Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Harley of the Past

Old motorbikes trace the past

Danny Dung and his girlfriend with an old BMW he has restored
An expat returns to homeland Vietnam to satisfy his hobby of collecting and restoring old motorbikes that have mesmerized him by shape and working sound.

Danny Dung thinks an old vehicle is closely connected to its owners, so he always tries to get as much information as possible about them when he is buying motorbikes.

He can live another life when he rides it, if he knows enough, he says.

Dung is known as one of the real fans of old motorcycles in Saigon.

It is his and his friends’ strong love for the machines that started the trend of buying classic bikes in the densely-populated city.

As a child in Vietnam, Danny Dung showed his interest in engines, but he could only afford old bicycles which he customized.

In the early 1980s, he made bikes with strange lights and sounds, which his friends still remember.

Danny Dung emigrated to the US in the late 1980s and took a course in mechanics.

He joined a Harley Davidson club in California.

“Perhaps Asian people are ashamed of their small body, so they don’t like big motorcycles.” There were only a few Asians in the club he says.

“For me, whenever I heard the sound a Harley made, I felt mesmerized by it and I decided to save up for one to join the club.”

Danny could afford to buy one second-hand.

He traveled and met many Harley fans in the US and found collecting old motorbikes was interesting.

Danny believes old motorbike lovers always have a philosophy about their hobby.

He says, “For me, old motorbike users are historians of mechanics because they keep track of human inventions.”

In the early 1990s, Danny returned to Vietnam for a visit.

A short time later, he and a few Vietnamese friends established an old Vespa club, the first in HCMC.

The old Vespa scooters came back to life again and became objects of pride.

Lots of youth, middle-aged people and foreigners came to Danny to find a bike.

When old Vespa scooters got hard to find, Danny started to look for old German BMW motorbikes from1945 to 1950.

It seemed like Danny waved a magic wand and turned piles of old engines into luxury toys for BMW lovers.

Saigon saw the reappearance of vehicles that produced powerful sounds.

“Most old BMW customers are foreigners living and working in Vietnam,” Danny said.

“Their big body is suitable for western people, and they are very expensive.

The cheapest one is over US$5,000.” His reputation traveled far and foreigners came from abroad to Danny to buy an old BMW.

Customers tried to find him because he could make old engines work as well as new ones.

He could also keep the original color and shape of the vehicles and add something decorative.

Then old BMWs became rare too, but Danny’s old motorbike passion was still strong and he saw a man on an old Harley Davidson.

He began another hunt and has bought a dozen of the classic American machines.

He spends his time and energy repairing and restoring them and sharing his interest with others.

Most people who come to buy old Harleys from Danny are foreigners.

Danny is willing to sell them to anyone who is passionate about old motorbikes and knows their value.

However, there is one exception - the Harley Davidson that was used to escort the former Saigon Regime’s president Nguyen Van Thieu.

One person offered US$10,000 for it, but Danny refused.

Apart from old Harleys, Danny has rare motorbikes like a German TWN and old cars like a Chevrolet Impala, a Camaro, and a 1955 Ford Customline.

Some film makers have rented Danny’s cars for movies, giving his old cars new lives and greater value.

Danny has also found a market for spare parts and set up a busy little factory for hand-made parts for the old motorbikes and cars.

As a result, he has an income to fund his passion for classic vehicles.

While everyone is moving forward with modern equipment, Danny and his friends are finding value in old machines.

He says, however, he doesn’t feel excluded from the modern flow because everyone has a past.

[Information Courtesy of: Vietnam News]