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Ever fancied a scooter that will impress wherever it goes? Meet the Italjet Dragster Malossi edition.

It only takes a quick look at Italjet’s 65-year history to understand why someone believed they needed to take designs and componentry usually reserved for high-end exotica and apply it to an outrageously styled 181cc scooter. 

That someone is Massimo Tartarini, the son of Leopoldo Tartarini. After much success as a factory Ducati racer and development engineer, Leopoldo launched the Italjet brand to produce a raft of models that were more often than not defined by innovative technology and quirky designs.  

With more than 150 different motorcycle and scooters to its name, Italjet’s most successful was the original Dragster platform, which appeared 1995 in 50cc, 125cc and 180cc two-stroke variants. 

Oh-so 90s, the original Dragster was loud, flashy and over the top. As well as its quirky styling and exposed steel-trellis frame, it featured hub-centre steering via a single-sided front swingarm. It was an unlikely sales success with more than 70,000 Italjet Dragsters finding homes around the world. However  the brand went into liquidation in 2003.

Unsurprisingly then, a modern-day Dragster was the first job on the to-do list when Massimo purchased the rights and relaunched the historic Italian brand a decade and a half later.

He swapped the two-stroke powerplant for a 181cc single-cylinder four-stroke, four-valve engine which, in standard form, is good for almost 13kW (17.4hp) at 8250rpm and 15.5Nm at 6250rpm. 

There are Brembo brake calipers and adjustable suspension. The trellis chassis is made from large-diameter 24-28mm chrome-moly tubular steel – the same, according to Massimo, as used on V-twin Ducati Panigale superbikes. 

But the most striking design feature is the Dragster’s single-sided front swingarm with hub-centre steering. And it’s the most consequential, too. Because even though it makes the scooter feel much heavier than its claimed 112kg dry weight when moving it around the garage – and it makes for a dismal turning circle – the extra weight of the forged aluminium front swingarm sitting merely inches off the ground makes it the most stable small-capacity scooter I’ve ever ridden. Helped, no doubt, by the 9L fuel tank mounted between the rider’s feet, slow-speed manoeuvrability is second to none.

Go on, admit it. You just want to jump on it and thrash around the block

You gain the other advantages that come with separating your steering and braking functions, too, like zero dive under hard braking and zero upset of your line if you wish to apply or release the front brake mid-turn – not that that’s the sort of thing you’d do on a regular 181cc scooter. But, just as Leopoldo would have had it, this is far from your regular 181cc scooter.

The fluorescent Malossi Edition on test was made all the more irregular by the addition of $5k worth of performance parts available through the Malossi catalogue. The bright livery makes up one of four versions of the Dragster currently available (see sidebar) and a tribute to the long partnership between Italjet and the Italian performance parts specialist Malossi. Using Italjet scooters, the Malossi Racing Academy has nurtured and launched many an Italian rider’s racing career through the five-round one-make race series, where the focus is on racecraft and consistency rather than straight-out speed and performance.

The extra $5k asking price of our testbike buys you an impressive list of parts (see sidebar) starting with the Malossi MHR Race Exhaust which, even when wearing earplugs, is bordering on offensive, and which many people will love. Then there’s the Malossi transmission kit, consisting of a new clutch and variator, as well as torque converter, all aimed at making the best use of the torque and increasing acceleration. I found, possibly put off by the raucous bark emitting from the exhaust, that it takes quite a lot of revs to get the Dragster off the line, but once moving it accelerates super fast, no doubt a product of the CVT transmission upgrade.

There’s more power and torque being transmitted to the 13-inch rear wheel, too, thanks to a cylinder kit which gives the Malossi edition a 24cc-larger barrel for a capacity of 205cc. There’s also an oxygen controller, a flash-looking pod air-filter kit and, last but not least, an onboard tuning module which lets you trim and tune the fueling and set modes which you can switch between depending on whether you’re racing your mates or rolling down to the corner shop. There’s probably enough room under the seat for a carton of milk too; just be careful not to disconnect any of the wires running to the Force Master 2.1 tuning module. 

This box of electronic trickery unleashes a few more horses

Speaking of room and seat, the ergonomics are by no means cramped, but both the well-padded seat and the small area dedicated to foot boards on the fluro plastic bodywork means there’s very little room to move around. With a 1335mm wheelbase, it’s a relatively compact scooter, which makes its unrivalled stability all the more impressive. 

There’s little in the way of things to look at when seated on the bike. The dash consists of a small 5cm-long LCD screen set below the barest minimum of warning lights. Likewise, the switchgear consists of high beam, indicators and a horn on the left, and a starter button and kill switch on the right. The front LED indicators are mounted in the MotoGP-esque lever guards bolted to the end of the grips, which is a neat touch. The handlebar itself is diecast aluminium through which you get none of the vibrations or nervousness associated when ’bars
are bolted to a small-diameter telescopic fork, as is the case with most small-capacity scoots. 

