Last week, when discussing motorcycle repair and restoration, I was primarily referring to repairs you would do yourself on a small scale, something anyone could do in their home garage and workshop. These types of repair and restoration projects do not require a shop full of high tech tools but simply the knowledge of how to do the work and the willingness to provide the labor. Some basic tools, an air compressor with various attachments and perhaps a basic welder and you're set.
It shouldn't be surprising to find repair and restoration of this sort going on in developing countries and being done very well. With many hands available to do the work, skills that can be learned by local craftsmen and low startup costs, you have the basis of a nice little business, maybe even a not so little business.
I have noticed many Vespa and Lambretta scooters on ebay that are absolutely perfect. These scooters are 30 or more years old and they look like they just came off the assembly line, maybe even better than that. When you look at the location of those scooters, many say Vietnam, something which may put off some buyers but if you look a little closer, it gets very interesting.
It turns out, there is a booming scooter restoration business in southeast Asia. With a huge amount of raw material in the form of tired and used scooters and access to brand new replacement parts, manufactured, most likely, in China, these little operations transform the old scooters into brand new 30 year old Vespa and Lambretta scooters.
The rebuild process is extensive, the scooter is completely disassembled down to the very last nut and bolt. The frame and body are stripped of all paint, repairs made to any underlying damage, and then repainted with the latest modern paints. Powder coating is optional in those areas that require the extra durability. Then they attack the polished bits:
We polish or chrome all the metal parts on the scooter. Polishing is a cheaper and more traditional method of restoration (especially for aluminum items) but we can chrome each item as well. All metal fender Crests, Switch Housings, Levers, Choke Knobs, Fuel Rods, etc...will be polished to a brilliant reflective finish.
The engine is disassembled and all worn parts are replaced. In fact, all worn parts throughout the scooter are replaced.
EVERYTHING that is worn or old is replaced. This includes, but is not limited to: Cables, Wiring Loom, Rubber Grommets, Tires, Inner Tubes, Brakes, Switches, Switch Covers, Seat Covers, Seat Frames, Taillights, Headlights, Speedometer Face and Lens, Floor Channels, Endcaps, crankshaft cases and flywheel (12V magneto) and Locks as well as all new exterior parts.
After all of the replacement parts are installed and everything is polished or painted, the whole scooter is reassembled into one beautiful piece. The photos of finished scooters show what appears to be a very nice classic scooter in perfect condition. These companies are primarily set up for export and it seems quite easy to order one of their scooters and have it shipped wherever you happen to be. They also are set up to ship twenty foot containers with 18 scooters anywhere in the world. The prices vary among models and range from $1500 to $2700 at the company I was looking at, plus shipping and registration fees which are not really very high based on the prices from the website. Gets a guy thinking ...
If you're located in an area where scooters are popular, you could start a nice little scooter import business and sell these beauties for a profit. Suppose you're a college student and you want to learn about international business first hand, order a twenty foot container of scooters and sell them to students all around campus. Perhaps a retirement community wants a nice fleet of scooters, looks like a nice opportunity here. Are you a scooter person and do you know others who like the old Vespas? Pool your cash and get some shipped over. I notice on ebay that several people have obviously already done this and you'll see these restored scooters offered for sale by individuals and dealers. For those who don't want to order from Vietnam or aren't familiar with the import process, these folks have done the work up front, even though it's not really that difficult.
What's the downside? These are the old two stroke engines, nothing wrong with that except few potential buyers are familiar with them. There are also some very inexpensive 4 stroke Chinese imports, like the Schwinn, that are in the same low price range and might even be cheaper. These companies say they stand behind their products, and I have no reason to doubt that, but they are in Vietnam which might make initial warranty issues a problem, though, the fact that you even get a warranty on a 30 year old scooter might actually be a plus instead. Most often, you buy an old scooter, you're on your own. For the most part, these would be more likely sold to potential buyers specifically looking for an old Vespa, not just a scooter, so you would have to be sure, if you were going to sell them, that you had a market. Since they're already on ebay, one more seller might not stand out much but if you have a local market, too, then you might have something.
The whole issue of product liability always rears its ugly head and, not being a lawyer, I have no idea what applies here or doesn't. In an ideal world, no one would even go down that road but ...
I think this Vespa restoration business is very cool. They can restore these scooters for less than you could do it yourself and sell you one, probably under your own cost. If you're looking for an old classic Vespa or Lambretta, these might be just the ticket. Interesting.
IMPORTANT UPDATE: We have received some information from a customer of Huy's Scooter.
Link: Huy's Scooter in Vietnam