Echoes of Italy-style transport

RETRO Italian style has zoomed into the Hunter Street Mall in the form of new specialist scooter store, Sol Invictus.

As a child, business owner Derek Benton remembers his Italian ‘‘nonno’’, or grandfather, carving wood and painting it to make little cars. But his decision to open his business related more to random life encounters than his heritage, he says.

‘‘I was travelling in Florence and saw about 50 new Fiat Bambinos in a whole range of colours – that really appealed to me,’’ he said.

He had also swooned over vintage Royal Enfield motorbikes in Nepal.

Mr Benton’s WASP brand scooters are manufactured in China, have standard 150cc engines that can be serviced by most mechanics, cost about $10 to fill the fuel tank for up to 200kilometres of use, and are priced from $2999.

He says they are a cheaper alternative to Italian scooter giant Piaggio’s models – though die-hard Italophiles may frown upon any such comparison.

‘‘[My store] is a tribute to the Italian ’60s lifestyle and I think Newcastle suits that because of its cafe culture, its long stretch of beaches and all the residents who access them,’’ Mr Benton said.

Demand had been overwhelming so far, particularly from students seeking a cheap runabout and baby boomers.

‘‘Where families once had two cars it’s more like one car and a bike or scooter to get around  now,’’ he said. 

The name Sol Invictus refers to the Roman sun god –  it loosely translates as unconquered or victorious sun. 

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