial D (April 17, Friday), and New-Ray 2003 BMW R1100S (April 18, Saturday), please click “The Rack” button on the header bar near the top right of your screen (if you’re using a PC, laptop or tablet, or type “The Rack” on the Search bar if you’re using a mobile phone. Thank you!