Restored vintage Vespas swing into action in Singapore

Tours on these scrumptious scooters with sidecars are a great way to see the city from a different perspective.

Cruising down glitzy Orchard Road or parked near a traditional shophouse. Pausing near eating houses serving steaming hot bowls of Bak Kut Teh or facing one of the colonnaded colonial black-and-white houses on their Crazy Rich Asians tour. Singapore Sidecars let you see it all and do it in quirky style too. Sitting in a comfortable sidecar, you’re perfectly safe, and yet so up close with the ‘real Singapore’ that you can feel it in every pore. Apparently, after a sidecar tour of Singapore, Joe Russo, director of Avengers: Infinity Wars and the Captain America movies, exclaimed, “That was the best tour I’ve ever been on!” As the world’s first vintage Vespa sidecar tours, they certainly are on a roll.

Singapore, Singapore Tourism, city tours, Vespa, sidecars
Capturing the essence of Singapore’s culture. Image: Courtesy Singapore Sidecars.

It all started about eight years ago when Hongkong-born, London-bred Simon Wong, who voices documentaries for Discovery Channel and NatGeo in Singapore, spotted a pair of vintage Vespas parked outside an old house near where he lived. He recalls being completely enchanted by them. “They were perfectly restored, classic white with really shiny chrome with tan leather seats. You could literally smell the fresh paint on them,” smiles the enthusiast. Wong ended up partnering with Johnny Chen, the man who had restored these sidecars, to start a venture where they were used for various charity events for a number of years.

Singapore, Singapore Tourism, city tours, Vespa, sidecars
Simon Wong, co-founder of this first-of-its-kind venture. Image: Courtesy Singapore Sidecars.

Singapore had a Vespa factory that opened pre-Independence in 1965. The Vespas from that time were being used in police and postal work. That is where Chen and Wong managed to find the scooters and sidecars that they needed.  It was a few years later that they realised that sidecar tours could be something interesting they could offer tourists and officially launched the company in 2018.

By then, Chen had already managed to get the laws changed, acquiring licenses for motorbike class vehicles to be used for commercial enterprises and proving to the Land Transport Authorities that, with all the right safety protocols and precautions, humans could be transported in the sidecars too. They also collaborated with the Singapore Tourism Board to spread awareness about their tours. They started with just five sidecars and, in the first year, the company more than paid for itself.

What a great way to see a city! Image: Courtesy Singapore Sidecars.

Travellers could pick a route of their choice, don a vintage helmet, and explore an authentic Singapore that is off the beaten path. And if you wanted to bring your pet along, they could ride with you for free as long as they’re on a leash and weighed under 10 pounds. By the second year, the turnover of Singapore Sidecars had gone up four times. Their fleet, too, had grown to 25 sidecars serving over 1,000 guests a month, apart from continuing their charity work. Getting increasingly popular with corporate events and bachelor parties, they were planning to expand the fleet to 40. This was just before Covid hit.

Singapore, Singapore Tourism, city tours, Vespa, sidecars
Singapore Sidecars are rolling again. Image: Courtesy Singapore Sidecars.

They’re back in operation now and have already had plenty of domestic bookings. Wong is also counting on the tourism sector opening up so that more and more people can be driven around on this unique set of wheels by an experienced guide. Josephine Wee, a guide who is closely associated with the Singapore Tourism Board, is excited about using it with her guests. She says, “It’s unusual and makes you ride through the town and see Singapore from a different perspective.” When asked what demographic she thinks the vintage Vespas would appeal to, she replies, “Those who’d like it for the ‘gram, and especially 30- to 50-year-olds who have the money to spend.”

Singapore, Singapore Tourism, city tours, Vespa, sidecars
Definitely great for the ‘gram! Image Courtesy Singapore Sidecars.
Singapore, Singapore Tourism, city tours, Vespa, sidecars
They hope to expand their fleet in the coming years. Image: Courtesy Singapore Sidecars.

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