It was 2009 and leading dailies like “Beijing Today” (China) and “Il Corriere della Sera” (Italy) were publishing articles about Lu Jiankun, 32, a devotee of the Vespa, the world’s most famous scooter. “I fell in love with it when I saw the movie Roman Holiday,” he told the reporters.
Like so many other Vespa lovers, Lu was waiting for the scooter to be distributed in China (where it was a rare and sought-after vehicle). In the meantime, in his garage in the Beijing suburbs, he restored 30- and 40-year-old vintage models, which he regards as his “treasures”. The first scooter he worked on was a PX, found after a sort of treasure hunt on specialised websites and trade magazines, among scooter dealers and word-of-mouth among the cognoscenti. After that, Lu carried on looking for other Vespa scooters to restore.
So, for the photographers, Lu was able to show off his three lovingly restored beauties (the oldest of which he uses for spare parts). As a result, he has become the most famous collector of Italian scooters in the Chinese capital, even achieving a mention on the front page of “Beijing Today”. Lu says he loves everything about Italy: not just the Vespa, but Italian fashion and style … His first car was Italian too, a Fiat 126.
The numbers of devotees of Italian design and products in China are growing: Lu and many others are members of “Weisiba pengyoumen”, a group on Douban.com (a Chinese web community similar to Facebook), which reveals that the Vespa has a large following in China and has been an object of desire for generations of youngsters for years.
The long wait came to an end in 2014: distribution of the Vespa in China began in July, starting in Beijing (reports and photos in the Markets column of this issue of Wide). In the first Vespa store in the People’s Republic of China, Lu and the scooter’s other followers now have the opportunity for a hands-on encounter with the evergreen Vespa range.