Bodge, bodge, Viet-bodge
*SWOON!* said the Facebook post headline. In the post was a link to a Craigslist ad for a 1965 Vespa VBB.
It was certainly a pretty bike, with lots of chrome and a nice green-and-white paint job, with a seat upholstered in matching colors. The seller marvels at how it runs without a battery, and offers to include a “helmut” (A free German? Really?).
Unfortunately, this scooter shows all the signs of being a Viet-bodge.
The post was from a scooter friend who’s new to riding and scooter ownership. Happily, she rides her modern Vespa regularly and often, and has joined a local scooter club.
And like many other new riders, she has become smitten with old-skool Vespas. It’s therefore not at all surprising this scooter would catch her eye.
Which is usually the point.
While they may appear outwardly pretty, such scooters are often Frankenbikes that have tacked-together frames full of Bondo and engines featuring such MacGyveresque solutions as beer-can head gaskets.
Keep in mind, Vietnamese are not generally wealthy. If something breaks, simply throwing it away and getting a new one is often not an option. One must make do. Get the cracked frame welded at the blacksmith shop, use an aluminum beer can if you can’t get a gasket (Hey, they’re easy to cut).
There is nothing inherently malicious in that. The malice comes when someone buys the bodged-up bike from a villager for a few dong and then pretties it up (the British expression “polishing a turd” certainly applies) to sell at a price well beyond its true worth.
How do you protect yourself? Learn as much as you can about vintage Vespas (or whatever other scooter you lust after). There are tons of books covering the history of Vespa scooters, and almost as many covering maintenance, repair and restoration (How to Restore and Maintain Your Vespa Motorscooter by Bob Darnell and Bob Goffin is a particularly good one).
Otherwise, don’t buy something like this sight unseen, and enlist the aid of your knowledgeable scooter peeps when you shop. And as I always say, you can have a perfectly wonderful old-skool scooter experience with a late-model PX 150 or Stella, both of which have the added bonus of being made entirely of new parts, all of which are readily available.
Or you might think about one of these.
Scooterworks Chicago sells a fully-refurbished 1966 Vespa VBC, which features a brand-new LML 5-port 150cc engine, upgraded suspension and 10-inch wheels. And a WARRANTY. The work is done at their facility in Chicago, and while you might need to arrange shipping, a dealer near you may have a few of these in stock. Visit their Web site or call them at +1 888.968.3772 for more info.
Just don’t buy a Viet-Bodge. Please.