30 April 2023

More than an old car #205: Essex Super Six

It has been a long while since I actually wrote about a super old car, and I was moved to write about this 1928 Essex Super Six after chancing upon an old Facebook post back then...

Founded in Detroit, Michigan in 1910, the Hudson Motor Car Company took its name from Joseph L Hudson, who provided the finances that enabled a group of experienced ex-Olds Motor Works employees to start a new automobile manufacturing venture. Incorporated in February 1909, Hudson built its first car in July of that same year and 12 months later had sold 4,000 units, the industry's best first-year sales record to date. Although the firm would later become famous for its record-breaking Super Six range, Hudson's first product was a four-cylinder car, as was that of companion marque Essex, which was introduced in 1918.

Essex pioneered low-cost closed coachwork in the United States, its four-seater sedan being only slightly more expensive than the tourer in 1922 and marginally cheaper by 1925. Essex's big news for 1924 was the switch from four to six cylinders. The new sidevalve power unit started life at an unusually small - for the United States - 2.1 litres capacity before being enlarged to 2.4 litres part way through the year. Renamed 'Super Six' for 1927, the Essex gained a larger (2.5-litre) and more powerful engine that year and four-wheel Bendix mechanical brakes the year after. Stylistically, the Essex looked broadly similar to its Hudson parent, albeit on a smaller scale.

The car was powered by a 2511 cc inline-6 engine, which had a power output of 17 hp. Considering that it was in the 1920s, this would have been relatively powerful back in the day. It was 3975 mm ling with a wheelbase of 2807 mm.

The Essex name was dropped in 1933 and subsequent cars were sold as the Terraplane. More than 1 million were made, of which some 229,887 were from the 1928 model year. Essexes were sold in Singapore as early as 1927, where a sedan retailed for $2,050 Straits dollars by Straits Motor Garage at their showroom in 41 Orchard Road. Today, the stretch of car showrooms is long gone and replaced by the Istana Park. 

This unit is understood to have been imported some time back and had a change in number plate to its current one. More interestingly, this particular car was also featured in the popular local drama series 'The Little Nyonya'! It has not gone on the road ever since I saw it 3 years ago, but such is the fate of the vast majority of pre-war cars here. It may or may not make further appearances, but hopefully you will have the chance to see it one day!


18 March 2023

Miscellaneous classics #10: Scania 3-Series P113

I realised that it has been a very long time since I wrote about a commercial vehicle. While I am aware that it may not be very 'sexy' or good-looking, this 1995 Scania 3-Series has been on my spotting bucket list for a long while! I always have a weakness for boxy/squarish vehicles, and it was a goal of mine to see one of these Scanias so that I could write about it. Being able to come across this unique registered truck (and one which I could run my checks) was entirely coincidental on that day: the truck was no longer there when I passed by the area again 1 week later.. 

AB Scania-Vabis was formed in 1911 as the result of a merger between Södertälje-based Vabis and Malmö-based Maskinfabriks-aktiebolaget Scania. Vagnfabriks Aktiebolaget i Södertelge (Vabis) was established as a railway car manufacturer in 1891, while Maskinfabriks-aktiebolaget Scania was established as a bicycle manufacturer in 1900. Vabis was running into financial difficulties unlike Scania, and the senior management of Scania made the offer for a merger. Development and production of engines and light vehicles were set to Södertälje, while trucks were manufactured in Malmö. The company's logo was redesigned from Maskinfabriks-aktiebolaget Scania's original logo with the head of a griffin, the coat of arms of the Swedish region Scania (Skåne), centered on a three-spoke bicycle chainset. Initially the headquarters were located in Malmö, but in 1912 they were moved to Södertälje.

Scania-Vabis had produced cars up till 1919, where it focused completely on trucks and buses, including bus chassis. After WWII, Scania-Vabis expanded its dealer network and country-wide specialist workshop facilities, enabling it to maintain a huge market share. It also turned towards the export market and by 1960, exports were 50% of output. Subsidiaries continued to be established in places such as Brazil and the Netherlands, and in 1968 the company was rebranded as just Scania. Scania is currently wholly owned by the VW Group ever since VW acquired a stake in 2000. 

