09:05′ 04/04/2007 (GMT+7)
VietNamNet Bridge – Several years ago, few individuals in Saigon collected antique motorbikes and cars. But they are even establishing clubs now.

From motorbikes

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Rapper Tien Dat and his antiquie motorbikes

Vespa, Mobylette and Lambretta motorbikes are the collectors’ great favorites. In the artistic world, photographer Hai Dong was the first one to take snapshots of brides and bridegrooms riding the old Vespa, and he started a trend in Saigon: For a long time, brides have wanted the Vespa to appear in their wedding albums.

Rapper Tien Dat is the artist with the greatest number of antique motorbikes: 3 Mobylettes, 2 Vespas, 1 mini Vespa, and 1 Lambretta. All of them were produced in the 1960s.

In Saigon, there are 2 clubs of old Vespa collectors. One of them meets every Friday night at Bach Tung Diep Restaurant on the corner of Ly Tu Trong and Nam Ky Khoi Nghia. Members meet to share information about antique motorbikes, motorbike parts and how to “treat” them.

The other club meets every Sunday morning at the Virgin Mary’s Church. Members ride their Vespas, Lambrettas, and Mobylette to the spacious beautiful area around the church every week for some “cool winds” as well as to show off their motorbikes. There is also a Mobylette club with 8 of its 20 members being women. These clubs often organise picnics as far away as Da Lat to take part in flower festivals.

To cars

What Saigon collectors are eyeing these days is the Volkswagen, or what is often called the “bug”. There are now about 300 Volkswagens in Vietnam, 100 of which are in the hands of collectors in HCM City.

They hold trips to Hue, Vung Tau, or Phan Thiet in which tens of colourful and beautiful “bugs” march on the road. Mr. Hung, a collector who owns 50 “bugs”, said, “Only cars produced from 1948 to 1958 are recognised as antique cars. In Vietnam, most of the bugs were produced between 1955 and 1974.”

The “aristocratic, upper class” collectors like to collect unique cars such as the 1970 Austin Mini Cooter and US $150,000 1964 Austin Healey owned by Mr. Ty audio, who has tens of other car “corpses”, each of which costs from US $100 to 200,000.

Expensive investment

2 or 3 years ago, a Vespa or a Mobylette cost from VND 2 to 5 million. Now one has to pay VND 10 million (US $600) for a Mobylette and from VND 12 to 15 million for a Vespa.

And it’s difficult to turn “an 80 year-old woman into a beauty queen” according to Mr. ty, who was talking about how to “repolish” his unique antique cars. “Common bugs” take at least 6 months to be transformed from heaps of waste metal to pretty and operational cars. A car “corpse” costs from VND 10 to 30 million. After repair, it is worth as much as VND 100 million (US $ 6,000).

Despite repolishment, much of the antique cars’ original design is preserved. Thus, sitting inside an antique “bug” means enduring hot weather, smoke and dust since there is no air-conditioner.

Mr. Ty only shows off his Austin Healey at 1 am. He explained, “People would call me crazy if they saw me ride a roofless car in the hot sunny weather of Saigon.”

Collectors sometimes tell the story about Mr. Hai Victor Inox’s search for the ox-head Lambrette. Learning that a professor owned this car, he sought him out, begging him to sell the car to him. 10 years passed by without any success. Then one day, the professor passed away. He was invited to the man’s death anniversary and given the Lambrette for free.