1997, Patrick Joint came to Vietnam for a 1O-day visit. Eight years later, he
owns one of only four foreign companies in Vietnam with a license to import adn
export motorbikes. As the owner of Saigon Scooter Centre he is no stranger to
the headache of restoring and exporting classic scooters.
The first obstacle is sourcing bikes
"A few years ago I could buy three
or four bikes a day but at the moment I'm lucky to buy three or four a month."
Not only this, but with so much foreign interest in the bikes, prices in Saigon
To counter this he now employs a
couple of full-time staff to go into the countryside and search for dwindling
supplies of Vespas, Lambrettas and any other classic scooters he can get his
Once a bike is found, all the
legitimate paperwork - the ownership, chassis number and engine number documents
- need to be in place, as does the original number plate, copies of the ID card
and family registration book of the owner.
"Finding the owner is often
impossible. Sometimes they've passed away or they've sold the bike on to someone
else without transferring the papers over and so are untraceable."
In those situations, if the bike is
of any value it is bought and stripped for parts.
If all the papers are in order, the
next step is to apply for an export license from the local police in the area
where the bike is registered. This must be done in conjunction with the
registered owner of the bike.
It is only after the export license
is granted and a buyer is found for the fully restored product that the
Entering Patrick's workshop you are
greeted with a whole car park full of over 1OO vintage scooters, the largest
collection in Vietnam. It is here that the painstaking restoration process takes
"Unlike some places which restore in
four or five days, for us the whole process from start to finish takes four to
six weeks." says Patrick. Using imported parts or Italian-quality parts produced
in their own workshop, the scooters are stripped down to the bare metal and then
rebuilt to be both attractive and durable. Each one undergoes a thorough road
test and a comprehensive inspection based on the U.K.'s Ministry of Transport
test prior to being packed up for export.
The final step in getting the bike
out of Vietnam is to apply for export clearance from the police. Once this has
been completed, the actual shipping takes anything from one week to a month
depending on where the bike is going to and costs between US$3OO and US$35O.
With all this hassle getting bikes
out of the country, is it really worth it?
A lifelong scooter enthusiast, for
Patrick there is a simple enjoyment in "getting out of bed in the morning and
enjoying going to work."
There's also another benefit." he
laughs, "I can drive a different Vespa or Lambretta every day."
Saigon Scooter Centre, 38 Road K7,
Ward 12, Tan Binh District. Tel:811 8872 Website:
New Saigon Inside Out Scooter
guide November 2005