The Scania 3-Series was introduced in 1987, succeeding the 2-Series and was available in a variety of engines and body types. The most notable changes were a redesigned bumper and front fascia incorporating a lower-drag grille design. This P113 was powered by a 11,021 cc DS11 inline-6 engine, with a power output of 320 hp. The concrete pump is noted to be from Schwing GmbH, and was apparently made in 1996; both components must have been fitted together to be registered in time on Nov 1996. Its maximum weight including the concrete pump topped the scales at 32,000 kg

Production of the 3-Series ended in 1998, where it was replaced by the 4-Series. While there are plenty of Scania trucks and buses here, older vehicles tend not to be kept for long under our rules. This particular unit continues to survive because it is registered as a 'restricted usage' vehicle, identified by the green-red plate. It cannot be driven on public roads at all times, so these have to be towed from place to place. I also understand that one cannot just register any car under this scheme in order to exempt it from scrapping: the ones I have come across so far are usually related to construction or special usage. Although it may not be as eye-catching as a typical classic car on the road, I hope that this has given an insight on this special truck...maybe you could be lucky to spot it some day!

4 February 2023

More than an old car #204: Honda Accord Euro R (CL1)

I know that it has been a long while since I posted on the blog (and Instagram to a lesser extent). Being caught up with work (which has been hectic as of late), as well as general ennui turns out to be pretty disruptive. While I can't promise that content will return to the regularity of 2022, I will still do my best to introduce classic cars in Singapore for as long as I am able to (which should be quite long since I will always have a soft spot for them)! I saw this 2001 Honda Accord CL1 Euro R in 2020, back when Covid was gathering in force. The fact that I only started to write about it does show something, isn't it?

The 6th-generation Accord was released in 1997 and interestingly, it was released for 3 different markets (Japanese, North America and Europe) with some differences among them. Model codes CF and CL (JDM models) had smaller headlights, tailights, grilles and front bumpers compared to NA/Asia/Oceania (CG). A coupe version was also sold in Europe and the US but not in Japan. However, Japan received the Accord station wagon (which was a fair enough trade-off). The European models (with CG and CH codes as well) featured a more pointed grille compared to the other markets. A sister model known as the Torneo was also announced (of which we have just one remaining)!

Honda Accord 6th generation.jpg オセアニア仕様セダン フロント

欧州仕様セダン クーペ リア

Different versions of the Accord: Japanese, Asia and Europe, along with the pretty interesting coupe

In 2000, the sports-grade Euro R (CL1) was unveiled: while you could be forgiven for viewing the Euro R as a Type R for Accords, the Euro R was more comfort-oriented and could fit 4 adults comfortably. Interestingly, Accord Type Rs exist for the Euro market. The CL1 Euro R was fitted with a exclusive H22A engine, Recaro bucket seats, Momo steering wheel and an aluminum shift knob. A unique specification called the Euro RX featured a special body colour, a rear spoiler and privacy glass among other add-ons.

The CL1 Euro R was powered by a 2156 cc H22A inline-4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 243 km/h with an acceleration of 7.1 seconds [0-100 km/h]. Its dimensions of 4680 x 1695 x 1405 mm puts it firmly in the mid-size category. Despite weighing in at 1330 kg, its fuel consumption of 8.6 litres/100 km was still respectable. 

Production of the 6th-generation Accord ended in 2002 where it was succeeded by the more popular CL7 series. This Euro R (chassis CL1-110866) is the last one remaining here as the other 20 cars have been exported out. It was a single-owner car before it was acquired by a dealer, and was sold 1 week later with an asking price of S$168,000 (although it was likely sold at a lower price)! It is easy to overlook it as unremarkable (even by classic car standards), but do not be fooled by its nondescript appearance. Hopefully, this has given some insights on the variety of old cars on our roads and I hope you will be able to spot this unlikely classic one day!

18 November 2022

More than an old car #203: Fiat 125

There is always something appealing about boxy cars and especially one that has survived the test of time, just like this 1971 Fiat 125!

First released in 1967, the 125 was initially intended to be a filler model between the ageing 1500 and the then-nascent 132 project. The appeal of Fiat cars was quickly waning, and the responsibility of coming up with a new model in just 18 months without the need to set up new plants fell on Dante Giacosa. The new car body was derived from the successful 124 model but was a good 18 cm longer. There were also aesthetic adjustments such as a chrome grille with 4 square headlights and redesigned tail-lamps. In order to better adapt the new car to the needs of a sedan, the engine was also upgraded in size: maximum power remained unchanged but engine torque was improved, leading to a smoother delivery.

The interior composition of the 125 also set it apart from the competition: it featured reclining seats, a central armrest for the back seat, a reversing light and even an intermittent-interval windscreen wiper (a first for an European car). Added options such as heated rear windows, air conditioning and a steel sliding roof were also available for a fee. The dashboard was also user-friendly and one could have a clear view of the surroundings from the driver's seat, thanks to the large and steep windows and relatively high driver position. It was no wonder that the 125 was warmly received by the public and critics alike.

