The more time you spend perusing custom builds, the clearer one thing becomes: If a vehicle exists, someone will inevitably stuff a Suzuki Hayabusa engine inside it. That’s exactly what’s happened with this unsuspecting Piaggio Ape, and.if you have to ask why anyone would do such a thing then you’ve already missed the point.
For those unfamiliar, the Piaggio Ape is a small, three-wheeled commercial vehicle that has been around since 1948. The Ape—which is Italian for bee, as in busy bee—has evolved and changed over time but is still an important part of daily life for commercial purposes in many Asian and European countries. In India, you can find diesel and compressed natural gas Apes available for sale in 2023. The Piaggio Porter NP6 (which has four wheels, not three) is the Ape’s less colorfully named descendant.
Anyway, back to this particular Piaggio Ape, which is powered by neither diesel nor CNG, but by an at-least 1,298cc Suzuki Hayabusa engine. While no specifics are given about which generation of Suzuki Hayabusa engine is inside, that doesn’t really matter. No matter which heart is in place, it’s clear that the power-to-weight ratio is more out of its mind than it has any right to be in this build.
The stock Piaggio Ape weighs about 500 kilograms (or 1,102 pounds) on its own, according to its current owner. Meanwhile, the first-gen Suzuki Hayabusa engines made a claimed 172.5 horsepower at 9,800 rpm, while the second-gen Hayabusa engine bumped it up to 194.4 horsepower at 9,500 rpm. Torque likewise went from 101.93 pound-feet at 7,000 rpm to 114.3 pound-feet at 7,200 rpm. The second-gen power figures, incidentally, also remained for the third-gen revision and did not change until the fourth-gen was introduced in 2021, where they actually decreased very slightly.
To be clear, the guy that owns this Piaggio Ape right now and lives in northern England isn’t the guy who built it, which is probably why he can only give so many details about it. It operates with foot pedals and has a normal clutch that drivers of manual-transmission cars will be familiar with. He says that it has a sequential gearbox but doesn’t mention how many gears it has. The Hayabusa line has had a six-speed gearbox since the beginning, and it’s of course very possible (and maybe even likely) that the original builder kept that gearbox here, because why overcomplicate things?
In any case, while the Ape had a heart transplant, its interior remains unchanged. There’s a little bench seat inside, the metal shell is solid but thin and offers nothing by way of sound damping, and there are also zero seat belts or harnesses to speak of. Are there doors? Sure, there are doors, but just because your tuna can has a metal lid doesn’t mean that it won’t dent if you drop it.
In this video, presenters from British motoring YouTube channels Motor Addicts and EvilGT take turns going out as passengers with the owner of this bonkers Piaggio Ape, letting him drive them around like an off-its-rockers amusement park ride at truly mad speeds that feel even faster given the nature of the vehicle they’re in. The owner says he’s had it up to about 150 miles per hour at a drag strip in the past, which probably feels like 200 in that thing.
If you had the chance to ride in this Ape, would you take it? Why or why not?