Piaggio Ape in Costa Rica


Costa Rica is a country in transition; think of it as the upwardly mobile Central American country. Unlike some of its mesoamerican neighbours, is much more cosmopolitan. Costa Rica has American restaurants, Chinese cars, uses American currency (but not exclusively), and is modernizing at a respectable pace, if short of the ravenously insatiable BRIC countries.

Even in its aggressive (pelvic) thrust forward, the country of 4.1 million retains numerous signs of yesteryear. As I catalog the sundry vehiculos here, I frequently stumble upon something that I’ve read much about, but have never seen in person. The famous 3-wheeled light commercial vehicle, the Piaggio Ape, was just one of my many such experiences thus far. Luckily, I managed to just rip out the iPhone 4 tucked safely away in my pocket in time to catch this motorized tricycle costarricense.

Watch as this ah-peh (Italian for “bee”) trundles and bounces its way along a narrow industrial corridor in the Costa Rican capital of San Jose. That sound you hear is the single cylinder diesel engine unleashing the full breadth of its 8 hp might upon the unsuspecting road.

Designed in 1948 by the designer of the Vespa, the Ape is adored the world over for its durability, simplicity, and customization potential.Whether the example above is older than I am, or was made locally, is impossible for me to tell. Either way, it was a hell of a sighting.