Vintage Snapshots: 20th Century Saigon

Back to Asia for this fifth edition. I’ve only been to what is now officially called Ho Chi Minh City once, so I really can’t be much help with identifying most of the buildings here (though I do know the above is the train station). Click on the pics to see them full-screen and keep your eyes peeled for one of the most various automobile fleets we’ve seen thus far.

1952 — French colonial times still, as reflected by the Peugeot/Citroën omnipresence. The Traction Avant on the left is a 15-Six, on either side of which we have a Peugeot 203 découvrble and a wagon.

Early ’50s — again replete with Tractions Avant and 203s, though we now have a Chevrolet, some Jeeps and a Simca 8. Also a couple of Renault 4CVs, which will become the ubiquitous local taxi in short order.

The municipal theater, soon to become the Parliament building, in 1956. The French are gone and there are more American cars now…

We’re going to see this hotel a few times. Here’s a mid-’60s shot, with a very nice variety.

This 1964 picture is a bit more US-centered. Hard to imagine so much colour in the streets today.


1965 again, with a white Traction Avant cabriolet. The blue and white 4CV taxis are now a fixture.

Still 1965, with a prewar Ford (or Matford) and a brand new Sunbeam Alpine, among other goodies.

1965 again

The Parliament building again, now in 1966. Borgward Isabella on the left.

A rather sweet Renault Floride in 1966.


The Continental Palace again in 1966.

Free World Military Assistance Forces Headquarters building, 1966.

I had to study this photo a bit before I could guesstimate the date. It looks overwhelmingly ’50s — the Tractions Avant, the ’58 Chevy, the Panhard Dyna X… But that blue 2CV has six windows and, it seems, no suicide doors, so it’s a ’67 model.

1967 under the monsoon.

1967 in the dry, with a Corvair and an Austin-Healey. Toyotas have started to appear…

Saigon City Hall, 1968.


1968 again — the Japanese cars are more common now, but the American and French metal remains.

Still in 1968 — this street has more of a German feel…


Lots of excellent spotting in this shot of the rue Pasteur in the late ’60s.

That Hillman is just about to fall apart!

The Hôtel Majestic’s pure Art Deco facade still looked great in the late ’60s. That building is now long gone, unfortunately. As are most of the cars in this pic, I imagine… Maybe not the Benz…


Tough Cits: that gray Traction Avant was at least 17 years old when this picture was taken in 1969. And there’s another one in the distance.


1970 again. The Mini Moke seems like an ideal vehicle for this climate.

1970 still — a car-spotter’s paradise.


Standard 8, Willys Jeep, Fiat 850 coupé and a cute little Honda N360 in 1971


1974 — a brand new locally-built Citroën La Dalat and a row of ageing 4CV taxis.

1979 — Hanoi has taken over, but some remnants of the past still remain…

… including those brave rear-engined Renaults. It’s 1992 here and they’re still working for a living.

Checking back to the Continental in 1993. Things have evolved a bit and Japanese cars seem to have taken the lead. Still, there’s a Citroën BX, so some folks are loyal to that brand. Which is more than I can say for nowadays — I went to Vietnam a few times, as aside from museum exhibits, i don’t think I’ve seen any French cars there.

Hope you enjoyed this little five-city tour. If I have the time, I’ll put together another post with various bits and pieces from around the world that I found while trawling the web for these and other posts. Season’s greetings to all!