Vespa Scooter Road Trip from Germany to Italy

Vespa Scooter Road Trip VideoA great video of a Vespa scooter roadtrip from Germany to the Lake Maggiore area of Italy.
Members of the trip were riding three Vespa PX200, one T5, one Sprint and one Vespa VNB. All were fitted with a Malossi 210 cylinder and the T5 with a Malossi 172.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Vintage Firenze Florence Italy Travel Poster

Purchase Firenze Italy Poster at Etsy Shop, Grafica ItaliaVintage Firenze Florence Italy Travel Poster, beautiful 1920s Italy Travel poster promoting tourist travel to ancient Italian City of Florence. Our beautiful Italian Poster portrays the beauty of a day long gone, Florence, capital of Italy’s Tuscany region, is home to many masterpieces of Renaissance art and architecture.

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Vintage Travel See Europe Poster

Vintage Travel See Europe PosterTravel Europe in Mod style, Visit London, Paris, Italy – Vintage Travel Poster. Old travel poster advertisement promoting vacation travel Europe.

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Is a Tuk Tuk Auto Rickshaws Just An Overgrown Scooter?

Tuk Tuk Auto Rickshaw
Tuk Tuk Bangkok, 2003

I’m expecting to get a lot of flack for posting a Tuk Tuk from Thailand in the scooterbaby.com blog. Scooter purists will say, “Hey, it’s got three wheels, it’s enclosed, its’s bigger and on and on”.  But here me out, when I first got to Thailand about 15 years ago, I thought the same.  My first impression upon riding in a Tuk Tuk … wow, loud, smokey and the driver is bat shit crazy.  Weaving in and out of traffic, sometimes feeling like its on two wheels … it this a Bond Movie?  But on closer inspection I started to notice some similarities.   In appearance the front has that pregnant scooter look, you know it like it’s been stretched about 1 foot on each side.  When I looked at the front I automatically think scooter, the handlebar controlled front wheel, twist grip throttle, it  especially looks like the earlier models of Vespa and Lamberetta.

 

Piaggio Vespa Apecar
Vespa Apecar

Actually, most of the founding scooter manufactures evolved into designing utility transport vehicle or auto rickshaws from the basis of their scooter designs. As a matter of fact, in 1947, Corradino D’Ascanio, an aircraft designer at Piaggio and inventor of the Vespa, came up with the idea of building a light three-wheeled commercial vehicle to power Italy’s post-war economic reconstruction. The Piaggio Ape followed suit, also known as Apecar, Ape Car or just Ape.

 

 

Daihatsu Midget
Daihatsu Midget

Japan exported three-wheelers to Thailand since 1934. Moreover, The Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications of Japan donated about 20,000 used three-wheelers to Southeast Asia. In Japan, three-wheelers went out of use in the latter half of the 1960s.  Auto rickshaws in Southeast Asia started from the knockdown production of the Daihatsu Midget which was introduced in 1957.

 

 

An Ape C (1956–1967)
An Ape C (1956–1967)

In Italy, auto rickshaws have been commonly used since the late 1940s, providing a low-cost means of transportation in the post-World-War-II years when the country was short of economic resources. The Piaggio Ape (Tukxi), designed by Vespa creator Corradino D’Ascanio and first manufactured in 1948 by the Italian company Piaggio, though primarily designed for carrying freight has also been widely used as an auto rickshaw. It is still extremely popular throughout the country, being particularly useful in the narrow streets found in the center of many little towns in central and southern Italy. Though it no longer has a key role in transportation, Piaggio Ape is still used as a minitaxi in some areas such as the islands of Ischia and Stromboli (on Stromboli no cars are allowed). It has recently been re-launched as a trendy-ecological means of transportation, or, relying on the role the Ape played in the history of Italian design, as a promotional tool.  Most Apes are produced in India by Piaggio India, and a similar vehicle is manufactured by Bajaj Auto. In India the Ape is most commonly found in the form of an autorickshaw. A relatively small number of Apes are still made in Italy. On October 16, 2013, Piaggio announced that the production of Ape would be completely shut down in Italy and entirely moved to India.

 

Tuk Tuk Police Vehicle
Tuk Tuk Police Vehicle

In Thailand, the auto rickshaw, is called a tuk-tuk (pronounced “took-took”) or sam-lor (meaning “three-wheeler”), it is a widely used form of urban transport in Bangkok and other Thai cities. The Thai name is onomatopoeic, mimicking the sound of a small (often two-cycle) engine. An equivalent English term would be “putt-putt.” It is particularly popular where traffic congestion is a major problem, such as in Bangkok and Nakhon Ratchasima. Drivers may also use their tuk-tuks to transport fresh produce around the city in absence of passengers (actually, this is such an understament, drivers of Tuk Tuk will load anything they can fit, stack, tie-down or squeeze into the vehicle, sometimes you can not see what the actual vehicle is it is piled so high).

Bangkok and other cities in Thailand have many tuk-tuks which are a more open variation on the Indian auto rickshaw. There are no meters, and fares are negotiated in advance. Bangkok fares have risen to nearly equal normal taxis due to uninformed foreigners willing to pay the asking price, but leaves passengers more exposed to environmental pollution than taxis. The solid roof is so low that the tuk-tuk is an inapt touring vehicle (if you are a “westerner, you will need to slouch in your seat to be comfortable and have head room). Today few locals take one unless they are burdened with packages or travelling in a big group for short distances.

Row of Tuk-Tuks in Maha Rat St., Bangkok, Thailand.
Tuk-Tuks in Bangkok

Many Thai tuk-tuk manufacturers now produce low-emission vehicles, while old tuk-tuks can be fitted with new engines along with LPG conversions. Newer tuk-tuks also have wet weather side curtains to keep passengers and drivers dry.

Thai auto rickshaw manufacturers are, Monika Motors Ltd., TukTuk (Thailand) Co., Ltd., TukTuk Forwerder Co., Ltd. Bangkok and MMW Tuk-Tuks Co.,Ltd. in Hua Hin. Smaller manufacturers are the Chinnaraje Co., Ltd. in Chiang Mai and Expertise Co., Ltd. in Chonburi which manufactures its models in Komaki, Japan, also.

 

Xe lam in Vietnam (2006) with the Lambretta mark still visible
Vietnam, Lambretta mark still visible

In Vietnam, auto rickshaws are known locally as xe lam, the vernacular pronunciation of the Lambro from the Lambretta line by Innocenti of Italy, these vehicles were very popular in the 1960s and 1970s, especially the urban centers of South Vietnam. Over time the authorities have moved to limit their use.  Xe lam with 1-wheel forward and 2-aft were designed to carry passengers whereas other variants with 2-forward and 1-aft, used mostly to transport goods are known as Xe ba gác máy. The motorized version of cycle rickshaw is the Xích lô máy is of the same design.

 

So, as you can see, the Auto Rickshaw, Tuk Tuk, The Ape, three-wheel transports all share an unique and historic story which evolved from scooters, whether it was the Vespa or the early models from Japan.  The history is interesting, but even more interesting is actually riding in a Tuk Tuk or Auto Rickshaw.  My first ride was in an area of Bangkok’s Khao San Road, we wanted to visit the Reclining Buddha which was in the same area.  Unable to hail a Taxi Cab we opted for a short ride in a Tuk Tuk, it was exciting and memorable to say the least.  This was the first Tuk Tuk ride of many to follow over the years and numerous trips to Asia.  I heartily recommend, especially as many countries are evolving into more modern forms of transit, Tuk Tuks may soon pass into history like the Penny Farthling.

Portions of this blog page edited from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auto_rickshaw#Italy

Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License

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