Yesterday’s Photographs

The Vespa Mechanic & More

I went out yesterday to photograph a vintage Vespa mechanic. He rebuilds and refurbishes older bikes from spare and ordered parts, made anywhere from the 1950s to the late 1990s. His shop was filled to brimming with frames, wheels, random gears and engines and everything else you could imagine ever having to do with Vespas or Vespa culture.

He makes everything to order, at times literally beginning with nothing more than an idea and some small piece of the final product. You basically go into his shop and tell him what you’re looking for. He’ll tell you if he can get it together and give you a rough time and price quote. Then you wait one month or three months or however long it takes him to gather everything he needs. It was quite amazing to see his photographs of the final bikes after being in his cramped, dusty and dirty garage. It looks like a meticulous, involved process. A labor of love if ever there was one.

He talked about making bikes for various overseas customers and collectors. About taking over a year to find all the parts and make a vintage early 60s model for someone. About a $10,000 bike. About his father’s love for them as well. About his sons and his old career as a journalist and more. Then he took the writer, translator and me for coffee and lunch. At one point he asked me why I liked Vietnam so much and I had to use him as an example. Totally awesome.

For those in Hanoi, his shop is located in an alley off of an alley off of Pho Hue Street, south of the Old Quarter and nearby the popular restaurant Chim Sao. It doesn’t look like much, but it puts out.

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