31 May 2018

More than an old car #68: Mercedes C107 450 SLC

All of you would be familiar with the Mercedes brand, although not necessarily all its models. I do not know about you, but perhaps you may have seen a similarly-shaped old Mercedes out and about. This specimen here is not just another old car, but a 1978 Mercedes C107 450 SLC.

Back in 1971, Mercedes produced two different models, namely the R107/SL 2-seater and the C107/SLC 4-seater. The SLC was the first time Mercedes had based a coupe off a roadster platform rather than a sedan. SLCs were only available in coupe format while its shorter sibling had both coupe and convertible versions. A clear identifying sign was the louvres at the rear pillar. It was powered by a 4520cc M117 V8 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 215 km/h with an acceleration of 9.3 seconds [0-100km/h]. It was 4.75 m long and weighed 1630 kg.

Production of the 450 SLC ended in 1980 with 31,739 made. I have seen quite a few of its less powerful sibling, the 280 SLC but this seems to be the only one here. This specimen is still sporting UK plates--it has been imported here most likely for restoration. However, nothing has happened to it for at least 2 years already. I do not know what the owner here is planning to do with it, but I hope s/he will revive it to traverse our roads, which is what it was destined for!

28 May 2018

sgclassicrides turns 1!

Over the past year, this journey of car spotting and blogging has been a refreshing one for me. It felt like only yesterday when I started to create this blog to document the vintage and classic cars in Singapore.
This is a throwback to the very first picture I took of an old car, back in 2011. I didn't even know about this picture until I was looking through my old photos on Facebook! However, I did not do any spotting only until in 2014, and sometimes I regret not car-spotting back in 2011...who knows what other oldies I might have seen? This is quite a pertinent issue for me, as the Alfa Romeo 2000 GTV above for example doesn't seem to exist here anymore sadly...

Ever since I was young, I was somehow fascinated by old cars as I was attracted by their boxy shape. My first exposure was actually from Malaysian cars: back then I tried to look out for non-Singapore plates and I noticed that most Malaysian cars were of the older variety. This sparked a love for classic cars in general, but I was hampered by not having a camera phone at that time. In 2013, I began my journey of spotting, first by chancing upon a Jaguar that had been parked near my school for quite some time. It exploded the next year when I went for my first classic car display [2014 Heritage Day at the Bosch building here]. Gradually, I began to research more about potential places to find them, and this has led me to discover that certain car workshops are the best places to find them. However, quite a fair bit has come from random spots when I am on the road, thus it takes some luck and observation skills too!

Through my years of spotting, I have observed that most people prefer to fawn over luxury cars and supercars, which is perfectly normal. Even I will make concessions to take a picture of a Pagani or a Koenigsegg simply because they are not your typical supercar. However, I started this blog when I realised that not many people were giving much attention to old cars here, where some of them are even older than your parents! Also, with the glut of supercar spotting accounts popping out, I figured it would be easier to focus on this niche area.

Initially, this blog was just a photo dump with only a brief caption of the car. It was only in 2017 when my friend suggested writing more about the car, in such a way that he (as a non-car person) could understand. I proceeded to revamp my blog and elaborated more about the old car in question, and at the same time I started an Instagram account since it is pretty popular with many people today.

I chose "sgclassicrides" as my username as I wasn't keen on including the word 'photography', and it was concise enough. Previously, I had also searched Instagram to see whether there had been anyone from Singapore who had started something similar. I would say I was fortunate to leverage on the first-mover advantage. I was conscious of the audience I wanted to target, which is basically the general public: thus I cut down on technical data and focused more of the car's origins.

I didn't experience instant success as it took time for people to discover my content. The number of followers even fell when I did not post anything during my exam period. After the exams ended, I started discovering classic car spotters from all over the world, and I was happy that there were other people who shared my interests. I also began to "advertise" my website by encouraging people to check out my page, but I did not buy any form of advertising. Neither did I spam my friends to like my page: if someone is interested in old cars in Singapore, he/she would discover my page sooner or later. I did not want to attract people who were uninterested in my content in the first place.

I felt that this blog really took off from last year until now, as I began to be more active in generating content and utilising Instagram to increase awareness. A Facebook page came later as I realised some users would not have Instagram, so I did not want them to miss out. It has been a exciting journey so far as I saw cars that I did not expect to see here eg a Corvette and a Citroen DS! Sometimes, my followers share places where they have found these old cars, which I take note for future visits.

Currently, I also use this platform as a way to increase awareness about Singapore's unique car culture: despite being known as an infamous place to own cars, it is really impressive that there are people who continue to hold on to these oldies! I also joined a local retro car group and the users sometimes post about even cooler cars that existed on our roads before I was born. It is really interesting to hear things from the older generation who have seen more than I do.

