Piaggio was established in September 1882 in Sestri Ponete, Genoa (Italy) by Enrico Piaggio as a timber stockyard with his son Rinaldo. In 1884 Rinaldo left to set up his own business the SocietÓ Piaggio in which he intended to develop an activity in ship outfitting, this however changed in the early 1900's when Rinaldo went into railway coach construction. Around 1916, Piaggio found an interest in aeronautics and built aircraft engines, this however was abandoned after the war and interest turned to personal transport to satisfy a demand for private vehicles. The result was a prototype scooter that was nicknamed "Paperino" (Donald Duck), but Enrico was not happy with it and handed the project over to Corradino D'Ascanio for a complete overhaul. As a result in 1946 the first Vespa appeared! Following the Vespa, 1948 saw the introduction of a new 3-wheeled vehicle; the Ape (pronounced "ah-pay") and this vehicle helped commercial activities pick up in Italy after suffering from the war. The Ape continued to be made in basically the same form from that date on next to Piaggio's range of two-wheeled scooters.
The Ape range is built around a semi-monocoque frame that uses a single load-bearing chassis in sheet-steel and a steel body that houses either one ( in some older models ) or two seats. The body comes in number of styles including Van, Pick up and Rickshaw.
The engine in the Ape is mounted at the rear of the vehicle and comes in numerous forms throughout the World. In general the Ape uses either a 395 cc diesel engine (8bhp) whilst in parts of Europe the Ape is powered by a 422 cc diesel engine. In the UK in the early 2000’s the Reliant Motor Company sold the Ape 50 that used a 50cc catalysed engine with four speed transmission. The Ape 50 also comes in different body forms and also features a number of additional specifications that include, Ice Cream Vending Equipment, Urban Refuse Collection Vehicle, Insulated Van, Plumbers/Electricians Equipment and Fish Counter Equipment. The Piaggio Ape is also built in Pune (India) by Bajaj Auto under license from Piaggio with a 150cc engine.
Whilst on a recent holiday to Italy I was amazed at the amount of Piaggio 3-wheelers that are on the roads. I saw them crossing fields full of plants, cleaning streets, carrying timber, transporting motorbikes and all sorts. It was great to see. There also seemed to be a few charging around whilst I was in Mallorca to.