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The Carchive: The Piaggio Ape 50

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It’s Friday Monday afternoon, and time for our weekly trip into the recent past. After the Daihatsu Hijet and last week’s Citroen C15 it became apparent that a theme had accidentally become established (again). So, to conclude our look at tiny commercial vehicles, lets look at the tiniest.

So put on your white canvas suit and explorer’s hat, grab your machete, net and a stock of bananas and we’ll go hunting in the Urban Jungle, see if we can catch us an Ape.

Images expand to life-size if you click them up.

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“Ape 50 – the economical, light freight delivery solution for many of today’s demanding business needs”

The Ape, named for the Italian word for Bee and not actually a primate reference at all, has been offered by the scooter specialists for almost seventy years. The example you’re looking is the Ape as it got ready to cross into the third millennia.

Over time there has been versions with bigger engines, but we’re concentrating on those models “powered” by the 49.8cc single cylinder motor, whose brochure gives no mention of specific power output which must presumably be deemed adequate, in Rolls-Royce speak.

 

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“Two pickup versions are available in the range, the Ape 50 Mix and the stylish Cross”

The “Cross” version commanded an extra £150 bringing the total pre-tax cost to £2,825. Your extra expenditure netted you a rear roll-over bar and nudge-bars up front; the former presumably being useless aside from as something to tie stuff to, but the latter probably being indespensible on a vehicle has its front wheel forward of its bumper.

You could, and still can, purchase it in capacious van format, too, which boasts a load capacity of 200kg. That’s certainly more than I could carry without a van, and that’s what the Ape set to achieve. It’s basically a motorised urban wheelbarrow.

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“Employing a Piaggio Professional is the best business move you’ll ever make”

And not a motorised wheelbarrow without novelty value. The majority of these that I see have on-board coffee percolation systems fitted. Thanks to their slimline 1.2-metre width they can penetrate those areas that lardier vehicles just can’t, and bring much needed caffeine relief to the office-bound.

What’s that you ask? You wonder if there’s a race championship for them?

Video from skoot2u on Youtube.

With Audi’s withdrawal from endurance racing, this ought to raise our spirits.

(All photographs are of original manufacturer publicity materials, photographed by me. Copyright remains property of Piaggio. Back around 2000 these were imported to the UK by Reliant Cars. Could only have been)