Think of classic Italian motors, and it’s most likely names like Ferrari or Maserati that spring to mind. But arguably just as iconic, and just as symbolic of the Italian way of life, is the humble Piaggio Ape – said Apay – an affordable light commercial vehicle that’s been rolling off the company’s production line for over 70 years. Ape in English means “Bee” and is in ever-increasing demand amongst the cool kids (well…adults) today looking to convert the scooter-based three wheeler into gin or prosecco dispensaries.
Our Fede (short for Federico) started out life as most Apes do: on a hilltop farm in a small Italian village between Rimini and Bologna the agricultural heart of the country. He was used to carry produce to the local food markets and navigate the narrow streets before arriving in the UK still strewn with hay in the cab and bed. Strangely he also had plastic water bottles lodged between the bed and the cab apparently to stop the shakes. Back in the home country they are still widely used for the same purposes today and when we visited in the summer there were everywhere. With doors both sides and a high-torque motor that makes climbing hills painless well almost, it’s also ideal for use as a delivery vehicle and if you’ve travelled to the Far East and whistled down Sukhumvit Soi 38 at what seems a breakneck speed then you have already been in an Ape.
Manufactured by Piaggio makers of the Vespa the Ape first rolled off the production line in 1948, two years after the first scooter. 71 years on, the same design is still in use albeit for a few little tweaks mainly to the motor. Our Fede is nearly 40 years old and doesn’t have any creature comforts like todays vehicles, let’s just say he’s warm in the winter and positively oven-like in the summer and we will leave it there.
Fede’s first breathe of Welsh air
A little brush up
Adding final touches
The makeover complete!
After Fede arrived in the UK he was whisked off to the painters, stripped back and hand-painted in Bianco Corfu, one of the vintage Fiat colours thats just off white. Taking him out for the first time around the block was nothing less than interesting and within seconds we managed to do a wheelie without intending too. The sheer power it has to take off in first gear with just a few revs amazed us, second gear for take off from now on. After mastering the basics, we took it around the block a few more times and tried our hand at reversing. We took took it in turns to navigate the roads, and wowed passers by as we scooted on by at some pace in third and occasionally fourth gear along the straights. The horn on it it as you would expect quintessentially Italian but strangely cute and it certainly gets you noticed particularly by the Welsh Italian’s who know the sound so well.
It really is an exceptional quirky vehicle that we have already fallen in love with, give me Fede over the Beemer any day. We can imagine it tottering down the road to take up position at a local venue or appearing at exquisite event to set-up and tell everyone about the agency apart from that its a real conversation starter.
You can see Fede on the road of south Wales over Christmas and the new year. Watch out the Ape is coming for you South Wales!