Vespa enthusiasts gather at Rubie’s Sunday to share their love for the unique machines
Vespa barbecue at Rubies bar.
Cambodia's Vespa society doubled its membership numbers at a barbecue hosted by Phnom Penh's Rubies bar last Sunday.
The event, organised by Simon Power, saw membership of the Phnom Penh Vespa Club swell from 10 to 20.
"It's still mostly Westerners, but more and more Khmers are getting involved in Vespas," Power said.
But Tong Soprach, co-organiser of the club, said the limited number of Vespas in Cambodia will prevent membership expanding much further.
Only around 50 Vespas are currently in the country, and those held privately are at constant risk of being repatriated offshore, Tong Soprach said.
"Many Westerners buy Vespas, but when they leave, they take them with them," he said.
The Vespa was created by Piaggio & Co SpA of Pontedera, Italy, in 1946. While the company initially manufactured a single model, it rapidly expanded to produce a full line of scooters.
Piaggio is currently Europe's largest manufacturer of two-wheeled vehicles and the world's fourth-largest motorcycle manufacturer by unit sales. The largest market is still Italy, followed by the United Kingdom.
Many westerners buy vespas but when they leave they take them with them.
While the production base is still Italy, Vespas are also manufactured under licence in India, Taiwan and Indonesia.
Vespas are recognisable by their painted, pressed-steel unibody, which combines a complete cowling for the engine, enclosing the engine mechanism and concealing dirt and grease, a flat floorboard and a prominent front fairing to provide wind protection.
Vespa is the Latin and Italian name for wasp, derived from the high-pitched noise of the two-stroke engine and referencing the vehicle's body shape, where a thick rear part is connected to the front part by a narrow waist.
Sam Hong, known as Bo, is the heart of the Vespa community in Cambodia.
He inherited the love for Vespas from his father, who began tinkering with and selling the machines in the 1980s.
Sam Hong‘s workshop on Street 217 is widely regarded as the best place for Vespa repair and maintenance. It is also the key distribution point for new Vespas in the Kingdom. The dealership currently has 10 Vespas for sale, Sam Hong said.
Vespa enthusiast Stephane Guihard, who owns Phnom Penh's Factory bar, joined the Vespa club Sunday at Rubies.
He said interest in Vespas was growing rapidly, driving up prices.
"I was lucky to buy this one for US$300," he said. "Now, prices are growing to a starting price of around $900."
Power said people who wished to join the Vespa community needed to be prepared to search around rather than wait for a new Vespa to hit the market.
"Now there are few Vespas for sale, and a lot have been shipped out," he said. "You can buy it off an expat for a crazy price or talk to Bo and try to import one."