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“Wizard” restores ancient Vespa

 

Vespas from Italy, which are 5-6 decades old, some  only the bare frame,  are collected from every where in Vietnam, by the restored skill of a “Sorcerer” – an English man, when they are restored back to original…  they are then  exported worldwide to England, USA, German, France,Australia, Japan…even in their home country – Italy. “Sorcerer” named Patrick Joynt, Director of Saigon Scooter Center (SSC).

Setting up business is unexpected

In the SSC Showroom and Office located in Cuu Long Street, Tan Binh District, Ho Chi Minh City, Pat is in a reserved manner “What do Vietnamese Journalists want?”. However, after we have showed all our purposes and spoke about Manchester Football team – where Pat was born and grew up – the conversation is opened.

“When I was 13 years old, I had a Vespa to roam in the country side, because I was too young to ride on the roads in the city. At first, I bought one Vespa for $15.00usd because it was cheap, easy to ride and looked good, but then I was taken in by it’s style and charm” – Pat said. To satisfy indulgence, he bough books and magazines about Scooters to find out about the different models, specifications and technical data… day by day, he learnt to rebuild the entire Scooter. That was the basis for his job in the future.

In 1997, on an Asian tour, Pat went to Cambodia and planned to stay there a week. But when he come to this country, he met a guy, who liked to be “wild” also, and that man invited Pat come to Vietnam – which was not planned. “We stayed in the city centre, Vietnam is a strange country, but when I went around the streets, I saw some classic Vespas, and my indulgence was awakened…I asked around and bought 2 Vespas to take back to England while continuing to learn about exporting from Vietnam. At the time there were not any foreigners restoring and exported Scooters, so I decided to come back Vietnam to establish a shop to restore classic Scooters located in Pham Ngu Lao” – Pat recalled the first days making business in Vietnam.

It is called a shop, in fact these days, it’s a  100% foreign owned company, Pat become Director… and purchaser and restorer! At first, Pat – a foreigner – had to roam in alleys and side streets in Saigon, Dong Nai, Binh Duong to buy ancient scooters, then restored, designed by himself and bought parts and accessories from UK, German, Italy, India… to restore, and then find out Customers from other countries to export to. As the business grew, Pat has to hire more local staffs to purchase and chose some skillful machinists to restore to Pat’s specifications… Nowadays, Pat owns a workshop specialising in restoring Scooters in Tan Binh District. They are currently exporting Scooters to 15 nations in the world, including UK, France, Australia, and German… even in Italy – The home of the original Scooters.

Experiences…

To success as nowadays, Pat smiles: “There were painful experiences…” After I bought the two first Vespa’s and brought them back to England, I then come back to establish the new company, the “young director” was eager to find out a constant source of Scooters. After hearing that a motor-shop owner was selling a classic GS Vespa, Pat came to see the seller and decided to buy. Pat had paid all expenses but the owner told him that please come back tomorrow to get the Vespa. Early morning, Pat was eager and got a  “xe om” (motorcycle taxi) to ride the Vespa back, but the shop was closed. Pat waited the entire the morning, but Pat could not see the owner and then another 6 buyers arrived  to get the Vespa. At that time, they were all surprised: the owner had sold the same  one Vespa to 7 people… and then had fled… Even though Pat lost the money, he was more shocked and surprised… It’s a primary lesson in business experiences learnt in a foreign country…But it is not the real shock! …

The real shock came later…the entire Scooters stock disappearing. Pat had known one person who acted as a friend. One time, when Pat had to gone back to the UK for business, Pat asked a friend to look after the shop, and there were seven Scooters waiting for restoration. While Pat was busy in UK, his friend sold all the stock and then disappeared. The shock made Pat disappointed and nearly closed the business. “ I reconsidered, there are bad people every where and I decided to continue my business. Now, nobody can dupe me because I have many painful experiences” Pat was humorous.

By he has had more painful experiences, which Pat is always ready to share especially towards the persons, who have the same situation. The following story we did not hear from Pat, we heard from Anh – a staff worked for Pat more than three years ago “Two years ago, a Korean man come to the Company and offered a series of Vespa’s ,Mobilette and Solex. Pat decided to buy. Pat paid and transferred them to stock. After several days, another Korean man came to Company to implore him to sell back to him. Actually, he came to Vietnam to buy them and attempt to bring back to Korea, but he lacked some money and paperwork, then he had returned back Korea to raise some more funds. He asked a compatriot friend to keep the scooters for him. However, this man sold them all. Pat sent staff to check and then sent back to the Korean man for the price that Pat had bought them for and transfer fee.  

Want to stay a long time in Vietnam

When Pat decided to open his business in Vietnam, Pat learnt that there were many foreign companies involved in the same business. Also, SSC encountered many Vietnamese restoration shops also competing for sales. Pat told us that to restore a classic Vespa, SSC needs 10 – 12 weeks while many Vietnamese shops need only 4 – 5 days. “The most important factor is quality. We restore not only to original specifications, but we also custom build the models to Customers’ requirements. To ensure the quality can pass through strict tests of USA, UK, France etc we test each scooter individually to overseas inspection reports. Pat was proud. Pointing to a gold Scooter in the workshop, Pat showed that is was one of his favourite Scooters, he restored to the requirements of a foreign friend, who is teaching foreign languages in HCMC. This Scooter is a vintage Lambretta and then was rebuilt with all import and custom parts and with an engine capacity of 225 cm3… Nevertheless, the most impressive part are the details such as custom gas shockers, stylized stainless steel exhaust pipe, many parts engraved by hand… Pat has spent 12 weeks and worked together with his mechanics to restore, with many details he did by himself. The Lambretta starts with a unique sound, the Englishman was humorous: “This is unique in the world; we cannot calculate how much money it took to restore something as unique as this”.

Over 10 years, SSC has exported 3/4 Scooters each month on average. Indulgence of young persons in Vietnam in recent years is making the supply of Scooters very scarce. Before, Pat could buy 2-3 scooters a day, but now it is much more difficult and more expensive. That is the reason that many people come from foreign countries and try to follow the  “SSC Boat” to making business. “Besides importing parts and accessories, we also produce hundreds of Italian quality accessories to supply to Customers overseas” – Pat explained. And there is a new way Pat did not say, but other projects were shown: restoring other kinds of motorcycle, not only Scooter. There were Honda Chaly’s, which Pat bought to restore and then re-designed to be offroad sport motorcycles for foreigners to rent and tour…

The moment when we were leaving, he confided: “In the future I’m looking into opening a scooter cafe / coffee shop, and we also plan to  introduce a collection of Vespas and organize Saigon city Tours for foreigners who want a special Vespa experience”.

 

Minh Duc – Trung Bao

Saigon Scooter Centre, 38 Road K7, Ward 12, Tan Binh District. Tel:811 8872 Website: www.saigonscootercentre.com

 

 
 
 
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