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Classic cars in Vietnam

Is it possible to own and drive a classic car, over 25 years old, in Vietnam.
I live in HCMC and have free time and looking for a restoration project but I remember reading somewhere that there is an age limit on cars, can someone tell me if this is the case as am not sure where to find out. Thanks

interested in this subject. I am surprised about the age limit. I saw recently Citroen Traction avant in streets , and a Dalat Citroen too. I can't find "Classic car club" till now in Vietnam. But sure soon will exist. I will be not surprised by the necessary government approval ... Some classic French car in Ho Chi Minh Museum ( the new one dedicated to the man ,not the city ...). Best regards . Jean-Marie

The closest I've seen to a classic is my mates pug 504

Absolutely knackered, but rightly famed for it's durability and handling/ ride

There are age limits in VN on commercial vehicles, including taxis. This was imposed to get a country-full of clapped out vehicles off the road. In 1993 there were still 1950s Fargo trucks on the road in VN, and buses that had not changed since the war.
As of last year, I was still seeing war era US army trucks being cut up for scrap outside Nha Trang.

Back in the 1960s in VN there were lots of PUG 203s still around.  Around 2001 Peugeot decided to completely withdraw from VN, because of government policies.  But in 2013 signed a trading and assembly deal with a VN motor company and has returned to VN. see announcement at
http://www.peugeot.com/en/news/peugeot- … in-vietnam

"PUG 504 ... rightly famed for it's durability and handling/ ride"
Yes, indeed !  Once you've driven a PUG, nothing else will do.

I don't know how old something must be to be classic, but one type of vehicle that you will see in VN that you will rarely see in the US is an M151 "Jeep."  This is because the US Dept of Defense unfortunately adopted a policy of requiring bidders at auction to cut them in half through the frame when they were sold off starting in the 80's.   This was ostensibly for safety reasons as the independent front suspension supposedly made them more likely to roll over in high speed cornering.   Of course they are a great off road vehicle and completely safe as long as kept to reasonable road speeds.  I met one owner of a beautifully restored 151 in my wife's hometown.  He lived in D-1 and was a frequent business traveler to the US so he was aware of their relative scarcity there.   Another owner closer to our apartment was a mechanic working for the US Army during the war.   There are clubs especially for 151 owners. that go on off road group outings in the countryside.  If one had one of these great vehicles, it would surely be a lot of fun and a great way to make local friends with a common interest.

My gf said the jeeps are dirt cheap......It seems here they still have original drivetrains whereas in scambodia they r all toyotas, even autos.

Then theres the UAZ/GAZ/ Lada nivel but my dad had one back home for 150 quid

9 years ago, I was studying in haikou and there was an immaculate Hongqi ( Chinese zil, Chevy 56 rip- off) . I could of brought it, but just didntnhave the loot, mechanical knowledge etc to have helped it. Went back a few years ago and it had just been left to rot. I nearly cried.

The market and China is so disfuctional that I could have brought it for a few thousand/ a thousand dollars?? Then some people up n9rth are selling the same cars in worse condition for millions.......it was an absolute gem, but parts were Chinese copies of a Russian copy of a Chevy 56........bespoke car parts wouldn't have been prohibitively expensive in China.

Pretty sure they scrapped it

I'm a life long car enthusiast, but hopeless at physics. Y does the independent front suspension make it dangerous ( to do with the leaf spring rear?)

I misstated.  The problem is independent rears, not the front.   I don't know the physics either but one problem with independent rears is that they can get into an extreme camber if they go weightless and then return to ground. The M151A2 supposedly corrected the problem by using an anti-sway bar, as you will see in civilian vehicles.  The modification came out in 1969 and probably 100% of the new vehicles went to Vietnam so they should be as common as the 151.  Just don't drive like an 18 year old GI and you will be fine.

The 1963 Jeep CJ-5 behind me in the picture just passed safety inspection again today. It took me about one hour. The big thing about driving any car in Viet Nam is that your car must pass a safety inspection every six months. Traffic is also a pain. Also be sure to keep your VN/DL and vehicle paperwork with you.

Old Jeeps are cheap here. But, repair parts and qualified Jeep Mechanics are rather rare. Old Jeeps are also difficult for many people to drive. The people who inspected Annie Bell Lee the Jeep told me how hard it was to steer.

On the MUTT or M-151, it has independent suspension front and rear.  Jeeps have front and rear axles. MUTTs also seem more expensive to buy over here than Jeeps.

Note, the VN records say that my Jeep was made in 1970. The 1970 is actually the import date. For my jeep both the chassis and engine serial numbers show 1963.

Your CJ-5 must have an interesting ownership history.  If it was imported in 1970 it might have been for an outfit like UPI or the AP or one of the US TV networks. However since it was 7 years old back then maybe it was some kind of charitable outfit with a budget.  If I remember right the CJ-5 is parallel to the Korean War Jeep.  I would think finding parts for a 151 would be a lot easier.  I had a friend who did a fairly accurate restoration of an GPW which was the Ford version of  the WWII Jeep.  Hawaii used to be loaded with WWII salvage vehicles but not any more. 