I hope to keep this going for as long as possible. The past year has been fantastic, and I hope it will be more amazing for you all in the years to come! Although the appreciation for classic cars has been growing over the years, they would become obsolete in the near future with the advent of self-driving cars. It is quite therapeutic to write about old cars that I have seen, because it is interesting to read up on how the cars came about and disappeared as time went by. I continue doing this in the hope that future generations will have a glimpse of cars in our past, which they would never find again. I am merely doing my part to preserve a piece of history that is less discussed, and I hope you readers will continue to appreciate and spot them on the road!

24 May 2018

More than an old car #67: Audi quattro

Many of you would be familiar with Audi and you would associate these drivers with rich people. Others may think of the sporty TT or even the R8, which is also surprisingly uncommon. If you are lucky, you may get a Grab/Uber in an Audi as well, although it would be the smaller A3 sedan. I am inclined to believe that car enthusiasts would recognise this particular Audi immediately, but for the benefit of those who aren't into cars, let me present to you this legendary 1985 Audi quattro.

It all began with August Horch, who established the company A. Horch and Cie in 1899. Due to disagreements, he then founded another company called August Horch Automobilwerke GmbH in 1909. However, he could not use the "Horch" name as his former partners had claimed it as their trademark. While discussing with his friend about the name, the friend's son suggested calling it "audi" instead of "horch". "Horch" means "to hear" in German, which is "Audi" in the singular imperative form of "audiere" in Latin. With that settled, the Audi Automobilwerke GmbH Zwickau was officially formed on 1910.

The 4 rings on its logo is a homage to the 4 constituent brands: Audi, Horch, DKW and Wanderer, and together they were called Auto Union from 1932. In 1969, it merged with NSU (of motorcycle fame) and became the Audi that we know of today. Currently, it is a member of the VW Group.

The ur-quattro [its actual name: "original quattro"] was first proposed by Audi's chassis engineer, Jörg Bensinger in 1977. Previously, Audi was going through a slump as its cars were often associated with old men. In need for a fresh breath of air, work was done to develop the Audi 80 into an all-wheel drive system, in order to meet the rigors of off- road rallying. 

It was unveiled to the public in 1980. Initially, it seemed counter-intuitive as the car became heavier and more complex to fix. However, successes in the rallying world caught everyone's attention--Audi had planned to make only 400 but due to strong public demand, it increased the production capacity. 
It was powered by a 2144cc i5 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 222 km/h with an acceleration of 7.1 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 4404 mm long and weighed 1300 kg. A further check on the car's chassis number revealed that it was built in December 1984.

Production ended in 1990 with 11,452 made in different variants. This is currently the only registered quattro in Singapore: I am aware of another unit that was imported from the UK but never registered for road use. The number plate indicates that it was originally registered here back in the 80s. I had been always hoping to catch a glimpse of it up close, and seeing it really took my breath away. Its red coat of paint fits it perfectly, similar to how we always associate Ferraris with the colour red. 

The legacy of the quattro system lives on in practically every Audi car on the road today. What made this vehicle attain such status was partly due to people's love for rally races, and how Audi was able to wield the novel all-wheel drive feature into a force to be reckoned with. I don't know whether you will be lucky enough to see it for yourself too, but hopefully you will be as equally awestruck at how it still survives here for so long!

21 May 2018

More than an old car #66: Porsche 930 Flachbau

Previously, I wrote about the Porsche 356, which was the car that made the Stuttgart-based company so popular today. It has always captured the imaginations of many a young child, and some even go on to fulfill their dreams. However, for mere mortals like me, I am happy enough to be able to spot not just an old car, but a unique 1982 Porsche 930 Flachbau!

The Porsche 930 (also known as the 911 Turbo) was technically part of the classic 911 range that took the world by storm. Porsche experimented with turbocharging technology in the 1960s before implementing it on the 930 in 1975. Turbocharged engines essentially force more air into the engine, allowing it to generate more output. A huge 'whale tail' was installed to vent in more air and the tyre fenders were widened to provide more stability.

What made this vehicle more special was that it had been modified by Porsche itself under its "Sonderwunschprogramm" [Special Wishes Program]. This was started in 1981 at its Werk Zuffenhausen assembly plant, otherwise known as "Werk 1". However, it only became an official option by Porsche from 1987-1989. Each vehicle was handcrafted by modifying the front fenders to resemble that of the 935, a famous rally car developed by the company as well. Visible differences include the installation of pop-up headlights compared to the rounded fixed ones that you may see, air vents on the rear tyre fenders and the obvious 'slant-nose'/flachbau treatment. There is also evidence that initially, quad headlights were installed into the bumpers before the design was changed. Such cars commanded a high premium, not less due to the customised nature of the work done.
It was powered by a 3299 cc flat-six engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 270 km/h, with an acceleration of 5.1 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 4290 mm long and weighed 1419 kg.

