Just about any motorcycle OEM that’s been in business for a decent amount of time has some interesting twists and turns in its history. Take Ducati, for example. While you may know that the company got its start in the 1920s making radios and radio components, fewer people may be aware that the company made three-wheeled utility vehicles, as well. We’d tell you to strap in for this history lesson, except they didn’t exactly go very fast.
By now, if you have a passing familiarity with Vespa, you probably know at least a brief version of the iconic scooter maker’s origin story. In post-WWII Italy, regular people needed cheap, reliable transportation for themselves and their families. Italian design sensibilities seem to be baked into the culture, but the main concern here was practicality. Thus, Vespa’s iconic scooters were born—and only continued iterating on the same design language up to the present day. Most of those weren’t capable of hauling very much, however.
While that company arguably had the most successful run at creating post-war transport, that didn’t mean that other Italian marques didn’t try. When MV Agusta celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2020, it took a good look back at some of its own post-war utility vehicles. The 98 Motocarro, 150 Centauro, Trasporto Tevere, and 98 Turismo were basic but beautiful three-wheeled utility vehicles. For various reasons, MV Agusta soon switched focus to motorcycles, and these models weren’t in production for very long.
Back to Ducati. The little 50cc Cucciolo engine came into being post-war, which marked the first time that Ducati embarked down the path on which we now find it in 2021. The company was still young, and making a switch from electronics to motorbikes was already quite a significant change. The folks at Borgo Panigale hadn’t figured out the company’s true identity yet, but were eager to try (or perhaps tri-) their hands at making three-wheeled utility vehicles.
Ducati eventually introduced two such vehicles. The Fattorino (or “Deliveryman”) was an adorable and underpowered 50cc machine that reportedly struggled to pull much weight due to its 1.5 horsepower. Later, Il Muletto (or “The Forklift”) came along. It offered a choice of 175cc or 200cc displacements, which made it a better fit for its intended purpose. It featured a flat truck bed with shallow sides, mounted directly behind the rider. It’s unclear how many of either of these vehicles Ducati ever made, but you do occasionally see advertising material, engine restorations, and even entire vehicles pop up for sale from time to time.
Gallery: Ducati Fattorino and Il Muletto
If you’ve been wondering why we didn’t mention the Piaggio Ape before now, that’s simple: It seems to be the sole survivor in the post-war Italian utility vehicle development competition. Variants of the Ape have been in production since 1948. Although others have tried to duplicate or at least riff upon its success, it’s the only one still going in 2021. Heck, in 2019, Piaggio even announced that it was going to convert the Ape to an electric version to meet ever-stringent emissions requirements.
From the beginning, it seems that Piaggio had its pulse on what the Italian public—and later, the rest of the world—wanted out of both scooters and three-wheelers. Although Ducati and MV Agusta struggled with their own three-wheeled creations, those companies overcame their awkward years and ultimately figured themselves out. For that, the motorcycle world is thankful.
More Ducati History: