Meet the Piaggio Ape, an Italian Automotive Icon You Never Knew Existed

A Vespa with a flatbed, basically

By Evan Bleier

 
Meet the Piaggio Ape, an Italian Automotive Icon You Never Knew Existed
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10 November 2017

In the aftermath of the destruction of World War II, Italy was a mess.

Launched in 1948, the Piaggio Ape was intended to help Italians clean things up, post-Mussolini and posthaste. 

By then, Italy already had the Vespa — iconic for its "step-through" design. But when it came to post-war recovery efforts, it wasn't enough. Enter the Piaggio Ape. 

Designed by Vespa engineer Corradino D’Asconio and immediately approved of by Enrico Piaggio, the lightweight Ape could be outfitted with one of 20 sturdy bodies, including the beechwood and masonite variation you see on the ‘53 Calessino model above and below. 

Italy (5 images)

Whereas Vespa was for the gentry, the Ape was built for the workaday man. The Ape had the same front end as its scooter relative but had a two-wheeled chassis in back instead of a rear wheel. The flatbed is key here — it helped individuals and small businesses easily transport goods and equipment they wouldn’t have otherwise been able to move.

Powered by a 125cc engine, the Ape was powerful yet affordable, costing 170,000 lire.

That, of course is no longer the case. The Piaggio Ape Calessino seen here is expected to fetch up to $80,000 when it hits the auction block next month on December 6th for RM Sotheby’s.

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