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How often have you heard stories of people exporting 2O or 3O Vespas and Lambrettas at a time? As Saigon Inside Out discovered your dream scooter out of Vietnam is not as easy as it seems.



Top: Vespas waiting to be restored

Middle: Two fully restored Lambrettas in the Saigon Scooter Centre showroom

Bottom: One of the first Vespas to make its way to Vietnam






In 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 for restoration.

"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 have spiraled.

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 hands on.

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 restoration begins.

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 place.

"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

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