Celebrating 70 years of Piaggio’s eponymous three-wheelers

Despite a dispute about the actual date of birth of the 50cc 'bees', people across Italy are already celebrating the anniversary of the iconic vehicle's birth.

Celebrating 70 years of Piaggio's eponymous three-wheelers
File Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

They can be seen buzzing down (often the middle) of many an Italian country lane but these days are just as likely to make an appearance, restored, in the fanciest thoroughfares of major cities. Piaggio's iconic 3-wheeler, the Apecar, celebrates 70 years since the first models were released onto the market in 1947. 

Enthusiasts disagree over the Ape's exact date of birth: prototypes were made available for sale in 1947 although the ape was only officially released in 1948. Diehard fans however have already started celebrating the vespa's cousins birth. The Italian Ape Club are due to meet in the northern city of Aosta for a series of celebrations next month. 

The classic lightweight model, the 'Apetta', has a 50CC engine and only 2.5 horsepower, yet it can carry weights of up to 205 kilograms. A staple of post-war Italian agriculture, more than 2.5 million 3-wheel, 4-wheel and even 5-wheel models have been sold in Europe alone. 

The original two models were sold for 170,000 lira. Some models however have become a rare find and a stamp of exclusivity: only a limited edition of 100 of the 2007 electric model 'Calessino' were produced, each starting at €22,000, according to La Repubblica.  

READ MORE: Trump declares war on the Vespa

A version of the Ape is also produced in India since 2006 and is known as the Apé. Cheaper clones of the classic Piaggio 3-wheeler have also been designed by other companies, such as Tata in India. 

Bee in the movies

The Ape has also starred in several high profile films since its inception, from classics such as Francesco Rosi's 1958 film The Challenge or The Passenger by Michelangelo Antonioni to – more recently – Cars 2, The Transporter and Grand Budapest Hotel. It also played a key role in the 1972 film The Italian Connection, said to be an inspiration behind Tarantino's Pulp Fiction

Nine-times World MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi famously drove a vamped-up version as a teenager, his father Graziano describing it as “the most dangerous vehicle he (Valentino) ever drove.” 

READ MORE: Valentino Rossi injured after motorbike accident 



Fiat promises no job cuts in return for state aid: report

Fiat Chrysler has agreed to the conditions laid down for a state-backed €6.3 billion euro loan, including a promise not to relocate or cut jobs, Italy's Sole 24 Ore daily said Sunday.

Fiat promises no job cuts in return for state aid: report
Robots manufactured by Comau are pictured on the assembly line of the Fiat 500 BEV Battery Electric Vehicle. Photo: AFP

The state auditor has approved the guarantee, but it still needs to be signed off on by the economy ministry, the paper said.

The request for state support on such a large loan has proved controversial, particularly with the company's corporate headquarters in Amsterdam.

FCA — which directly employs close to 55,000 people in Italy — has said the loan is essential to help the group's Italy operations and the whole industry to weather the crisis triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.

The company will commit to investing 5.2 billion euro in Italy on new and existing projects, and up to 1.2 billion euro on its 1,400 or so foreign suppliers, said Sole 24 Ore, Italy's financial newspaper.


FCA will also pledge not to cut any jobs before 2023.

The loan will be funded by Italy's largest commercial bank Intesa San Paolo and 80 percent guaranteed by export credit agency SACE, the daily said.

The government has said FCA would face sanctions if it failed to stick to the conditions laid down for loan. Sole 24 Ore said the fine for breaking the agreement could be in the region of 500 million euros.