Over the years on this site we have written about and photographed the three wheeler Ape which trundle around this area many, many times. They have featured in articles – how to drive an Ape, a design fault in most of the old apes, a special edition Ape
The Piaggio Ape (pronounced “ah-peh” – Italian for bee is a three-wheeled light commercial vehicle first produced in 1948 by Piaggio.
At the end of World War II, most Italians, badly affected by the war, lacked means 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. The early sales brochures and adverts referred to the vehicle as the VespaCar or TriVespa; it cost 170,000 lire. 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.
Controlled with scooter style handlebars, the original Ape was designed to seat one, but can accommodate a passenger (with a tight fit) in its cab. A door is provided on each side, 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 Ape’s are a constant presence in this area, with their unmistakable sound, once heard, never forgotten. This weekend another sound was added to that background hum – this time, the sound of breaking glass as an ape was involved in a collision with a car in Barga Giardino, strewing the road with shattered glass and blocking traffic for a while until the arrival of the Carabinieri and Ambulance services.
Not really newsworthy in itself but less than 12 hours later, more glass spread across the tarmac as another Ape further down the road in Ponte in Campia collided with an oncoming car and came to an abrupt stop in the middle of the road.
It is very difficult to get exact figures for accidents on the roads involving Apes but talking to people in the piazzas and bars most when questioned suggested that the Ape can be a dangerous thing to drive and very unforgiving if involved in an accident – there is only a very thin sheet of metal between the driver and any incoming object for instance plus seatbelts seem to be an optional.
Back in April 2000 we published a short article on the helmet law that had just been passed – it can be seen here but wearing a helmet inside the Ape seemed like going a bit too far, does it not ?
Additional reporting by Matteo Casci