There's an Entire Motorcycle Hiding in This Tiny Truck

1 week, 2 days ago - 3 July 2024, RideApart
Moto Guzzi Ercole 500
Moto Guzzi Ercole 500
You want a tiny tipper truck with five speeds and reverse? You got it.

Sometimes, after periods of great destruction, interesting innovations rise up from the ashes. Take, for example, two of the most iconic two-wheeled vehicles of the 20th century: The Vespa scooter, and the Honda Super Cub.

Although both have undergone some changes over the intervening decades, both vehicles remain popular around the world in 2024.

Not every postwar innovation shared the same fate, although some were certainly interesting. I've shown you some of MV Agusta's takes on three-wheeled haulers from back in the day before, but here's a thing I hadn't previously seen. And I look forward to sharing this new(old) delight with you now.

Friends, this is the Moto Guzzi Ercole 500. Or rather, it's one of multiple configurations that owners could have purchased.

The others were more conventional schemes that you've probably seen before, mostly including a sort of mechanical centaur creation consisting of a motorcycle front half with a small truck bed rear half for hauling necessary items around. 

But this particular one is special, because it's got a little truck cab up front, and a tipper bed in the back. And also, I'm pretty sure I squealed when I first saw it. 

"You mean to tell me that Moto Guzzi was making kei trucks in the 1950s?" I exclaimed excitedly.

So naturally, I had to dig in and find out.

What Is A Kei Truck, Exactly?
Just to make sure we're all operating on the same page, kei trucks are a sub-category of 軽自動車, or essentially what's classed in Japan as a "light automobile." This category was (you guessed it) developed in postwar Japan to help get regular people back on their feet. In fact, the first governmental standards for kei vehicles in Japan came about in July 1949, according to Japan's Light Motor Vehicle Inspection Organization.

Standards have changed over time, but have generally included three- or four-wheeled vehicles, engine displacement under 660cc, as well as a requirement to come in under specific measurements for length, width, and height. (Does the Ercole pictured here meet those standards? By today's standards, very much so. In the beginning, it's not totally clear.)

For drivers, these vehicles were less powerful, but also lighter weight and less expensive both to buy and to register. For folks seeking simple transportation to help them get work done, they were (and remain) just the thing. Not everyone needs a supercar, or a gigantic lifted truck they aren't going to ever get dirty. But I digress.

The Moto Guzzi Ercole 500

In the guise you now see before you, from the outside, this Moto Guzzi bears at least a slight resemblance to another Piaggio Group product: the Piaggio Ape. And while the Piaggio Ape went on to not only survive but thrive in many markets (particularly across Europe and Asia as a delivery or work vehicle), the Moto Guzzi Ercole was eventually retired as a model in 1980.

To be clear, the Ercole didn't have to come with the little cab on the front, and it's really only in this form that it looked a bit like an Ape. But there's a crucial difference if you open the door and look inside the cab.

And it's the fact that there's a whole motorcycle body and saddle located directly inside the cab. 

In fact, if you wanted to drive an Ercole configured in this way, you'd need to sit on the saddle and use the handlebars to steer, just like you would on a standard motorcycle. Only you'd also be using a right-hand stick shifter mounted on the floor to move between five forward gears and reverse.

What's that you say, you need to carry a passenger and you don't want to play a super mean joke on them and threaten to tip them out the back of the little tipper bed with fold-down sides that you've got? 

That's cool; there's a little jump seat that folds down in the cab, too. Get in, loser, we're going hauling!

What kind of engine powered this cute, probably underpowered little guy? It's the air-cooled, approximately 23 horsepower single-cylinder engine also found in the classic Moto Guzzi Falcone 500.

It may have been modest in power, but was clearly also well-loved in post-war Italy. In fact, it was a total workhorse that clearly had a long shelf life since Guzzi put it into Ercoles for nearly 40 years, from roughly 1946 through 1980. 

The majority of Ercoles, as you may imagine, are still found in Italy to this day. However, this specific example recently turned up in California. As of July 1, 2024, the seller is offering it on eBay at a Buy It Now Price of $16,500. They are also entertaining Best Offers, and characterize it as "very good original condition no rust or damages." 

As with any and all used vehicles, though, it's obviously something you'll need to assess for yourself if you're thinking of making an offer. But I can say this for sure: Next time someone shows up to your local car meet with a cute little Honda Acty or Suzuki Sambar, if you roll up in (or on) your Ercole 500, it seems pretty likely that you'll be the only one there.

Support Ukraine