Do Italian Apes dig
American corn?

NORTH AMERICAN APE PROVING-GROUNDS (NAAP), North Yarmouth, Maine–You might think you could feed one of these hearty Italian Apes almost anything. But it turns out corn-based ethanol gives it heartburn. Ask our friend Paul Turina of Turina Italian Wines.

ape in america vespa based three wheeled Italian pickupHe and his wife Betty own the house in Panicale with us. We have so much in common. Betty, like original co-owner, Kiki before her, also works at the same office we do. Paul, on the other hand is a friend, client AND an Italian wine importer. And we drink wine! Plus, in addition to all that, Paul and I both have Vespa-based, Apecars. Those cunning, little three-wheeled, mini-pickups that you see all over Italy.

Mine is somewhat gussied up, a bit of a prima donna. That cute girl friend that surprise, surprise, turned out to be a bit high maintenance. Its latest excuse to dodge work is that its insurance company thinks it’s a show car and shouldn’t get dirty. Paul’s on the other hand is a blue collar, hard working, sings for its supper kind of ape. It earns its keep by regularly hauling half tons of mulch, heating oil tanks, palettes of red and white wine, you name it, it hauls it. One day last week its load was the heavy metal plow blade of Paul’s tractor.

They picked up our ace mechanic friend Peter and together they buzzed off down the road. Until, at a certain point, it got really quiet. Which is not an Ape’s natural state. Ape means “bee” in Italian (Vespa, fyi, means “wasp”) and they call them that because of the noise they make. So, when it went silent and forward motion tapered off, a warning flag went right up.

Rolling it into Peter’s repair bay later, they surely stood around, scuffed their feet a bit, pushed their hats back, scratched their heads. And pondered. As guys will do. But, there’s always that one guy that just happened to drop by. That one guy, that–after the fact, thank you very much, knows exactly what you did wrong. “Yep” he said slapping his knee, “you pull that spark plug and shine your little light in there and you’ll see the top of your one and only piston has a hole burned right thru the top of it.” He went on to say he’d seen the same thing with older outboard engines. And much as anyone hated to admit it, the guy was right. Corn burns hotter and if not adjusted for, makes a big hole. See photo enclosed. Heavy sigh.

italian vespa based ape car piston burnt out by ethanolAnd no, its not a good thing, this hole in the top of your piston.The one on the side is fine. They tell me, that is for exhaust.

No, two holes are not better than one, not a good thing at all. But it is a good time to know Ken of Canada. Ken is the top of the Ape Pyramid. Our numero uno, go-to guy. I bought my Ape from him years ago. Paul called him and was assured that “your piston is in the mail.”

So that was in the relatively good news column. The other good news is this only happens with big loads, long duration. And can be avoided with a revised carburetor setting. Paul says he will do this on mine as soon as he works out the details on his. Happy ending all around. And soon, the ape population in the Greater Gray/North Yarmouth Metro Area will be back up to full strength: Two.

See you in Italy, or at least in one of our Italian vehicles,

Stew Vreeland

The new French Twizy vs the classic Italian Ape.A couple of European flyweights go head to head.

twizyape. renault twizy and piaggio ape, french vs italian mini vehiclesCASTIGLIONE DEL LAGO, Umbria, Italy–Can you really compare these two Lilliputt-putts? Well, no. On the one hand, yes, they can both haul you and your best friend to and from the market, albeit in close quarters. But in an Piaggio Ape, you can bring both your friend AND the groceries home from the CO-OP. With the Renault Twizy, it looks like you have to pick and chose between bringing the friend or the groceries home. So, how hungry are you? The price the dealer told me made me instantly realize I wasn’t going to be able to take it out of petty cash. But I think I remember the deluxe model was like 8,000 euros.

In its defense, the Twizy is full-on electric. But, it is licensed as a four-wheeled motorcycle, with a steering wheel. Five wheels is a lot of wheels. For a bike. Meanwhile our 1983 Piaggio Ape, with only three total wheels (not even a single steering wheel) has an 1,100 lb payload. Plus, room for you and your momma. We bought our ape from Ken Johnson in Ontario. He is the only dealer/renovator we know of. If you go to his site you can see a few of the Apes he has put on the streets recently.

So, what’ll it be, big spender? A shiny new Twizy or an proven-in-the-trenches Ape? They are both cunning European designs. The Twizy is way out of the box, way ahead of the curve, the Ape has been an established mode of transportation around the globe for decades. I don’t know if you can even get a Twizy in the states. When I saw one on a Renault lot last month in Castiglione del Lago (Umbria) I kept thinking I was seeing a prototype, a futuristic, car-of-tomorrow sketch, magically come to life.

They both are taking wildly different, outside-the-box approaches to space, travel and energy use. Noble efforts.

Plus, come on. Are they are wicked cute?

See you in Italy,

Stew Vreeland

Home coming. Soon

MAINE, LONDON, ROME, PANICALE, PADOVA, TRIESTE. Well, that is how we see it now. Leaving tomorrow, Thursday for London to visit our Wiley. See the sites there, something about a play with Danny DiVito. And then Sunday all three of us hit the easyJet counter and wing our way to Rome. Non vedo l’ora.

LOOK OUT ITALY. READY OR NOT. HERE WE COME.

ci vediamo in Italia e

See you in Italy,

Stew

The new Fiat is here.

newfiat4PORTLAND, ME–Our friend Roberta is here from Torino, Italy. We’ve known her forever. She lived with us for a year, many years ago. For the last ten years she’s worked for Fiat. She arrived here August 1st, the day they started promo’ing the new Fiat 500.

I’ve always wanted a Cinquecento. I fantasize that we could even squeeze one in our cantina in Panicale. But, mainly its just fun to say “cinquecento.” Usually the ones you see now in Italy are the cool tricked-out survivors, and they are often hyper-cool. Nostalgia is a wonderful thing, and Fiat has worked it hard on these new ones. Rightly so.

ATTENTION – MAJOR CHOTCHKE
Check out the fine bit of branded swag she scored for me. Very fuel efficient. And like any fine vehicle it has good storage. Two megs in this case.

REALITY TEST DRIVE COMING UP
Just for fun (and because Midge insists) we’re going to check out the real ones tomorrow afternoon. Last month, during the Italian Expo, the dealer had three and they were all locked-in, not for sale, demos. Today they say they’ve got a 100 of the 500’s. We will see, test drive and report back.

See you in Italy,

Stew Vreeland

A lot like being in Italy . . .

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PORTLAND, Maine – If you were at the Italian Life Expo this weekend, this recap is a walk down Recent Memory Lane. If you missed it, well this is a way to see how it went and to see if you want to make plans for it next time. Three days of big fun, Italian in the air and in your wineglass. The video, below, shows most of us had our mouths full most of the time. Full of wine or bread or prosciutto or prosciutto on bread or olive oil on bread or gelato or more wine! The crowd was great the first night and got bigger every night! Gorgeous location.
coppergangblogdsc03518
Thanks to everyone for their support, enthusiasm and for coming to volunteer or participate in any way. Buona Festa it was indeed.

See you in Italy

But first we need to go to Chicago on Thursday to see our daughter Grayson graduate. Steven Colbert is speaking so that should be fun. and then Fathers’s Day not coincidentally, we are going to see my father. In Iowa. He just turned 92 last week. And then we come back and Italian neighbors are coming for the Fourth of July. OK they are from California and Cuba, but they are our neighbors in Panicale. Let’s roll some bocce balls!

Ciao, ciao,

Stew Vreeland