In 1968, a more powerful version known as the 125S/125 Special was made available. Externally, Special models had chromed wheel arches and the door handles were place above the coachline (compared to being in line for the normal model). In 1971, there was a facelift on Special models, featuring a different front end and larger tail lamps.

The Fiat 125 was also produced under licence in a few countries, most notably in Poland where it was sold as the Polski Fiat 125p. The Polish version was a simplified version of its Italian counterpart, featuring rounded headlamps, simpler front grille and rather outdated mechanicals from the Fiat 1500. Despite being objectively inferior to the Italian 125, almost 1.5 million 125ps were made and they have become a unique Eastern European icon. The Fiat 125 was only available in sedan form, but these foreign licensed versions had additional body styles such as wagon and pickup truck form.   

The 125 was powered by a 1608 cc Fiat Twin-Cam i4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 160 km/h with an acceleration of 12.7 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It had dimension of 4223 x 1611 x 1440 mm and weighed in at a respectable 1000 kg, with a fuel consumption of 9.9 litres/100 km.

Production of the 125 ended in 1972 with more than 603,000 made, where it was succeeded by the 132. 125s were sold in Singapore in 1968 by Syarikat Fiat Distributors (M) Sdn Bhd: despite gaining independence 3 years ago, many Malayan businesses continued to operate here until the 1970s. This particular unit is an original Singapore car down to its license plates and it has seen better days. I had always wanted to see it again ever since I caught a glimpse many years back. Seeing it just there was pretty much a "I finally found you" moment...

I am not aware of any newly imported 125s recently; it makes you wonder just how this lone survivor has persisted even as its counterparts disappeared from the roads. It is not often that you come across "last-man-standing" cars and I hope you will have the chance to see it some day!

30 October 2022

More than an old car #202: Mitsubishi Minicab

Scrolling through my archives does throw up some interesting pictures I never knew I had taken. More often than not, they don't exist here anymore just like this 2001 Mitsubishi Minicab!

First released in 1966 to replace the Mitsubishi 360, it was initially available only as a pickup truck. A van version came in 1968 and has been produced till this day. The 'minicab' name refers to a cabover truck with a small body and wide cargo bed. For the 6th generation Minicab, it appeared in 1999 with unevenly-shaped headlights and 2 round taillamps. In 2004, vans were equipped with front and passenger airbags as standard. There was a facelift in 2007 with a redesigned front grille and headlights. An electric version known as the Minicab MiEV was launched in 2011 and remains in production.

The Minicab was powered by a 657 cc Mitsubishi 3G83 engine, though as a commercial vehicle its speed was limited to 60 km/h. Its dimensions of 3395 x 1475 x 1940 mm puts its firmly as a kei car, and its fuel consumption of 4.3 litres / 100 km made it an economical commercial vehicle. 

Production of the 6th generation Minicab ended in 2014 (for the gasoline version) with more than 419,000 made. Minicabs were sold in Singapore between 2000 to 2006, though it is noted that some vans were recalled in Taiwan and Malaysia over a defective transmission part. None of the pre-facelift vans still exist as all have passed the 20-year mandatory lifespan. When I saw it back in 2019, it never occurred to me that I would not have the chance to see it here again. At least, you still have this blog post as proof that it existed!

9 October 2022

More than an old car #201: Range Rover Classic

Sometimes I just happen to stumble across older cars by accident (and that is the beauty of cars compared to other modes of transport like planes and trains). Coming across this 1985 Range Rover Classic was a bonus as I had been in the area for some errands, and I was quite wowed by its road presence...

The advent of the iconic Land Rover was hailed by many for its utilitarian hardiness when it was released in 1948. The Rover group then realised that a market existed for an off-road capable vehicle with more amenities and this culminated in the short-lived Tickford estate. Later in 1954, the 4-door version of the Land Rover was designed to accomodate more people, but apart from a few upgrades it remained spartan.

Recognising that more people wanted a comfortable 4x4 vehicle in the rough terrains of Africa and Australia, Rover began work on a 'Road Rover' that combined a Land Rover chassis with the comfort of a standard Rover car. The 1960s saw the rise of the sport utility vehicle (SUV) such as the Ford Bronco, which had both off-road capability and comfort for private users. Rover began work on the '100-inch station wagon' project to develop a proper competitor.

Introduced to the public in 1970, it received critical acclaim for being capable both on and off-road. The clean, square-cut design was appealing and the aluminum body panels was more resistant to corrosion. The panels were hung over a steel frame, allowing it to carry much structural strength. Furthermore, a 'symmetric dashboard' was also designed to cater to each side of the steering: the gauges could be simply installed on the correct side. 

