Light Utility Vehicle: 1983 Piaggio Ape P501

Piaggio’s Ape (pronounced Ah-Peh; Italian for Bee) is a 3-wheeled, light commercial pickup that went into production in 1948. It was conceived to help with the rebuilding of Italy that took place after WWII. It has been in continuous production ever since, with changes in power over time and production has since moved to India. This ’83 Ape is the P501 model, which has a longer truck bed and an air-cooled, 187cc 2-stroke engine, capable of speeds of up to 40 mph (unloaded, that is). It’s said to be original, available in Miami, Florida and offered here on eBay where the seller has set a Buy It Now price of $10,900. You can also submit an offer. Thanks, Boot, for finding this little gem for us!

The Ape is an extension of Piaggio’s core product, the scooter. Over the years, it’s been offered in several body configurations to fulfill a range of utilitarian functions. Initially, the vehicle was marketed as the VespaCar or TriVespa before moving on to the Ape name. Mechanically and structurally, they’re simple vehicles using the front half of a Vespa scooter connected to a flat platform for carrying smaller loads. The P501 has enough umph to transport a half-ton of cargo, although not at any great speed. Ape’s are often seen in service as ice cream trucks, electrician and plumber work trucks, and light delivery vehicles. When you can find one, that is.

We’re told this Ape is original, but it has some restored qualities to it. The seller says it can be used for off-road as well as on-road use, but I would be suspect of that given the small tires. I’ve driven one of these and they are a hoot to drive with the 4-speed manual transmission that’s also shared with the Vespa scooter. In fact, the handlebars look to be from an Italian scoot of that era, another characteristic of the Ape. While it looks good, there are a few little dents and dings that can be found, but no signs of rust.

If you’re interested in seeing the little truck in motion, the seller has provided a short video for your review. And if the photos provided aren’t enough, there is another collection for your perusal. Having one of these in garage for jaunts around the neighborhood can be a lot of fun and more functional than a golf carts often used for the same purpose. The Ape will occupy about the same space as a Mini-Cooper.


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  1. Raymond

    A’pe…a’pe…get real…unless you are eating spaghetti in Rome, it’s a friggin ape, got plenty at the zoo…

    • david

      What does that even mean? Ape in Italian is scimmia. Bee in Italian is ape. Oh, the world if flat and you don’t believe in Italy!

      Like 7
      • Dave

        Google Moncacht-Ape and read his story. Like Forrest Gump, one day he started walking, and didn’t stop until he’d walked from the East Coast to the West.

        Like 1
    • BR

      Nobody loves Raymond.

      Like 8
  2. Allan W

    These things are great, and they are seldom found in this country, and never in this good condition. I always loved that Piaggio, maker of the Vespa (‘wasp’ in italian) called their work truck Ape (‘ah-pay’, which means ‘bee’). I can picture thousands of these bees at work busily rebuilding bombed out, WWII devastated Italy. I see many people lamenting the fact that there are no longer any small trucks available on the market by any manufacturer, domestic or foreign. This ape might be your chance to have a small truck with a TON of personality. As a bonus, you will automatically have an ‘in’ with Vespa scooter owners, and a more fun cult of two wheeled gearheads you will not find anywhere.

    Like 12
  3. BR

    Taylor-Dunn is the only domestic manufacturer that still builds vehicles like this as far as I know. There used to be the Cushman Truckster but they went to four wheels.
    And these are cute!

    Like 1
  4. chrlsful

    is this the one ton in SEAsia? May B a 10 ft bed?

    I’m w/BR & like the Cushman near the end when it went 4 wheel. Last big contract w/a western city (LA?) for a fleet of meter maid rigs…or Boulder as city cop-mo-biles (late ’80s?) or wuz in canada – BC’s mail system ?

  5. Derek

    These are brilliant things. They had to keep handlebar steering, not least because the gearchange is on the left bar.

    There’s a slightly larger 3-wheeler truck made by Moto Guzzi, for those more of a rocker persuasion…

    Like 1
  6. Johnmloghry Johnmloghry Member

    I really like this, but I fear it’s beyond my budget.
    God bless America

    Like 1
  7. MitchRoss Member

    It’s about 3 times the price of a new Bajaj one

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