When Italian manufacturer Italjet unveiled its rebooted Dragster at the 2018 EICMA motorcycle and scooter show in Milan, it brought a smile to the faces of many showgoer.
The Dragster may not have been the most well-known scooter of the 2000s, but it was almost certainly the maddest. First launched in 1998, the Dragster was notable for its trellis style spaceframe and a distinctive front end that swapped traditional telescopic forks for a hub centre steering set-up similar to that seen on the 1990s Bimota Tesi and Yamaha GTS1000. Add in some futuristic/weird (delete as applicable) styling and a selection of (mostly) lurid colours and the Dragster looked like nothing else before or since. There was even a ‘race replica’ featuring the colours of the then teenage racer Leon Haslam, who briefly raced for Italjet’s ill-fated 125cc Grand Prix team in the world championships.
Italjet made a moped version, powered by the obligatory 49cc two-stroke engine, but it was the bigger versions that really led to the Dragster’s cult following and are best remembered. There was a learner legal 125, but the bonkers 180 (with a 19.5bhp, 175cc two-stroke motor at its heart) was the hero of the range.
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With nearly 20bhp lurking at the right wrist, the Dragster 180LC was capable of more than 80mph, and was way lively at half of that. A combination of stiff suspension, tiny wheels (11” up front) and just 107kg to haul around meant that the Italjet was just a tad nervous on anything but billiard table smooth surfaces, but the brakes were strong and it was mega fun. Practicality was never a strong point though, with none of that underseat storage or top box nonsense that made other scooters such attractive commuters.
And if too much was never enough, many (most?) Dragsters found themselves modified and customised in their (usually) short lives. Malossi big bore kits, racy exhausts from Polini (although the standard one sounded a bit fruity in any case) and bigger carbs were all common modifications and added to the power, if not the life expectancy, of the liquid cooled motor.
Unlike its main rival, the highly tunable Gilera Runner, the Dragster only had a short lifespan. This was, on the whole, down to the troubled existence of the manufacturer as much as anything else. With no UK distributor, the Dragster went off sale over here in 2003 but the good news is that the new version, as seen in Milan, looks madder than ever. Word on the street is that it could be with us as soon as next month.
The styling cues that made the original so famous remain, with the trellis frame and odd front end dominating the look, but it’s even more minimal and stripped back. The detailing looks lovely, with high end components throughout, although the angry two-stroke engines of the past have been replaced by more sensible, clean running four-bangers.
Unfortunately for 16-year-olds, there’s no moped version, but there is a 125 version alongside the hot 200. With 20bhp and a wet weight of just 112kg, it promises once again to be one of the most exciting twist and go scooters on the market.