The Truth About Cars » Down On The Vietnam Street http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 06 Aug 2014 16:25:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Down On The Vietnam Street http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com No Credit? No Problem! Uncle Ho’s Used Cars Has a Low-Mile ZIS For You! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/no-credit-no-problem-uncle-hos-used-cars-has-a-low-mile-zis-for-you/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/no-credit-no-problem-uncle-hos-used-cars-has-a-low-mile-zis-for-you/#comments Thu, 13 Sep 2012 14:30:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=460195 Ho Chi Minh was a mysterious guy; even after reading the definitive biography of the revolutionary schemer who changed pseudonyms as often most of us change our socks, I still couldn’t tell you much about the man who is now his country’s equivalent of all of America’s Founding Fathers rolled into one. However, I can […]

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Ho Chi Minh was a mysterious guy; even after reading the definitive biography of the revolutionary schemer who changed pseudonyms as often most of us change our socks, I still couldn’t tell you much about the man who is now his country’s equivalent of all of America’s Founding Fathers rolled into one. However, I can tell you what Ho Chi Minh drove!
I spent a couple of weeks in Vietnam earlier this year (some of you may recall my rant about Honda Super Cubs in Vietnam), and I visited the Ho Chi Minh Museum in Hanoi. I wasn’t too keen to visit the creepy embalmed corpse of Ho (whose body got the Lenin/Mao-style waxworks treatment in spite of his dying request to be cremated), but I had heard that his old Peugeot 404 could be found somewhere nearby and I definitely wanted to check that out. Sure enough, there were signs indicating “GARAGE OF HOCHIMINH’S USED CARS” on the museum grounds.
The place is full of soldiers in snazzy uniforms marching in aimless patterns among groups of bored Hanoi schoolkids on what was no doubt their 50th trip to look at dusty 1920s French Communist newspaper articles written by Uncle Ho. Thanks to the “GARAGE OF HOCHIMINH’S USED CARS” signs, however, all I could think about was an alternate-history scenario in which Ho Chi Minh (known as Nguyễn Sinh Cung at the time) stayed in the United States after working in New York for a few years in the 1910s (instead of moving on to Europe, which is what he really did) and then went on to found a chain of used-car dealerships in California: Crazy Uncle Ho’s Quality Pre-Owned Vehicles! He’s givin’ away those Model Ts! Imagine the TV commercials in alternate-history Los Angeles of the 1950s, in which elder statesman of used-car sales Ho Chi Minh offers unbelievable deals in a Kaiser Manhattan. Even Cal Worthington would have grown a long goatee, in order to follow in Crazy Uncle Ho’s footsteps. Oh yes, things would have been different.
Right. So, the Ho Chi Minh Museum has three of Ho’s cars behind glass in what was once his garage, and tourists— most of whom probably have Super Cubs as daily drivers— shoot thousands of photos of them.
Here’s his 1964 Peugeot 404, which (according to the sign next to the car) “was given by Vietnamese residents in New Caledonia (France).” By this time, Ho was in very poor health (he was more or less a figurehead by the middle 1950s) and probably didn’t do much cruising of the avenues of Hanoi in his new Peugeot.
Then there’s this ’55 GAZ-M20 Pobeda, given to Ho Chi Minh by his friends in Moscow. In those days, if you were a Communist revolutionary in a Third World country, you had to choose between China and the USSR as your patron. The Chinese were closer (and Vietnam’s traditional enemy), but the Soviets had better cars.
Ho probably saw this stately 1954 ZIS-110 (allegedly based on the Packard Super Eight) as his payback for all those years as a starving radical in Parisian hot-sheet flophouses.
It doesn’t quite pass the Proletariat Test, but who cares? Look at this ZIS!

01 - Ho Chi Minh's Used Cars - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - Ho Chi Minh's Used Cars - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - Ho Chi Minh's Used Cars - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - Ho Chi Minh's Used Cars - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - Ho Chi Minh's Used Cars - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - Ho Chi Minh's Used Cars - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - Ho Chi Minh's Used Cars - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - Ho Chi Minh's Used Cars - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - Ho Chi Minh's Used Cars - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - Ho Chi Minh's Used Cars - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - Ho Chi Minh's Used Cars - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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How Honda Survived the Vigor, the Del Sol, and the Lawsuits: Super Cub! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/how-honda-survived-the-vigor-the-del-sol-and-the-lawsuits-super-cub/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/how-honda-survived-the-vigor-the-del-sol-and-the-lawsuits-super-cub/#comments Tue, 03 Apr 2012 18:20:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=437894 For about 15 years, the Civic and the Accord were untouchable in the American marketplace; Honda sold all they could build here plus as many as they could import under the limitations of the Voluntary Export Restraint agreement of 1981. Then… well, Soichiro Honda died and Honda sort of lost its way. Sure, their cars […]