Up till 1981, the Range Rover was available only in a 2-door version for the sake of body strength; this was disliked by rich customers in the Middle East who usually had chauffeurs as it was hard to access the rear seats. 4-door conversions were offered in the 1970s by many companies: Switzerland-based Monteverdi was even approved by Land Rover to retain warranty. The 4-door version proved to be popular, leading to the phasing-out of the 2-door one in the UK market in 1984. There was a distinct change to the front end in 1986 with the introduction of pedestrian-friendly horizontal slats; later on, the fuel filler cap was hidden behind a flap and door hinges gradually evolved out of sight.  

Many changes occurred in the Range Rover throughout its lifespan, both interior and exterior. For the 1985 model year, the dashboard design was revamped with a grab handrail fitted on the passenger side, seats could be reclined and 1-piece side windows were fitted on the 4-door models (the 2-piece side windows still remained for the 2-door). The top-of-the-range Vogue trim had electric windows, heated mirrors and a body tape across the car.

The 1985 4-door Range Rover was powered by a 3532 cc Rover V8 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 155 km/h with an acceleration of 15.1 seconds [0-100 km/h]. Its dimensions of 4475 x 1800 x 1785 mm, heft of 1900 kg and a rather thirsty fuel consumption of 14.8 litres / 100 km would have been out of the question for the frugal family man.

Production of the Range Rover ended in 1996 with more than 326,000 made, although its successor known as the LP/New Range Rover/P38 had been launched in 1994. It was also at this point that the 1st generation Range Rovers were rebranded as the 'Classic' to distinguish from its successor. Range Rovers had existed in small numbers back in the 1980s, and they were officially brought in by Regent Motors (currently our local Ford dealer) in 1987, although in Vogue trim. A 5-speed manual unit was S$205,587 while the 4-speed automatic would set you back by S$215,506. None of the original Range Rovers still remain, though a handful have been imported over the years.

More people are beginning to appreciate the classic Range Rovers, with its luxurious comforts (for its time at least) and superb off-road capabilities. 2-door versions are quite popular than the 4-door ones: this unit was only the 2nd one that I have seen currently. With more appearing on our roads, don't miss the chance to admire this off-road luxury when you have the chance!

18 September 2022

More than an old car #200: Nissan Cedric H31

Many people tend to associate Japanese cars with high performance, being small-sized or quirky. However, they are more than just that, just like this 1964 Nissan Cedric Custom H31!

First introduced in 1960, the Cedric was developed as a purely domestic medium-size passenger car to replace the Austin A50 Cambridge, which Nissan had obtained licence to manufacture previously. It featured a style strongly influenced by American cars, such as a wraparound windscreen, forward-leaning A-pillar, vertical dual headlamps and tail fins.

Initially, it was only available with a 1500 cc engine and came in either 4-door sedan or wagon version. A 1900 cc engine was later introduced: 2 separate trims were available, namely the 1900 DX and Custom. The Custom model was 1000 mm longer than the 1500 and 1900 DX. In October 1962, the vertical headlamps were now horizontal and the grille design was changed to a 1-piece version. The model number was also changed to H31 during this time. September 1963 saw a revised grille design: it was now split into 2 parts and the lower half had 7 vertical lines.


(Picture credits to: https://www.cutlass70.com/entry/2021/11/30_31Cedric)

The final facelift in September 1964 had the lower half with 4 vertical lines (i.e. this particular unit in the blog post). Furthermore, the taillights was also changed from 3 segments to 2 segments for the final facelift. A luxurious version known as the Cedric Special (type 50) was fitted with a 2800 cc engine, along with a number plate recess on the bumper. It was also longer than other Cedrics, coming in at 4850 mm.

Strictly speaking, the 'H31 Cedric' refers only to the Custom model but it has become a catch-all for the 1st-generation model. The H31 Cedric was powered by a 1883 cc Nissan H straight-4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 140 km/h with an acceleration of 16.4 seconds [0-100 km/h]. and had dimensions of 4650 x 1690 x 1505 mm. It weighed 1260 kg and had a fuel consumption of 13.4 litres / 100 km.

Production of the 30/31 series ended in 1965, where it was succeeded by the 130 series. The H31 Cedric was first sold here in 1963 by Tan Chong & Sons Motor Co where it was retailing for $8,450. However, no original cars here have survived: this unit was imported from Japan a few years ago. It is noted that H31 Cedrics still have a large number that exist: even though Japanese cars from the 60s are not deemed collectible, it is a pleasant surprise to know that someone actually knew about this model's existence and decided to bring it here. While it is currently unregistered, I hope that someday you can get to see this rarity out and about on our roads!