|Old favourites: A collection of vintage Renault buses and Russian-made sidecars on display outiside the Victoria Hoi An resort and Spa. The collection of old style French-produced buses and motorcycles are used to travel around Hoi An and to destinations in the central region. — VNS Photo Cong Thanh
by Hoai Nam
HOI AN (VNS) — Claude Balland, from France, has spent 14 years in Viet Nam collecting old sidecars, French-manufactured vintage buses and cars that have been lost in Viet Nam from the late 1990s.
Claude, who works as general manager of Victoria Hoi An resort, has used his 11 sidecar collections as tourist vehicles to maintain the 1970s model motorcycles.
He has also built a garage to restore and repair all the cars in the resort on Cua Dai beach.
"I came here to build the resort 14 years ago. As a hobby, I bought old sidecars from different provinces in Viet Nam. Most of them were Russian-made Ural sidecars," Claude noted.
"I took time in restoring and repairing using scarce spare parts and accessories of the model. However, my love for old sidecars paid off," he recalled.
The Ural sidecar, which was the popular model used during the World War II by Russian Army, has two four-stroke 650 cc engines. It has three wheeler drum brake and a four-level gearbox and a reverse gear that allows the driver to control it as a car.
Tran Van Mai, a mechanic, said that the sidecars could run well with a speed of 80km per hour in the rough road.
"It is a powerful motorcycle. I could drive uphill in Son Tra Mountain in Da Nang City on the trekking path, where cars cannot be driven," Mai claimed.
"But finding spare parts is always hard for me and drivers. The ignition system and clutches often need repair after a long drive," he added.
"I have sent these to Citroen Traction Avant for repair in Hue. Old model cars need periodic maintenance to be rented to tourists in Hoi An and weddings," the Frenchman stated, adding that one Renault operates well.
The 1942 model Renault was very popular in the central region as public buses in the late 1980s. However, local mechanics had modified it with a coal-fired air turbo-driven system to save fuel.
Claude noted that the collection of vans decorate the entrance of Victoria Hoi An Resort only because the vehicles are not allowed to run. The vintage vans are lined up with sidecars on the sidewalk in front of the resort.
Mai , the mechanic said he often starts the engine to maintain and restore the vintage collection.
Tourists find the collection interesting, as that they have not seen these for a long period.
"It is so interesting. The collection fascinates me. I also love sidecars so much, but this is the first time that I see old cycles and vans like that. I wish I had the time to ride on sidecars and old Renault," said Korean tourist Kim Jin-hyoung.
The French stated that this is one of his most favourite collections, and that is the reason he has taken time and spent money to preserve them. — VNS