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For about 15 years, the Civic and the Accord were untouchable in the American marketplace; Honda sold all they could build here plus as many as they could import under the limitations of the Voluntary Export Restraint agreement of 1981. Then… well, Soichiro Honda died and Honda sort of lost its way. Sure, their cars were still good, but the competition had caught up and the Honda magic had worn off for American car buyers. Honda car sales in Japan had never been so great, so what kept Honda going through the lean times? Two-wheelers! I spent two weeks in Vietnam last month and came away with a new appreciation for Honda’s utter dominance of the Asian motorbike market.
Scooters and motorcycles are central to the culture of Vietnam; farmers ride them to their fields, parents use them to drop the kids off at school, furniture stores use them to deliver bedroom sets, and so on. Saigon and Hanoi are boiling maelstroms of bikes everywhere. Want to ride on the wrong side of the street? Go for it! On the sidewalk? Sure! Traffic signals? What traffic signals? Most of the bikes are sub-200cc machines, most are clutchless, and most are Hondas. The Honda Wave is one of the most popular, with the newer Air Blade a big seller as well. Those shiny new bikes were kind of interesting, but nothing approaches the majesty of the most-produced motor vehicle in history: the Honda Super Cub.
If you see a motorcycle piled high with an outlandish quantity of weird stuff in Vietnam, there’s about a 90% chance that it will one of the 60+ million Super Cubs built since 1958.
Hauling 150 kilos of soybeans to your restaurant in Danang? You know what to do!
As James May says in the Top Gear Vietnam Special, after selecting a Super Cub for his Saigon-to-Hanoi steed, this is the machine that put Asia on wheels.
You see a lot of completely beat early Super Cubs in Vietnam, no doubt pieced together from bits of several junked bikes. The Vietnamese I spoke to about the Super Cub were a little puzzled by my interest; to them, the old Super Cub seems to be your entry-level bike, something you sell as soon as you can afford to move up to a Wave or Vespa.
Which isn’t to say that you don’t see early Super Cubs in cherry condition. The owner of this one, parked in front of the Saigon tailor shop where I had some custom shirts made, protects the seat from sun and grime with a plastic stool while parked.
The Super Cub is the real business workhorse of the country. While Toyota Innova minivans are getting more popular for deliveries, the venerable Honda motorbike still rules the narrow streets of Vietnam. Here’s a trailer-equipped Super Cub serving as a beer truck in Hoi An.
It’s good to know that my frosty Biere Larue was brought to this excellent restaurant on a Super Cub. Vietnam is still a regional-beer place, with Danang-brewed Larue the top beer in the central part of the country.
Adding a trailer to your Super Cub makes it tougher to negotiate traffic, but saves time tying stuff down and makes it easier to balance while riding.
It’s easy to find parts for your ailing Super Cub in Saigon and Hanoi; little hole-in-the-wall shops sell every component imaginable. I asked several semi-English-speaking street-corner mechanics (more on them later) about motorbike junkyards, but nobody seemed to understand my question.
You can still buy new Super Cubs, and many do. The Little Cub seems especially popular among young women with office jobs.
The Super Cub was sold in the United States, but the Piper Super Cub airplane meant that Honda had to use a different name on these shores. So, Americans bought Honda Passports.
I’ve never owned a motorcycle in my life, but I’m now shopping for an old Passport. If I find a good one, I’ll head over to eBay and buy some Super Cub badges for it.

41 - Honda Super Cub in Vietnam - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 01 - Honda Super Cub in Vietnam - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 02 - Honda Super Cub in Vietnam - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 03 - Honda Super Cub in Vietnam - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 04 - Honda Super Cub in Vietnam - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 05 - Honda Super Cub in Vietnam - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 06 - Honda Super Cub in Vietnam - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 07 - Honda Super Cub in Vietnam - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 08 - Honda Super Cub in Vietnam - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 09 - Honda Super Cub in Vietnam - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 10 - Honda Super Cub in Vietnam - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 11 - Honda Super Cub in Vietnam - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 12 - Honda Super Cub in Vietnam - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 13 - Honda Super Cub in Vietnam - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 14 - Honda Super Cub in Vietnam - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 15 - Honda Super Cub in Vietnam - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 16 - Honda Super Cub in Vietnam - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 17 - Honda Super Cub in Vietnam - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 18 - Honda Super Cub in Vietnam - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 19 - Honda Super Cub in Vietnam - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 20 - Honda Super Cub in Vietnam - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 21 - Honda Super Cub in Vietnam - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 22 - Honda Super Cub in Vietnam - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 23 - Honda Super Cub in Vietnam - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 24 - Honda Super Cub in Vietnam - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 25 - Honda Super Cub in Vietnam - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 26 - Honda Super Cub in Vietnam - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 27 - Honda Super Cub in Vietnam - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 28 - Honda Super Cub in Vietnam - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 29 - Honda Super Cub in Vietnam - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 30 - Honda Super Cub in Vietnam - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 31 - Honda Super Cub in Vietnam - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 32 - Honda Super Cub in Vietnam - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 33 - Honda Super Cub in Vietnam - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 34 - Honda Super Cub in Vietnam - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 35 - Honda Super Cub in Vietnam - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 36 - Honda Super Cub in Vietnam - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 37 - Honda Super Cub in Vietnam - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 38 - Honda Super Cub in Vietnam - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 39 - Honda Super Cub in Vietnam - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 40 - Honda Super Cub in Vietnam - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 42 - Honda Super Cub in Vietnam - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 43 - Honda Super Cub in Vietnam - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden

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Not What Marx and Engels Had In Mind: Welcome To Hanoi! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/not-what-marx-and-engels-had-in-mind-welcome-to-hanoi/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/not-what-marx-and-engels-had-in-mind-welcome-to-hanoi/#comments Thu, 22 Mar 2012 14:30:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=435886 I just spent two weeks on vacation in Vietnam, and my pre-trip expectations of seeing fleets of left-behind-by-the-French Peugeots, left-behind-by-the-Americans Falcons, and left-behind-by-the-Soviets GAZs turned out to be ridiculously inaccurate. I saw a few old cars (more on that later), but most of the cars in Vietnam are boring late-model rides like Kia Rios and […]

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I just spent two weeks on vacation in Vietnam, and my pre-trip expectations of seeing fleets of left-behind-by-the-French Peugeots, left-behind-by-the-Americans Falcons, and left-behind-by-the-Soviets GAZs turned out to be ridiculously inaccurate. I saw a few old cars (more on that later), but most of the cars in Vietnam are boring late-model rides like Kia Rios and Toyota Innovas. However, I did see quite a few conspicuous-consumption statusmobiles in Saigon and Hanoi; the grumbling old-time revolutionary veterans no doubt refer to the current Hanoi leadership as CINOs. Here’s an example I spotted near St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Hanoi’s Old Quarter.
You see a lot of old-timey heroic-workers billboards celebrating stuff like the founding of the Vietnamese Communist Party and the sure-didn’t-look-like-victory-at-the-time Tet Offensive around the country, but Vietnam 2012 has— in the words of Ice-T— a capitalist migraine.
For most Vietnamese, being on wheels means rolling on two wheels; the bike-centric Top Gear Vietnam Special captured the spirit very well. Those of us in the USA have become accustomed to the idea that you need a full-sized SUV or minivan if you have even one child… but Vietnamese city dwellers know better. Motorbikes can squeeze through tiny 14th-century alleys, they get high-double-digit fuel economy, and they can negotiate your typical no-traffic-signal Saigon intersection without stopping.
The problem with bikes, though, is that they’re quite poor at flaunting your newfound wealth. Oh, sure, you can get a BMW or Hayabusa two-wheeler, but what the up-and-coming Vietnamese businessman really needs is a totally impractical, gas-sucking luxury ride. I saw plenty of Benzes and Porsches and even the occasional Bentley, but this is the king!
You want post-Cold-War irony? This H2 (which probably can’t even fit on 80% of Hanoi’s streets and is lucky to average 3 MPH while trying to force its way through a maelstrom of Super Cubs stacked with 50-kilo sacks of soybeans, pushcarts laden with a half-ton of hog innards, and bewildered cops in Toyota Crowns) was parked in front of a store selling vintage Communist propaganda posters.
I’m sure the grizzled NVA vets who see this thing shake their fists and yell “I lost all my buddies to B-52 strikes at Khe Sanh for this?”, but something like 80% of the Vietnamese population is under 30… and they probably ignore Grandpa and think “I’ll have one of those someday!”

09 - Hanoi Hummer - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Conspicuous Consumption' Greden 01 - Hanoi Hummer - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Conspicuous Consumption' Greden 02 - Hanoi Hummer - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Conspicuous Consumption' Greden 03 - Hanoi Hummer - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Conspicuous Consumption' Greden 04 - Hanoi Hummer - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Conspicuous Consumption' Greden 05 - Hanoi Hummer - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Conspicuous Consumption' Greden 06 - Hanoi Hummer - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Conspicuous Consumption' Greden 07 - Hanoi Hummer - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Conspicuous Consumption' Greden 08 - Hanoi Hummer - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Conspicuous Consumption' Greden Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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