Getting back to Paulanderton's original question, I wonder if you are thinking of the program that lets Viet Kieu import a car duty-free once in a lifetime.  I don't remember the time but there is a limit on age for those vehicles.  It might be around 3-5 years.  I would guess that you could import a true classic car if you were willing to pay the duties, but I guess nobody reading here has done that as we have no firsthand responses.  Too bad.

THIGV :

Getting back to Paulanderton's original question, I wonder if you are thinking of the program that lets Viet Kieu import a car duty-free once in a lifetime.  I don't remember the time but there is a limit on age for those vehicles.  It might be around 3-5 years.  I would guess that you could import a true classic car if you were willing to pay the duties, but I guess nobody reading here has done that as we have no firsthand responses.  Too bad.

My wife and I were discussing this ten or more years ago, because before her health went bad, she liked automatic transmissions and hated stick shift. While, I much prefer a stick shift. Anyway, I believe that you are correct that the car had to be less than 4 or 5 years old. To me the big issue would have been maintenance. 

Last time I was in Phan Thiet, they had a really nice Ford Model "T" in a department store window.

70 years old :

Anyway, I believe that you are correct that the car had to be less than 4 or 5 years old. To me the big issue would have been maintenance.

Good point on maintenance.  If you do import a late model car, best to pick both a brand and model that you see on the streets.  That way you can be reasonably assured, as the car gets older, of parts availability and even mechanics' knowledge at dealerships.  So Ford Escape OK, Mustang maybe not, Chevrolet maybe not.  No Saab, Audi, or other of the smaller European brands.  Mercedes OK if comparable to local models, Toyota Camry OK, Sienna van no.

Saigon Classic car club is on Facebook. There is an age restriction on importing cars so you'll never be importing a classic unless there is a change of heart & law, my Jag sits in UK and will never be here sadly.
The older cars you see have either been here since new or within the import time frame if used. I occasionally see a red Jaguar XJ6 series 3 in Saigon which surprised me first time.
I'm looking for a modern classic to work on as well. Good hunting!

Theres and XJ.... I think its an XJ 12 parked up most nights in the Mega Ruby Estate, Q9. It's in beautiful condition.

If it's bright red then that s one. I have never got close enough to see if it was a 6 pot or a 12.

I went after a 79 Merc S Class (W116) it's the 280S which is the entry level model with no electrics windows but still worth a look. I've been told it has a Toyota engine & manual gearbox fitted! Who would do such a thing to such a magnificent car.

The jag is a maroon colour.

Toyota engine in a Mercedes body? Sacrilege!

Isn't it just.
I have been scraping around for an engine & box & found one to import but i'm not a mechanic and i suspect there is a bundle of ancillaries that will be necessary to put it right. For the right person it could be good but i think it's too much for me.

I'm having to lower my sights on what modern classic floats my boat but somehow a 1990's Peugeot 405 ain't doing it for me!

There are a few Russian or Chinese jeep type things knocking about

I can't do Jeeps, i like to travel in a bit of style! Half of me thinks the whole Jeep thing is a bit of an insult to the locals to be driving about here. Don't mention the war and all that! Maybe a tad over sensitive, i'd rather a Renault 4.

The Vietnamese don't see to hold grudges though.

eodmatt :

The Vietnamese don't see to hold grudges though.

I knew two Vietnamese with restored 151's.  One was a young luxury furniture store owner who spent extensive time in the US every year, probably on exports.  I did meet him at his mothers home which was deep in the countryside on a back road in Ben Tre Province which was 100% VC territory.    His had full canvas top and US markings, from the white star to the TP markings over the wheels. The exception was the modern electric winch in front.  He told me that he went off-roading with a club.  The other had been a mechanic for the US Army during the war and lived in my neighborhood which could definitely be described as pro-American both then and now.  His was plain OD and while functional, I think was mostly kept for the memories.

I am sure that if one had a restored Jeep, they could join the club and meet a lot of good local friends.

I was in Vung Tau back in December and found a business owner with a collection of classic cars.  I tried inquiring about them, but he was not very communicative.  I'm not sure what the law is, but I can find out when I am there later this month.

Firstly, my apologies for my brevity in answering - I am not normally known to be taciturn, but yesterday I was concentrating on something. Anyway, as far as any anti US feelings go (I'm a Brit, so have no skin in the matter), I have rarely come across any. This came as a surprise to to me. For example, my Vietnamese interpreter in Vung Tau in 2000 was a lady whose little sister had been cut in half during a bombing raid during the war. I asked her how she felt about it and she said "oh those were bad days but they are over now". Similarly,  I asked my wife's father how he felt about the US now - he had been a Colonel in the NVA. He just replied that there had been a war, Vietnam had won the war in its own country and that the "enemy" had gone away and were not the enemy any more.

