History and design

At the end of WWII, most Italians, badly affected by the war, lacked modes of transport, and more importantly, the financial means to acquire full-sized four-wheeled vehicles. In 1947 the inventor of the Vespa, aircraft designer Corradino D'Ascanio, came up with the idea of building a light three wheeled commercial vehicle to power Italy's economical reconstruction, an idea which found favour
with Enrico Piaggio, the son of the firm's founder, Rinaldo. The very first Ape model and the mark immediately following it were mechanically a Vespa with two wheels added to the rear, with a flat-bed structure on top of the rear axle. In the early
sale brochures and adverts the vehicle was referred to as the VespaCar or TriVespa and cost 170.000 liras. The first Apes featured 50cc, 125cc or 150cc and more recently 175cc engines. By the time of the 1964 Ape D a cab was added to protect the driver from the elements. The Ape has been in continuous production since its inception and has been produced in a variety of different body styles in Italy and India.

Controlled with scooter style handlebars, the original Ape was designed to sit one, but can accommodate a passenger (with a tight fit) in its cab. A door on each side is provided, making it quicker to get out of the vehicle when making deliveries to different sides of the road. Performance is suited to the job of light delivery, with good torque for hills but a low top speed, which is irrelevant in the urban settings for it was designed. Outside of towns Apes are customarily driven as close as possible to the curb to allow traffic to pass.


The vehicles comes in various configurations such as vans and pickups for load carrying and autorickshaw (Tuk-tuk) for human transportation. More recently Piaggio have made lifestyle models such as the Ape Cross Country and the Ape Web aimed at the young.

The Ape is also commonly used as a promotion tool. Advertising hoardings marketing companies are mounted in the load bay. The Ape's unusual looks can help draw attention to a brand or business. The Ape is a common sight in Italy where its compact size allows it to navigate narrow city streets and park virtually anywhere. It's also often seen at the roadside where the load area is used as an impromptu market stall by farmers. The Ape is produced in India by Piaggio India, and a similar vehicle is manufactured by Bajaj Auto. In India the Ape is most commonly found in the form of an autorickshaw or (tuk-tuk). Nowadays 2 model ranges are offered - The "Ape 50" with a 49.8cc Petrol Engine and the larger "Ape TM" which comes available with a 218cc Petrol engine or a 422cc Diesel engine.
The "Ape 50" can carry 170kg while the "TM" can carry 700kg.

A limited edition named the Calessino was made available this had retro styling
and came in an autorickshaw body. The bodywork was close to the Ape of the 1950s and 1960s and was designed to evoke memories of the era of dramatic economic growth in Italy known as La Dolce Vita.

Model history & descriptions

1947-1952 - Ape A: 125cc engine, wooden pick up bed, front fork mounted to
the left of the wheel hub and column mounted gear lever.
1952-1956 - Ape B: similar to the A model but with a 150cc engine, a pressed
steel cargo bed, front fork mounted to the right of the wheel hub and cable operated gearchange.
1956-1967 - Ape C: Still sporting a 150 cc engine but with a major redesign:
the first Ape with an enclosed cab, the engine uses a 5% oil mix and is sited under the driver's seat. It was still manually started, but electric start was optional.
1967-1974 - Ape D: 175cc engine. Featured a trapezoidal headlight fitted on the bulkhead rather than the mudguard and an intake valve that allowed the engine to run with a 2% oil mix. The first Ape with cab heater.
1965-1973 - Ape E: Identical to the D model but with a 150cc engine.
1968-1978 - Ape MP: MP stood for Motore Posteriore (Rear Engine), the engine was moved from the cab to the rear to improve comfort.
1970-1978 - Ape E/400R: 175cc engine and minor changes.
1979-1981 - Ape P: 175cc, with minor changes.
1981-1993 - Ape 500: 175cc, new bulkhead with two headlights.
1993-to now - Ape 50: 49,8 cc, redesign of the headlights incorporating side lights.
1993-to now - Ape TM: 218cc petrol and 412cc diesel variants. Maximum speed for the petrol version is 60 km/h, 63 km/h for the diesel version.
1994-to now - Ape Web, 49,8cc engine, redesigned headlights front and rear.
2000-to now - Ape Cross 50: sport-look restyling of preceding Ape Web.
2006-to now - Ape Classic, built in India with a Lombardini 422cc Diesel engine.