The Italian economy is slow to get back into motion, and with it industry, trade and craft activities. The transport of goods is entrusted to large trucks, clearly of military origin, to expensive commercial vehicles resembling automobiles or to heavy and slow moped bicycles; while in the city mainly three-wheeled vehicles with pedals and pushcarts are used. From the observation of daily reality and its needs arises the Ape, an intuition of Enrico Piaggio and Corradino D’Ascanio. «The“ Ape ”moto-van is destined for success – writes Motociclismo magazine – It is a very modern vehicle with limited costs and consumption, within the reach of the most modest company, but designed without false economy according to rational criteria, both in terms of functionality and construction ». The first Ape of 1948 inherits from the Vespa all the fundamental characteristics – even though it has a three-wheel structure – besides of course the front section and the 125 cc engine mounted on the Piaggio scooter in 1948, and originally a displacement of 98 cc.
D’Ascanio, the genius aeronautical engineer, inventor of both the Vespa and the Ape, said: “There was a gap in freight handling after the war that had to be filled. The market needed a small commercial vehicle with a small displacement, with limited consumption and moderate purchase prices and maintenance costs, easy to drive, maneuverable in busy city traffic, and especially suitable for and fast in the home delivery of goods bought in the stores » . The first to benefit directly from it are the small and medium-sized traders and the promotion of the company car is therefore aimed at them: «The Ape contributes to increasing the rhythm of trade and sales, expands, so to speak. the frequency of a store and creates a valued connection with the customer ». The result of this brilliant intuition is resounding. Swarms of Ape vehicles begin to traverse an Italy “in black and white” with the name – in pretty letters – of the company employed on the back.
After the first improvements with the B version, a new model emerges, the Ape C, the first Ape with a closed cab and door (initially intended as an option, becomes standard equipment after only a few years), a very small truck weighing up to 350 kilos can load. The arrival of this new Ape is announced with an appropriate promotional campaign, millions of leaflets in five different languages and significant promotional activities in the points of sale. It’s the Italy of the tree knocking at the door. But these are also the years that the Ape, in the passenger transport version derived from the Ape C called Ape Calesse, built up its timeless charm and linked its image to the photos of the Hollywood stars vacationing on the islands of the Mediterranean. , where they are often tracked down by paparazzi and captured in photos as they move around the resorts with an Ape. The Ape became the main character of the mundane life of legendary places such as Versilia, Capri, Ischia, Portofino.
The Ape D is born: even larger dimensions, cabin with doors, front headlight mounted on the protective cover of the cabin instead of the mudguard, a cylinder capacity of 170 cc. Everyone now associates light transport with this three-wheeled vehicle, which is absolutely brilliant in its content and user-friendliness. The image of the Ape has become established and Piaggio takes advantage of the new social and cultural trends and forges the slogan “Ape, the vehicle that helps you make money”. In 1961, the Ape took the “leap” and became five-wheeled with the Pentarò model, an original vehicle with a high payload (700 kg), following the example of the larger trucks with trailers.
The Ape MP makes its debut with a cab that offers the driver (and possible passenger) more space and a level of comfort comparable to that of automotive-style commercial vehicles. The cylinder capacity of the (two-stroke) engine increases to 190 cc, but especially the technical and design solutions that make the vehicle even more rational change.
The engine is mounted on a kind of “carriage” at the rear, the transmission is no longer with a chain but directly on the rear wheels with thru axles, rocker arms in sheet iron, rubber springs and hydraulic shock absorbers. In 1968 the Ape MPV model debuted with the steering wheel as an option, in addition to the scooter handlebar.
The “Apino” makes its appearance: a “commercial vehicle” with only 50 cc cylinder capacity
Just a year later, in 1969, a new important result: Piaggio presents the Ape 50, in turn an event because it is the first model of the Ape series to belong to the motorcycle category. The Ape 50 arises – as often in the history of Piaggio products – in response, in terms of light transport, to the success of the two-wheeled Vespa 50, launched in 1964 as a result of the new standards of the Italian road regulations, which Mandatory registration plate for vehicles with a larger cylinder capacity.
The real “revolution” breaks out with the launch of the Ape Car, a model that competes with light trucks and is characterized by a design that is extremely modern for its time. The Ape Car stands out for its new chassis with larger dimensions for the large, comfortable cabin. There is a steering wheel; the 220 cc two-stroke engine is mounted on a specific carriage at the rear. The Piaggio advertisement also emphasizes the “contiguity” of the new model with the commercial vehicles derived from the automobile.
For a new technical and design change we have to wait until 1982, the year of birth of the Ape TM: The vehicle is completely new, the design – work of Giorgetto Giugiaro – the dimensions of the cabin, the steering with steering wheel and the automotive dashboard are all elements that emphasize comfort and space. Also new are the suspension, independent on swing arms, with brake drums of light alloy, and the wheels of 12 inch. The Ape TM is still in production today and is one of the vehicles of the Ape series that has achieved the most success, thanks to its sturdiness and performance.