I contrast this with my grandmother who, having lived through WW2, detested Germans until the day she died. This may have had something to do with the fact that in about 1943, a German aircraft returning from a bombing run over Portsmouth, had machine gunned her clean washing which was drying on the washing line in the garden  at the time. She never forgot it.

Anyway, back to old cars. Every now and then in Saigon there appears to be an almost spontaneous drive through of cars, I think on a Sunday, where you can see a parade of all kinds of cars from Bentley and Rolls Royce through lambo... Lanbou.... posh Italian sports cars, Porches, big Mercs, US, Russian and Chinese jeeps and a whole lot more. Someone must organise it but I have no idea who.

There is also a street somewhere in D1 (sorry Q1) which very often has half a dozen US / Vn war era jeeps parked up, mostly in pristine  combat livery of the age and complete with radio antennae, jerry cans and what have you. Buggered if I can remember where the street is, but there is a coffee shop dead opposite (hah, Yeah I know, there are 1 billion coffee shops in Sg). LHD tells me that theres a very active Jeep owners club in Sg, but she doesn't know where it is based.

Personally I'd like to drive a London taxi around the city and, I have seen one parked in the street near the Majestic hotel too.

THIGV :
eodmatt :

The Vietnamese don't see to hold grudges though.

I knew two Vietnamese with restored 151's.  One was a young luxury furniture store owner who spent extensive time in the US every year, probably on exports.  I did meet him at his mothers home which was deep in the countryside on a back road in Ben Tre Province which was 100% VC territory.    His had full canvas top and US markings, from the white star to the TP markings over the wheels. The exception was the modern electric winch in front.  He told me that he went off-roading with a club.  The other had been a mechanic for the US Army during the war and lived in my neighborhood which could definitely be described as pro-American both then and now.  His was plain OD and while functional, I think was mostly kept for the memories.

I am sure that if one had a restored Jeep, they could join the club and meet a lot of good local friends.

As a Jeep owner until yesterday, you are absolutely correct. I sold my jeep that I have owned for many years because of my wife's health. She is bed-ridden and I've almost never driven the jeep over the last few years. We originally bought the jeep because it was useful on our farm.

so i guess importing a classic ferrari would be out of the question, under normal circumstances?  :)

vndreamer :

so i guess importing a classic ferrari would be out of the question, under normal circumstances?  :)

If you can afford a classic Ferrari, you can probably afford a team of local lawyers to work out the import details.   :joking:

paulanderton :

Is it possible to own and drive a classic car, over 25 years old, in Vietnam.

I believe it is. 

Last July, at the 6th anniversary of Saigon Classic Car Club, a Citroën Traction '53 and quite a number of VW Beetle were among the participants.  Now, I don't know much (or actually, anything) about cars in general, but I do know quite a bit about old VW Beetle (between spouse and me, we owned 5 in our separate pasts, all of them pre- or very early '60s).  I was also acquainted with Citroën, though not the flashy ones at the SCCC, being that my older brothers owned Citroën 2CV when I grew up here. 

Every now and then, I still saw old 2CV (late '50s to early '60s models) in smaller cities across VN.  There are also quite a few Citroën DS 2-door ragtop and 4-door sedan left behind from the diplomatic corp of the late '60s.  These DS in particular, I was fascinated by them and had a notebook in which I jotted down the details of every one I came across.

ETA:  Spouse just reminded me that we saw a convertible Thunderbird '58 the day we visited my  primary school Trần Hưng Đạo.  So, the answer to the OP question is: Definitely yes to own and drive.  To import, I have no idea.

I am informed by Her Indoors that it will be very a expensive and complex exercise. This thread on Reddit, although 2 years old, may help: https://www.reddit.com/r/VietNam/commen … mpossible/

About 10 years ago my wife and I checked out bringing a Ford Taurus to Vietnam as my wife isn't that good with a standard transmission. That turned out to be very expensive and parts to maintain the car would have been almost impossible. After having a junker Nissan for a while we bought an old Jeep.

My wife's reason for buying the Jeep is that it had much more status for very little money than most cars. I liked the Jeep because I am retired US Army and we had a fish farm up in the mountains and the Jeep was actually very useful on the farm.

From the standpoint of maintaining a vehicle in Vietnam, I VERY strongly suggest buying a vehicle that is reasonably common in Vietnam. Parts can be very difficult and expensive to obtain and mechanics to maintain your vehicle may be impossible to find if you buy a vehicle that isn't common in Vietnam.

My 2 Xu

70 years old :

From the standpoint of maintaining a vehicle in Vietnam, I VERY strongly suggest buying a vehicle that is reasonably common in Vietnam. Parts can be very difficult and expensive to obtain and mechanics to maintain your vehicle may be impossible to find if you buy a vehicle that isn't common in Vietnam.

My 2 Xu

Those are the reasons that bringing an exotic would be very difficult.  It could possibly go 10 years before getting a major done, but there is the possibility of getting service in Hong Kong or Singapore.  Just imagine that road trip :)

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