This is one of just two surviving examples of the Spanish Eibar factory-built Lambretta Li 150 Special scooters made for the New York Police Department back in the 1970s. It benefits from a full restoration back to original condition, and it was ridden across the USA once the rebuild was completed.

Although we typically associate American police officers with large Harley-Davidsons like the Road King and the Electra Glide, there was a time when, in New York City at least, they rode around on European-made Lambretta Li 150 Special scooters.

NYPD Scooter Police Officer

Image DescriptionThis undated image from the NYPD Archives shows an officer using his scooter for cover during a presumed simulated confrontation with an armed assailant. I’m not entirely sure I’d use that part of the scooter for protection personally. Image courtesy of the NYPD Archives.

When you think about it, the humble scooter does make a lot more sense for inner city use than a hefty Electra Glide. It would allow officers simple gear-free operation, a far lighter curb weight, and the option to chase perps down narrow alleyways and between cars.

The NYPD first started using scooters in significant numbers in the 1960s, first they were American made Cushmans, but the orders soon switched over to Italian-made models. After all, the Italians led the world for decades at the art of scooter design and manufacturing.

In 1968 the NYPD ordered 274 Italian Innocenti Lambrettas, then due to the success of the program they expanded it, and ordered more in 1969. Interestingly, a lot of these early New York police scooters were painted white and green, apparently the green was chosen as an homage to the Irish ancestry of so many of the city’s police officers.

In 1971 it was decided to order yet more scooters, but the Italian factory was mired in political and economic chaos, so the order was placed with the Spanish factory of Eibar, who were making Lambrettas under license. These scooters were now ordered with white and blue livery, and they ordered 366 bringing the total number of Italian scooters across the 79 precincts to an even 1,000.

By the 1980s the remaining NYPD scooters that were still operable were sold off at surplus auctions, and due to their low value (at the time) and their propensity for rust, very few originals remain. In classic scooter circles many replicas have been made over the years, and the NYPD scooters remain a unique historic story immortalized in books like The Incredible Scooter Cops by Dave Fisher and in the true stories of men like NYPD officer Joseph Willins (“Scooter Joe”).

The 1971 Eibar-Lambretta Li 150 Special you see in this article is believed to be one of the two surviving Eibar-produced Lambretta Li 150 Special scooters made for the New York Police Department in the early 1970s at the Spanish factory.

NYPD Lambretta Scooter 1

Image DescriptionThe NYPD Lambrettas were fitted with large windshields, a spare wheel on the back with a small carry case, and a side-mounted truncheon in a holster.

Importantly, its frame and engine numbers match records from the factory ledger, this is critical as a number of replicas have been made over the years, and it can be hard to tell them apart without matching the original numbers. This scooter was later restored by 2nd Avenue Scooters of Phoenix, Arizona in 2017 and then ridden across the USA after its restoration.

It’s now due to roll across the auction block with RM Sotheby’s on the 12th of June with a price guide of £10,000 – £20,000 GBP, or approximately $12,500 – $25,000 USD. If you’d like to read more about it or register to bid you can visit the listing here.

NYPD Lambretta Scooter 5 NYPD Lambretta Scooter 4 NYPD Lambretta Scooter 3 NYPD Lambretta Scooter 2 NYPD Lambretta Scooter 8 NYPD Lambretta Scooter 7 NYPD Lambretta Scooter 6

Images: ©2024 Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

Published by Ben Branch -