A Brief History of The Vespa APE

Ape: A success story “Italian style”

Over sixty years ago a vehicle was built to fit the demands of the era.  This vehicle became a success story, better yet an staple of Italy...yes, the same place where the Coliseum and the Vatican are. The success of this vehicle did not only come because of its charm, but also thanks to its unbeatable versatility. No other commercial vehicle in the world can tell a story like the Ape, a three-wheeled vehicle that has always kept in step with the times, putting the working force of Italy on the road.

By 1948 more and more Vespa scooters were taking to the roads of Italy and Europe. Vespa produced 19,822 a significant step forward with respect to the 2,464 scooters built in 1946, the year the Vespa was launched. The Italian economy was slowly getting back up to steam, and with it industry, commerce, and the artisan sector. Goods were carried on heavy trucks based on military models, costly commercial vehicles based on automobiles or heavy and slow three-wheeled delivery vans; while in town you can often see tricycles and pushcarts.

Thanks to the intuition of Enrico Piaggio and Corradino D’Ascanio, a gifted aeronautical designer, Vespa starts working on a product to meet the obvious requirements of daily life in Italy. As result Vespa launches the Ape in 1948. The Ape, a three-wheeled vehicle available at a reasonable price, with low fuel consumption was within the reach of even the smallest company in Italy and Europe. All the essential characteristics of the first Ape were based on a Vespa scooter, including a full front end and a 125cc engine.

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D’Ascanio:  "What we did was find a solution to a demand for compact transportation in the post-war period, introducing a three-wheeled light goods vehicle with a small displacement, and limited fuel consumption, at a modest price and it was easy to service and drive too, highly manoeuvrable in the busiest city traffic, and particularly suitable, fast and practical for delivering goods from shops."

Through the years the success of the Ape embraced evolution, in 1952 the Ape was engineered with more power, from 125cc to 150cc and also more loading capacity. From 1958 to 1968 the dimensions grew, more models and fittings, even an Ape with five wheels.

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One of the most remarkable changes happened  in 1958, the Ape rolled off the production lines bigger than its predecessors, a cab complete with doors, headlight mounted on the front of the cab instead of the mudguard, and a displacement of 170cc.  By now everyone associated the idea of light transport with this three-wheeler, but this year the Ape’s image had taken its rightful place in popular culture.

Today the Ape still a symbol of compact dimensions, unbeatable maneuverability, a very reasonable purchase price, low running costs with a great loading capacity, and as solid as its legend would have it. A vehicle that has remained faithful to its constructional philosophy, has adapted continuously to meet the requirements of professional mobility in the best possible way.

Over two million units have sold in Europe alone and the Ape is still very much one of the products of reference for the Piaggio Group. Every year more than 10,000 Ape vehicles roll out of the Pontedera factories to travel the roads of Europe, but Ape’s success goes beyond the boundaries of the Old World; it’s a success story of global proportions. In 1999 India also began production of the Ape. Over 140,000 Ape vehicles are produced every year for the Indian and Asian market.

Today the Ape is available in many variations and all of the new engines meet the strictest European regulations in terms of exhaust emissions. The use of the Ape is no longer limited to the world of heavy work. The Ape in fact is being used more and more often by numerous companies to advertise, in retail, tourism, and even coffee brewing...one might say in Cincinnati!

The rich history of the Ape represents a single bite into the Italian culture, transcending all barriers and borders. Its rightful place in history is set, but its evolutions for the years to come is yet to be seen.