Recently there has been a flood of restored scooters coming in from Asia, most from Vietnam, but sometimes from Indonesia, Thailand, India, Pakistan, or the Philippines. These scooters look pretty, but are rife with mechanical problems and poor workmanship. They are often characterized by two-tone paint jobs, and an abundance of shiny accessories.
How to Spot an Asian Restoration
Here's a few example photos with things to look for that may identify these scooters.
Yellow kickstand boots, This is a nearly foolproof indication. I dont know why, but they're only found on asian restorations. Incorrect plastic center mat. Random shiny accessory on the front fender. 10 inch wheel conversions. This bike should have 4 lug patterned wheels. So more than likely the front fork and engine have been replaced as well. Another sure sign of a poor restoration is the conversion of a largeframe bodied scooter to appear like a earlier fenderlight wideframe.
Yellow stand boots, odd sewn floor mat, chrome exhaust tip, painted wheel rims
Incorrect plastic center-mat, and black trim around the glovebox door. Front fork swingarm cover has 'Vespa' embossed into it. Also the chrome rack on the buddy seat. The top of the frames fork tube's scalloped edge has been chromed. There is incorrect thin glovebox plastic "rubber". The spare tire rack is a very heavy steel plate. The legshield trim run down the entire side of the legshield and along the floorboardboard edge. Floor rails are missing.
It's one thing to badmouth a bike for being Asian. It's another to be aware of the catalog of issues that can put your life at risk if you attempt to ride one of these death traps.
Southeast Asia is wet, very wet. When it isn't raining, it's humid. And it's close to the ocean with salt in the air. And scooters were very rarely stored indoors. Quite often the steel on an old bike from Asia is irreparably rusted to hell. Worse the Asian shops that perform these "restorations" rarely try to fix the problem before slapping on a coat of paint and sending it on to you.
Your scooter is made of steel for a reason. It is strong and durable. Bondo on the other hand is not. Bondo is designed for smoothing out small dents, not for holding a bike together. Woe to you if you hit a pothole and your bike cracks in two because your Bondo "weld" fell apart.
From a safety perspective, iIf not done properly this will ensure that you can never steer straight. From a collector's perspective, what is the true value of a frankenscooter?
Vietnam's wet environment promotes rust all over a bike, even in the hidden areas. Now it may seem to you that this is merely cosmetic, but if there's rust under the paint, there is probably rust in the hidden areas too. People have been hospitalized because their bikes have simply collapsed when their scooter's floorboards have collapsed while they were riding.
Roads in Asia are not very well maintained. Bikes that have repeatedly hitting pot holes don't make good restoration candidates.
Whether from opening created by pothole dents and crack or from the humid air, brake drums are often seriously rusted and never even examined by your "restorer". When you apply your brakes the wheel is supposed to continue spinning. Rusted brake drums will ensure your wheels lock up, increasing your chances of an accident.
It is common to disguise a cracked fork link with a chrome fork link cover, which is not going to hold your fork link together. A cracked fork link can lead to your front wheel locking up or simply falling off while you are riding.
Engines are commonly rebuilt with used parts, incorrect parts, coffee can shims, brass inserts, wrong sized parts, or badly remanufactured parts A rebuilt engine rebuilt with used or incorrect parts is not rebuilt despite the advertising otherwise. Using worn or incorrect parts may get your motor running just long enough to start, but will dramatically increase your chance of a catastrophic engine failure while you are riding.
A shim is a carefully measured flat piece of tempered steel designed to ensure that your engine parts mesh together at the proper tolerance. Coffee cans are not carefully measured, are not flat, and are made of a soft grade of steel that will disintegrate quickly inside a motor.
There is the proper way to deal with a stripped bolt or stud, either use a steel insert or re-weld the aluminum. And there is the Asian way, fill the hole with brass and let the stud press the soft metal into shape. The key here is "soft metal". Brass belongs nowhere near a motor (except as certain properly engineered bushings) as it simply lacks the strength to deal with the stress of a motor. Woe be the Lambretta rider whose engine case drops off or a Vespa rider whose cylinder falls off in the middle of a highway.
A wrong-sized bolt normally is just a cosmetic irritation when you order the correct part and you realize that a creative Asian mechanic put in a larger bolt in a smaller hole. But sometimes it turns into a safety issue when a larger bolt on a fan cover snags on a flywheel shroud and locks up your motor.
The head mechanic of a respected Vespa dealership was once brought a Vietnam restored Vespa by a customer who said it wouldn't run properly. He started the bike and was sitting astride the bike hands folded across his chest talking to some fellow scooterists while the bike idled beneath him. Suddenly the bike shifted into gear and took off dragging him through a nearby hedge before he could gain control. When he split the engine case he discovered that the selector rod was composed of two separate selector rods that had been welded together at an angle, the rod wobbled like a top thus forcing unexpected gear changes.