25 December 2017

More than an old car #46: Mercedes W121 190 SL

Mercedes has always been a dream car for many, including me. By now, you would have deduced that my dream car has to be older than 1990, and yet practical enough to take it for a spin. This 1959 Mercedes W121 190 SL is one that I can only imagine being in my possession.

Mercedes-Benz as we know today was formed as a result of a merger between 2 companies in 1926: Benz & Companie Rheinishce Gasmotoren-Fabrik [founded by Karl Benz and others in 1883] and Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft [founded by Gottlieb Daimler in 1890]. The Mercedes name is Spanish for "godsend" and was the name of a buyer's daughter. Its three-pointed star logo signifies the company's goal of developing engines for "land, water and air". After the war, Mercedes focused its efforts on producing vehicles that would wow the world many times over, along with the buses that has served many of us today.

The 190 SL [with internal designation W121] arose as a result of pressure by Max Hoffman, the US importer of European cars. He desired a street version of the famous 300 SL and both cars appeared at the New York Auto Show in 1954. Perennially overshadowed by its more famous sister and lacking in power in comparison, it was relatively ignored back then. However, as prices of the 300 SL can easily exceed $1 million nowadays, the 190 SL has returned to the fore as a cheaper alternative for Mercedes' exquisite design.

The 190 SL did not excel on the track and was seen as a "lifestyle car for the road". However, it had an aesthetically pleasing styling with its aerodynamic bullet-shape, down to the "eyebrows" over the wheel arches. This car is the less vivacious, yet beautiful girl unnoticed by many, for a lack of better comparison. It was powered by a 1897cc inline-4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 180km/h with an acceleration of 12.7 seconds [0-100km/h]. It was 4.22m and weighed 1140kg.

Production ended in 1963 with 25,881 made, of which only 562 were in RHD. Surprisingly, I have seen at least 5 on our roads, which is 1% of the entire RHD population! It has a very unique style that is unfortunately not seen in cars today. The 190 SL is also associated with notable celebrities such as designer Karl Lagerfeld [who crashed it into a tree], Prince Rainier of Monaco and Beatle Ringo Starr. Although it may not be as sporty as the 300 SL, you could imagine yourself behind the wheel and enjoying the wind in your face. It set the groundwork for Mercedes to produce cars that never fail to captivate us along with the ubiquitous star. Do keep a lookout for them and appreciate the beauty of German engineering!

18 December 2017

More than an old car #45: Triumph TR4A

It is quite interesting to see that quite a number of classic cars here tend to pay homage to our British colonial roots--Minis, MGs and Triumphs make up the bulk of our classic car heritage. Among them, it includes this less prominent gem that is the 1965 Triumph TR4A.

The TR4A was based off the original TR4, which was produced between 1961-1965. The main difference between them was the type of suspension system--TR4s utilised a "Hotchkiss drive" suspension, currently used by SUVs today while TR4As used an "independent rear suspension" system, which is used by most cars today. Other changes included a revised grille and a new hood badge. It was powered by a 2138cc 4-cylinder engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 175km/h. It was 3.96m long and weighed 1016kg.

Production of the TR4A stopped in 1967, with only 28,465 made. I don't say this often, but I really love the Royal Blue [Code 56] paint scheme--it really accentuates the curves on this little British car and the cream interior. I hope you have the chance to capture this on our roads!

11 December 2017

More than an old car #44: BMW 3.0 CS

Throughout my years of spotting, I have been pleasantly surprised to see quite a number of old BMWs on the roads. Once a while, I am treated to rare sights such as this 1973 BMW E9 3.0 CS!

The BMW New Six CS, or internally known as the E9, was a two-door coupe produced in 1968. It was based on the previous 2000 CS model, except that it was longer so as to accommodate the new, larger engine. The slight forward slope at the front made it visually pleasing to look at, even though it didn't really help with the aerodynamics. Various types of the E9 were made, such as the 2800 CS, 3.0 CSi and the 3.0 CSL. The 3.0 CS was introduced in 1971, where it was powered by a 2986cc M30 6-cylinder engine. As a result, it could reach a top speed of 200km/h, with an acceleration of 8.5 seconds [0-100km/h]. It was 4.66m long and weighed 1440kg.

Production of the E9 stopped in 1975. Throughout its lifetime, it performed very well in different championship races to the point that it has become a well-known classic. Although it was highly desirable by many, the steep price it commanded was a turn-off. Of the whole range, only 4455 were 3.0 CS models. I am aware of at least 3 other models that exist here. Apparently, this car has its registration number changed between the 2 years since I last saw it. It's quite heartening to know that the owner is still continuing to keep this handsome lad on our roads!

7 December 2017

More than an old car #43: Fiat 130 Coupe

Fiat is not a foreign name to most people here, but certainly not a brand which you would think of immediately when mentioning about Italian cars. It has a long pedigree of popular vehicles for the masses, including this pristine 1975 Fiat 130 Coupe.

Gianni Agnelli, along with several investors, founded the Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino [Italian Automobile Factory of Turin] in 1899. The 'Fiat' name was only in use from 1906. It became, and still is, the largest automobile factory in Italy since 1910. Fiat enjoyed much success in both Italy and abroad such as the US. In 2014, Fiat and Chrysler merged to form the Fiat Chrysler Automotive [FCA] conglomerate. As a result, brands like Alfa Romeo and Jeep are produced under the FCA flagship.

The Fiat 130 Coupe was based off the main Fiat 130 sedan, and was first manufactured in 1971. Back then, the sedan Fiat 130s were quite popular as it was marketed as a luxury car. The coupe version was designed by Paolo Martin from the Pininfarina design house, and it turned out to be quite different from the sedan version. As with cars of that period, it was quite boxy, yet you would be able to discern the subtle hints of fluidity in motion. It was powered by a 3235cc 6-cylinder engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 195 km/h and an acceleration of 9.2 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 4.84 m long and weighed 1555 kg, which was rather hefty back then.

Production of the 130 Coupe stopped in 1977, with close to 4500 made. However, only around 500 were made in RHD configuration. This is the only one registered on our roads, although I have seen another unregistered one with automatic transmission. I was fortunate to be able to go up close to this unlikely rarity during a classic car exhibition and the rumble of the V6 is a rare sound to our ears these days, due to the shift towards hybrid cars. It may look terribly unremarkable, but you would be hard-pressed to not imagine a well-dressed person behind the wheel!