Photographs by Cyrus Panganiban
Drive Cars and Bikes

Of Vespas and Lambrettas, and Kim Atienza’s passion for vintage scooters

“It’s like a change of clothes, or a friend that you hang out with,” says the weather anchor.“It’s a piece of art, a piece of sculpture with history and provenance.”
Karlo Samson | Sep 06 2018

Kim Atienza is instantly recognizable in his signature Safari Stetson. But when the Matanglawin host is not wearing his trademark hat as he explains the differences between a caiman and a crocodile, you might find him instead with his head protected in one of his many motorcycle helmets, tooling down Manila’s streets on one of his vintage scooters.

Atienza has been collecting and riding vintage scooters and motorcycles since the mid-nineties, though he traces his first ride back to 1990, when, as a fresh graduate, he bought an old Honda CB400 from a friend without even knowing how to ride. “I was riding that CB400 until my dad [former Manila mayor Lito Atienza] found out. The bike lasted about a month in my possession and then I had to give it back to the person I bought it from, Ed Consigo. I said, ‘Ed, sorry, I can’t keep it. Nagalit ang tatay ko. Pinapasauli.’”

Fast forward to 1995 when Atienza was already on his own, working as a Manila councilor. “I finally got my own two wheels but, to please my dad, I still didn’t get a big bike. I got a scooter.” Piaggio, the makers of the iconic Vespa scooter, had at that time re-entered the Philippine market. Kim saw these beautiful wasp-shaped bikes and instantly fell in love. “We were among the first to get the first units of the PX150. I remember getting a yellow one, which I set up to look like a New York yellow cab, with checkers on the sides and all that. This became the inspiration of Eric Puno when he put up Yellow Cab Pizza.” 

 

Going Vintage

Kim spent a lot of time on his Vespa, zipping around the streets of Manila and beyond, really enjoying the new-found freedom. “After a year of really having the time of my life on that Vespa, I asked myself, why not get in to vintage bikes?”

This question was answered when Kim happened to pass by a dilapidated shack in Bangkal, Makati, where, parked outside along the street, were a number of sweet vintage scooters. “I got to meet the owner of the house who turned out to be a Vespa and Lambretta mechanic, Dong Montana. My meeting Dong became instrumental in my adding a few more vintage Vespas and Lambrettas to my collection.”

From 1996 to 2004, Kim was an active scooterista, riding in the nascent scootering scene and collecting vintage pieces along the way. “The Lambretta LD 150 is very art deco,” he says. “This was my daily ride in the 90s. We’d party in Malate and I’d ride that scoot all over.” He was riding a 1966 Vespa GS160 when he first met the woman who would be his wife, Felicia Hung. “This was the Vespa I was using that night. During a dinner party, I asked her out for the first time on a date. And she rode that Vespa.”

Atienza's Piaggio Vespa

In 2004, however, Kim’s scootering days came to a halt. On the advice of a psychic friend, who predicted Kim was going to meet an untimely end on top of a weird looking motorcycle – he figured it was a Vespa or Lambretta – Kim sold his entire scooter collection to a friend. “Wala na. I forgot about riding.”

Funny thing though, the scooter bug didn’t quite leave Kim. “Four years ago, I was bitten by the bug again. Meron nang vintage scooter scene pero wala akong scooter. Since I don’t believe in psychics anymore, I talked to the friend I had sold them to and asked if I could buy back the scoots. Matthew Brill, my friend, said, ‘Kim, with how much these things are now, let’s not talk cash. We’ll just fight. Trade me something that you’re passionate about and I’ll trade you back your Lambrettas.’ So I traded some watches and I was able to get my vintage scooters back.”

“This is the only Lambretta F model in the Philippines and probably the only F model in Asia."

Since then, Kim’s bike family has grown to include big bikes, the first of which was a 500cc royal Enfield. “I figured it was a very friendly transition from a scooter to a big bike. The Royal Enfield is the perfect partner to a Vespa or a Lambretta. You have a European scooter and you have a European big bike.” His Enfield was recently rebuilt to look like a Royal Enfield fresh out of WWII. “Its name is World War II Hero, and it recently won at a custom show.”

He’s also added more powerful bikes to the stable, a Ducati Scrambler, a Ducati Diavel and a Triumph Bonneville, his current daily ride. “I was also able to find a vintage CB750, which reminded me of that first bike I had. I had it restored like new. It runs like new.”

Among the newer members of Kim's stable is a Ducati Diavel.

The star of Kim’s collection, though, is from 1957, a Lambretta F which he acquired only two years ago. “This is the only Lambretta F model in the Philippines and probably the only F model in Asia. This was discovered by a friend of mine, Chef Kenneth Cacho in the basement of Angela Apartments in Malate. It was owned by Don Syquia and he was going to sell it for junk. Kenneth bought it for 1,500 pesos but it was in junk condition, rusty and dilapidated. But complete, including papers and bill of lading and a letter from the wife of old Syquia saying the F model will finally be shipped to the Philippines. It has provenance.” It took about two years for Chef Kenneth to restore it fully. “I had to convince him to sell it to me. It’s one of the latest in my collection and the rarest of what I have.”

 

Why He Rides, Why He Collects

“If you ask what bike is my favorite, I really don’t have a favorite. Each bike has character. Each bike has personality. Each bike talks to you a certain way. That’s the reason why I have so many bikes. It’s like a change of clothes, or a friend that you hang out with. It’s a piece of art, a piece of sculpture with history and provenance. And as you ride the bike, knowing where it’s from, knowing the history of the bike, knowing how rare the thing that you’re sitting on is, it gives you another dimension of enjoyment. On one hand, you’re enjoying the speed and the performance, but on the other hand, you’re also enjoying what goes on behind it. The history, the provenance, the art, the heritage. As far as performance goes, Japanese bikes do perform much better, but these guys have provenance and royal blood.”

"Each bike has character. Each bike has personality. Each bike talks to you a certain way."

His advice for aspiring collectors? “When I started collecting these bikes they were not as expensive as they are now. I was collecting them when they were 25,000 to 30,000 pesos. A Lambretta now like the SX200 can fetch about 700 or 800k. A Vespa GS160, easily a million. The Lambretta F because of its rarity and condition, that’s seller’s price.”

Kim emphasizes that timing and research is key in collecting. “If you want to start collecting, you should do your research and know what to get at the right time. If you start collecting valuable objects at the point when they’re already valuable, you have to be a multimillionaire to afford it.”

 

Latest Ride

Being closely identified as a Lambretta rider, Kim was recently named as the brand ambassador of the newly revived Lambretta brand, which released new automatic models this year. “Ropali, the distributor, wanted to get an ambassador who is really passionate about the brand, and I’ve been riding Lambrettas since the 90s. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that Lambretta would be alive again. The new Lambretta V Specials have the DNA of the vintage Lambretta but the amenities of a modern bike. This is historical because it is the first Lambretta to be twist-and-go, unlike Vespa which has several twist-and-go models already. If you are to collect Lambrettas, this is the new model to go.”

Watch more in iWantv or TFC.tv

 

Photographs by Cyrus Panganiban