5 June 2017

More than an old car #11: Proton Saga

This is a familiar sight for those who travel up north, but seeing one here is surprisingly not as easy as you think, especially with one that is registered here. Let me introduce the Malaysia, Truly Asia car: the Proton Saga Iswara.

Proton [short form for Perusahaan Otomobil Nasional] is a Malaysian car manufactured established in 1983 by Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the then-Prime Minister of Malaysia. He thought of the idea of a national car and in 1984, Proton approached Mitsubishi Motors in a joint venture to produce the first car, called the Proton Saga. People usually associate the Saga name to that of the saga plant, which is common in Malaysia but it is actually an acronym for Safety, Achievement, Greatness, Ability! I'm pretty sure you didn't know that the Saga was a short form too...

The Iswara was the 2nd generation of the Saga, and it took its name from the great Helen butterfly [Papilio iswara] of Sarawak. It was equipped with an Mitsubishi 4G15 I4 engine [engine with 4 cylinders], which allowed it to reach a maximum top speed of 166 km/h, with an acceleration of 13.8 seconds from 0-100 km/h. Most Proton cars that I have seen have a 5-speed manual transmission but a 3-speed automatic transmission was also available. It weighed 950 kg and was 4.28 m long. Notice that the car at the top has this wavy line design, which is very common for Malaysian-registered cars but not elsewhere.

The Singapore-registered Proton in the 2nd picture is the 1st generation and the specifications are the same, except that it was heavier at 980 kg. You can see the difference in headlight size for the 1st and 2nd gen models. Its grille has been modified and I admit it is confused easily with the 1980s Mitsubishi Lancer. Only around 4,000 were imported here, making this unlikely fellow the last of a dying breed.

You may be surprised that Proton does sell its cars to many countries such as the UK, Bangladesh, Australia and even Jamaica. I had the misconception that Proton only sold its vehicles in the Asia region and I never expected it to have such a wide reach. The Proton Saga featured prominently in a Mr Bean episode and many taxis in Malaysia are still using Proton Sagas. It has become so famous that it is a national symbol of Malaysia.

This is a vehicle that will reach classic status soon given how hard it is to find the older generation types here. I have though many times whether we are able to produce our national car, but this remains to be seen...

1 comment:

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