The first Ape with a diesel engine is created. The Ape Car will be equipped with a new engine, Diesel 422 cc, and a 5-speed gearbox. The engine is also revolutionary, being the smallest direct injection diesel engine in the world. Two years later, in 1986, the Ape set the payload record with the Max version, which can transport up to 900 kg of goods.
The first four-wheel Ape is produced, the Ape Poker, Piaggio’s first determined step in the commercial vehicle segment: the trail has been drawn and new specific products will soon follow.
Another “deviation” from the Ape, and this time to the world of youth: the Ape Cross is created, intended for the many young people who use the Apino as an alternative to the “two-wheelers”: it is equipped with a roll-bar, Behind the cab there is a comfortable and spacious luggage compartment, the young, bright colors are “not standard” like those of the Piaggio commercial vehicle range. It even features an electronic anti-theft device, a car radio with stereo and speakers.
The return of a legend: the Ape Calessino, produced in a limited number of units (999 numbered vehicles). It pays homage to the history of the vehicle and at the same time proposes passenger mobility in exclusive contexts. The Ape Calessino reinterprets the legendary design of the 60s (wooden inserts, chrome plating, elegant blue vintage upholstery) that recall the typical sun-drenchedness of the Mediterranean. The interest it aroused in all media was very significant.
Piaggio is launching, more as a technological exercise than a commercial tool, given its exclusive positioning, a special series of Ape Calessino, the Electric Lithium. It features an electric drive with latest-generation lithium batteries and is an absolutely clean, silent and multifunctional vehicle. It combines the characteristics of user-friendliness and maneuverability that have made the Ape Calessino so successful, with the possibility to reach those places that are usually closed to vehicles with a traditional combustion engine, such as areas of special nature and environmental value, city centers and zones. with limited traffic.
The Ape 50 special edition celebrates the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Italian republic, an original way to emphasize not only the product’s roots in national culture, but also the fidelity to our national colors and the presence of the Ape in the most important moments of our history, and the fact that we still move hearts, inspire work and stimulate pleasure.
Given the success of the first limited series, the Ape Calessino 200 is launched with the new 200 cc petrol engine, a more compact, nimble and fuel-efficient version of the previous series, aimed at a wider and more heterogeneous audience. With room for two passengers next to the driver, its new dimensions make it perfect for transporting people in old inner cities, on holiday places, for services within resorts and leisure structures, as well as as a tool for communication activities, brand promotion , advertising and special events. A year later, the Ape Calessino 200 HL is also launched, a version with prestigious finishes and details that make it stand out as the top of the range, intended for the most exclusive locations, uses and customers.
The proverbial versatility of the Ape is mainly expressed in its design as a mobile shop that is increasingly gaining ground. To support this process, the Ape Classic 400 is launched, a base model, but with a retro look. This goes well with its specific mission, which is often, but mainly in the street food application, interpreted as vintage, offering quality delicacies that are different from usual. Whether it’s Italian or local specialties, territorial or ethnic specialties, bistros or original and creative reinterpretations of classics such as burgers, pizza, baked goods or pasta, the Ape stirs the appetite in a way that is anything but banal.
2017 is an important year for the Ape: the range is renewed and the new Euro 4 versions of the Ape Classic and Ape Calessino are unveiled. A development that has not only led to an improvement in engine performance – now even more powerful and environmentally friendly – but also to a significant aesthetic restyling of the models. From the refurbished front of the Ape Calessino to the new dashboard design of the Ape Classic, both 2017 model year models use the latest electronic technology to ensure a smooth and comfortable ride for driver and passengers. A sign that for the Ape every change is not only a matter of style but also of functionality.
As of today, the Ape is 50 Euro 4 and pays even more attention to his working environment.
Thanks to the latest technological developments of the petrol engine with ecological injection, it carries out its mission in full compliance with strict emission limits.
The entire range is graced with aesthetic details for an even more modern look, while retaining the unmistakable lines of the timeless icon.
There is also room for more comfort and feel while driving; an element that strengthens its position in the category «small but great workers».
2019 was a year full of novelties: the Ape Classic Van was introduced and a new Ape Calessino with a fresh and attractive design was introduced. The new version of the Ape Classic has a closed cargo area with the shapes of the first Ape models and with its unique and elegant vintage style stands out from all ordinary small vans on the street. More than 70 years after the release of the original version, the Ape Calessino continues to amaze with its fresh and dynamic appearance, of which the rear has been updated. The color range has also been renewed: in addition to the well-known Artic White and Western Red, there is the new shade Neptune Blue, which is inspired by the color scheme of classic motor yachts.