In The World, a cool customized ride is the exclusive province of the affluent but in rural Thailand a cool custom ride is within financial reach of every man — or at least every Big Whitey.
In L.A., guys routinely spend $20,000+ USD on custom choppers, a custom paint job for a car costs $4000+ USD, and the maze of laws regulations and jerk off policeman handing out fix it tickets to cover the local politicians spending itch have pretty much sucked all the fun out of modding your ride.
Even things as minor as lowering your car or putting on an aftermarket exhaust is an invitation for a costly citation which eats time and money to clear and such modifications are more hassle than real enjoyment thanks to an over intrusive government and the nanny mentality.
In Thailand, that’s not the case. It’s more like the 1950’s in America where everyone can afford to trick out their ride.
Parts are cheap, labor is even cheaper, and government regulation is non-existent. You can do anything you want to your ride and there is no middle aged yenta telling you that you can’t do it because you are going to kill yourself.
Here are some cool custom rides seen around Ubon Ratchathani.
This is a Yamaha SR one cylinder motorcycle. These one cylinder bikes were popular in the 1950’s and 1960’s and have a distinctive sound and power delivery.
Anything but a scooter would be a bear to drive in Bangkok traffic where most of the time you are weaving in between stationary cars. In Bangkok, you need something highly maneuverable, handy, and bullet-proof plus its’ imperative that your bike doesn’t cook you in the heat and humidity.
Any kind of sport bike or full size chopper is almost worthless in Bangkok. They can’t fit between rows of cars, shed tons of heat which cook the driver, and take a lot of work and concentration to keep upright.
In rural Thailand there isn’t any traffic and there are tons of wide open two lane highways where you can really enjoy a regular motorcycle and the limitations of a scooter , i.e. the lack of top end and the inability to change your body position (lean off) prevent you from using any real skills negotiating corners race track style.
Something with more power, a decent suspension, and foot pegs instead of floorboards so that you can lean off properly in turns is a viable alternative to an automatic scooter in places like Ubon Ratchathani.
This SR is early 1980 technology so it doesn’t exactly fit the bill. It’s an actual motorcycle instead of a scoooter but with a frame made out of thin flexible tubing, a swingarm that bends like a limp noodle under stress and skinny tires, it more retro than race.
The owner has installed clip on handlebars, wrapped the header in heat resistant tape, and replaced the rear views.
But retro can be cool and fun. Just imagine you’re James Dean— the coolest dude in The World. The one who all the chicks swoon over.
This is retro cool in another way — a Beatles theme scooter.
Sort of an American Chopper Theme bike but Thai Style.
It’s not for me, but most Thai chics would probably get off riding the back.
You can pretend to be John Lennon and your chick can be Yoko Ono.
Finally here is a fully restored old Fiat complete with OEM hubcaps and, most likely, no air conditioner.
There must be a story about how this car ended up in rural Thailand. My guess is that it was brought over and left by a US serviceman during the Vietnam War and its’ aftermath.
Fiats were never popular in the US, so I’ve never been a fan but it must be pretty fun pushing this car up and down some mountain road and imagining you are a carefree hippie running carefree in the Free Love Summer of 1960’s California — before it overheats and the lack of aircon cooks you like a Thanksgiving turkey.