Turn the key, which is a foldable type to ensure it doesn’t protrude into the rider’s knee, thumb the starter and ready yourself for a boisterous single-cylinder bark. It gets abruptly and significantly louder as both the revs and speed increase, but reduces to a mild drone when you settle on your chosen speed. It’ll sit on 100km/h, no worries, and will accelerate quickly to and past an indicated 130km/h easily enough as well.       

The Malossi exhaust is loud, REALLY LOUD!

If you can handle the noise, it really is a hoot to ride. Mind you, if you’re the type of rider willing to shell out $17k for a fluorescent quirky-styled scooter, you probably won’t mind the attention that comes with a deafening exhaust. And between its colour, its sound and its design people really do stare as you boom on past, too. 

The braking performance probably doesn’t match the Malossi-spec upgrade, but it’s far from being under-braked. It just takes a decent squeeze on the single twin-piston Brembo front and single-piston Brembo rear calipers to pull the scooter up with any kind of urgency. The wave discs   – 240mm front and 175mm rear – and braided lines are nice touches. Try as I might, I could not get either ends to lock up on loose gravel, so the ABS is doing its job.

The suspension is two monoshocks at each end; the front adjustable for compression on the fly, thanks to its location between your feet, while the rear is adjustable for preload only. The rear is quite firm, which suits its sporty nature, while the softer front end does a beaut job of soaking up the bumps with the hub-centre system lessening any negatives associated with a less-stiff front end. 

Suspension works well but it’s the separation of steering and braking that makes the Dragster so special to ride hard

There is a small pillion pad, grab rails and fold-out pillion ’pegs, which make the niche scooter slightly more practical, but I suspect it’s going to be in times of need rather than want that Malossi Edition riders will throw a passenger on behind them. In saying that, it does provide options to strap an overnight bag or a few groceries if the need and or want arises. 

The Italjet Dragster Malossi Edition is a scooter for showboaters. It’s loud, raucous, fast and fluorescent. Leopoldo Tartarini died in 2015 at the age of 82, never getting the chance to see his son’s modern interpretation of his eccentric and successful 1990s creation. But I have no doubt he would have approved wholeheartedly.  

PROS: Raucous, racy and a whole lot of fun. The front end is the jewel in the Dragster’s crown.

CONS: It sits at the pricey end of the scooter spectrum, there’s no sidestand and dealers are limited.



The list of go-fast bits fitted to our testbike
• Malossi MHR Race Exhaust $1499
• Malossi Transmission Kit $555
• Malossi Torque Converter $449
• Malossi 205cc Cylinder Kit $1290
• Malossi O2 controller $239
• Malossi Force Master 2.1 $865
• Malossi Pod Air Filter Kit $125
• Labour (1.5 days) $1700
TOTAL: $6722


Italjet Dragster



$9990 (ride away)

Italjet Dragster Tricolor

$10,490 (ride away)

Italjet Dragster Malossi Edition

$10,490 (ride away)

Italjet Dragster First Edition replica



Capacity 181cc
Type Single cylinder, DOHC, four stroke, four valves
Bore & stroke 63mm x 58mm
Compression ratio Not given
Cooling Liquid
Fueling Magnetti Marelli EFI
Transmission CVT
Clutch Wet, centrifugal multi-plate
Final drive Belt

Power 12.9kW (17.4hp)  @ 8250rpm (claimed)
Torque 15.5Nm @ 6250rpm (claimed)
Top speed 145km/h (est)
Fuel consumption 3.9L/100km (measured)

Type Not applicable
Rider aids ABS
Rider modes Not applicable

Frame material Tubular steel
Frame type Trellis
Rake Not given
Trail Not given
Wheelbase 1335mm

Type Bitubo
Front:  ISS single-side swingarm, with hydropneumatic centre-mounted adjustable compression
Rear: Monoshock, adjustable preload, travel unknown

Wheels Cast aluminium
Front: 12 x 3.5 Rear: 13 x 4.0
Tyres Michelin City Grip
Front: 120/70-12 Rear: 130/60-13
Brakes Brembo
Front: Single 240mm disc, twin-piston caliper
Rear: Single 175mm disc, single-piston caliper

Weight 112kg (dry, claimed)
Seat height 770mm
Width 680mm
Height Not given
Length 1870mm
Ground clearance Not given
Fuel capacity 9L

Servicing First: 1000km
Minor: 12,000km
Major: 24,000km
Warranty Two years, unlimited kilometres

Price $10,490 (ride away)
Colour options Malossi Edition