Production of the 930 ended in 1989, and only about 58 were made in this particular early configuration! As shared on this forum, the car was originally converted in 1982 and registered here in Singapore in late November. It has gone through a few colour changes: from Zinn metallic [gray], to white, black, a rather bright yellow and back to white again. Thanks to the insights of some older folk on Facebook, I was able to find out a lot more information when I posted this picture online. What is more amazing is that we have 2 such Flachbaus including this one here! I have actually seen all of them and you could really appreciate the uniqueness of these beauties. I don't know whether you can find them, but hopefully with this information you'll be able to recognise a rare piece of automotive history!

14 May 2018

More than an old car #65: Subaru Vivio RX-R

Subaru has been always popular in Singapore, due to the influx of the Forester SUV and the iconic Impreza with its many variants. Many people have fallen in love with its versatile boxer engine and its stellar performances during rallies. However, I believe most of us may not have heard about this 1992 Subaru Vivio RX-R until today.

Subaru started out as "The Aircraft Research Laboratory" in 1915 and it was reorganised to become the Nakajima Aircraft Company in 1932. The conglomerate was broken up after the war and spliced off into divisions, including Fuji Heavy Industries [FHI]. Kenji Kita, then CEO of FHI, asked for suggestions for a company name after deciding it should be involved in making cars. In the end, he called it "Subaru", which is Japanese for the Pleiades star cluster. The logo thus followed the name, so that is why it shows a group of stars. Interestingly, Subaru has also released an anime titled "Hokago no Pureadesu" ["Wish upon the Pleiades"] in collaboration with Gainax [an anime studio], where the protagonist is also called Subaru!

The Vivio is a kei car produced in 1992, placing it in the light car class and thus giving Japanese owners tax savings. Its name is derived from the engine's displacement of 660cc written in Roman numerals [VI, VI, O], and also inspired by the word "vivid". A few variants were produced, but you can distinguish the entry-level GL version with the supercharged RX-R by the hood scoop and rounded foglights.
The RX-R was often entered in rally events and it featured prominently in the 1993 Safari Rally. Despite not making a podium finish, it cemented its status as a rally legend. It was powered by a 658cc EN07Z i4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 138 km/h with an acceleration of 16 seconds [0-100km/h]. It was 3295 mm long and weighed 650 kg.

Production ended in 1998 with about 770,000 made in total. This unit is currently unregistered and it will probably remain this way, since there is already a roll cage installed at the back--could it be used for rallying? I have no idea who currently owns this, but it looks like a blast to drive such a cute car. I am aware of another unit in red, which is also unregistered. Many of you may not give it a second glance, but I hope all of you have the knowledge now to not do so!

9 May 2018

More than an old car #64: Morgan 4/4 1600

Back in 2017, I had the chance to pop by the F1 Pit Building for the Racing Hearts fund-raising, a few days before the start of the F1 Singapore Grand Prix. There were a lot of supercars there, including an admittedly gorgeous Koenigsegg Agera on display. However, I was there obviously for the vintage parade and it never failed to disappoint. Out of the antique machines there, I was drawn to this 1969 Morgan 4/4 1600.

The Morgan Motor Company was founded in 1910 by Henry Frederick Stanley Morgan, who started out making 3-wheeled cars. This avoided the British tax on cars by being classified as motorcycles. Morgan only made their 1st 4-wheeled car in 1934, which was the first edition of the 4/4. Even till today, Morgan is still producing the 4/4 and it is really difficult to differentiate the new models from the older ones. Unusually, many Morgans have their frames made out of ash, a certain type of wood before being covered by aluminium. All Morgan cars are assembled by hand and about 1300 cars are made each year, leading to a waiting list of 6 months to 10 years!

The 4/4 1600 was the 6th edition, produced from 1968-1982 with 3513 made. It was powered by a 1599cc Ford Kent straight-4 engine,allowing it to reach a top speed of 150km/h with an acceleration of 14.9 seconds [0-100km/h]. It was 3658 mm long and weighed a surprisingly light 660 kg.

This specimen is currently owned by an advertising agency owner who often takes it out for events like this. Through my brief interaction with him, he shared that he had acquired this in 2013 and that it had passed through more than 10 owners. He admitted that parts are hard to come by and that he has to source them from overseas when needed. This is part and parcel of owning an old car here, but the rules makes it even harder for car lovers to hold on to their oldies. I am aware of at least 5 others registered here, if you're lucky you can spot them!