21 June 2018

More than an old car #73: Morris Eight Series 2

The beauty of car-spotting in Singapore is that you never know what kind of cars you may end up finding. I was just doing a casual spotting session when I came across this pretty old car, which I could not recognise immediately. Having seen so many cars throughout the years, I would daresay I can identify them almost all of them. A quick check on the number plate and some sleuthing around revealed that it was a 1938 Morris Eight Series 2 saloon.

The Morris Eight was first introduced in 1935, where it was inspired by the popularity of the Ford Model Y. It was targeted at the average man with a family, although its small dumpy shape didn't really convince people about its surprising hardiness. The Series 2 was produced with disc [Easiclean] wheels compared to the wire-spoked ones, although everything else was unchanged. It was let down by its engine: a 918cc Type UB straight-4 engine that allowed it to reach a top speed of 60 mph and an acceleration of 37 seconds [0-60 mph].

Production of the Series 2 ended in 1938 itself with 54,000 made, although the entire Morris Eight line ended in 1954. They have become greatly loved by enthusiasts worldwide because of its reliable nature and it brought the pleasures of motoring in the Thirties. How this specimen ended up here is a mystery, though I believe it had been brought in a long time ago. You don't see cars from the 30s running about here and it is certainly a classic that you shouldn't miss!

19 June 2018

More than an old car #72: Talbot Solara

Car spotting has been quite therapeutic for me, as I can just forget about my issues at hand and focus on hunting old cars. It has been a journey full of surprises along the way, as I have come across a few obscure/unlikely vehicles. Somehow, scrappy-looking cars really attract me as it really shows off its age, and that one rarely see cars that are in such poor shape due to annual inspections. Although most of the time, they have been left there to crumble just like this 1981 Talbot Solara SX...

Talbot was a London automobile maker which was established in 1903 by Charles-Chetwynd Talbot, the 20th Earl of Shrewsbury. It was later merged with some other companies to form STD Motors Ltd. [Sunbeam, Talbot and Darraq]. In the meantime, there were different subsidiaries formed under the Talbot name, but all of them collapsed financially. It was sold to SIMCA [Société Industrielle de Mécanique et Carrosserie Automobile], a French automaker founded in 1934. Simca itself was bought over by Chrysler Europe, who had wanted to advance into the European market. Shortly afterwards in 1978, the conglomerate PSA Peugeot-Citroen bought over Chrysler Europe [which included the Talbot brand]. The Talbot name disappeared in 1994; a comeback was considered in 2008 but nothing materialised in the end.
As you can see, the car industry can be pretty complicated, with many acquisitions here and there. In fact, most of the brands we are familiar today are a result of numerous mergers: about 15 main groups control almost all of the car brands.

The Solara was a sedan version of the Simca 1307 hatchback which had enjoyed moderate success in Europe. Its name was chosen back in 1978 and after Chrysler Europe was sold to PSA, the Talbot brand was resurrected. It was exhibited to the press in 1980 where it received rave reviews: many people preferred a conventional sedan compared to the hatchback and it was aesthetically pleasing to look at. It was one of the first cars to feature an on-board computer, which recorded the car's mileage and indicated the fuel level. However, the Solara was deemed somewhat dated and due to competition with popular cars such as the Peugeot 305, it did not sell very well. A few trim levels were produced, and the top-of-the-line SX was powered by a 1592 cc Simca Type 315 i4 engine: the car could reach a top speed of 167 km/h, with an acceleration of 12 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 4392 mm long and weighed 1040 kg.

Production ended in 1986 with 184,976 made, and this seems to be the last one on our roads! It turns out that there were quite a number of them here in the 1980s, as seen in various archived newspaper ads during that time. That said, it was not a common car to begin with. Here is an article describing the car when it appeared in Singapore in 1981. The last advertisements for used Talbot Solaras appeared in 1992, showing that they were unable to stand the test of time.

I'm pretty sure most of you have never heard of this brand before until today--even I was surprised to come across this obscure vehicle! From my observations, this unit has been abandoned for quite some time and is in need of some TLC. It still has original registration plates, along with stock wheels. Its licence plate border hints at its Peugeot ties, despite the cars being distributed by Reliant Motors, a local dealer. If you take a closer look at the lower left corner of the windscreen, you can see the plate number embossed on it: this was a common feature for cars up till the late 1990s. Furthermore, it was converted to the classic plate scheme some time ago, so the owner hasn't forgotten about it yet. Hopefully, the owner will still keep it on the road for others to see this obscure vehicle for themselves!

14 June 2018

More than an old car #71: Honda Accord CA

Honda has always been a fan favourite and other than the Civic, the Accord also draws many praises. They are quite common here and I believe some of you would have sat in one/driven one before, or heard the joke about Jesus "not speaking of his own accord." However, I would like to draw your attention to this 1987 Honda Accord CA, which has certainly seen better days when it was on the roads back then.

The Accord was introduced as a larger companion model to the Civic, and its name reflects Honda's desire for "accord" and harmony between people, society and the car. The 3rd-generation Accord was first introduced in 1985, where it found great popularity in the US market. Early export models had pop-up headlights but fixed-headlight versions was only available for the sedan from 1987 onwards.
This was the 1.6 litre version, meaning that it was powered by a 1598cc Honda A16A1 i4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 176 km/h, with an acceleration of 11.9 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 4535 mm long and weighed 1040 kg.

Back in the 90s, they used to be rather ubiquitous in Singapore based on old photos I had seen. Perhaps, your parents may have owned one a long time ago! I am aware of a few more 3rd-gen models still on the road but they are getting rarer since people don't really appreciate them as much today. This specimen was looking pretty battered and a recent check showed that the number plate was de-registered. Either it is still around on a new number plate, or it has already been scrapped. Considering our car climate, I am inclined to think the latter although I hope it isn't the case. Maybe it's time to keep your eyes peeled for the remaining survivors!

11 June 2018

Miscellaneous classics #1: Toyota Dyna Y100

I noticed that while many of you have been fascinated by the variety of old cars on the road, none of you have taken a second look at a less glamorous mode of transportation--the humble lorry/pick-up truck. You may probably associate it with foreign workers sitting at the back of the lorry, and this by the way, is a legal form of transportation. Those of you from outside Asia may be quite surprised, since you don't see anyone travelling on trucks. Thus, I decided to write a special feature on this 2000 Toyota Dyna 150, as I feel it is old enough to be a classic soon. There are practically no old pick-up trucks like this here as they cannot be registered as a private vehicle, and I felt compelled to pay homage to this icon.

The Toyota Dyna is a compact truck for commercial use, and its name is derived from the word "dynamic". It is available in a variety of formats, from the small 1-1.5 tonners to larger 2-3 tonner models. Its competitors include the Nissan Cabstar, Mitsubishi Fuso Canter and the Isuzu Elf/NHR. The first Dyna was made in 1956, known as the Toyopet Route Truck, and Dynas are still in production today. These trucks, or lorries as we call them, have been a mainstay in our road history: it is an alternative mode of transport for the many migrant workers since ordering buses can be too cost-intensive. Coupled with its natural function for transporting goods, it is easy to see why they are very handy for most companies.
This particular model is powered by a 2986 cc i4 diesel engine, but as with all commercial vehicles with the G-plate, its speed is limited to 70 km/h. It is 4690 mm long and weighs 1490 kg, but its maximum laden weight is more than twice the amount at 3350 kg.

A quick check on the database reveals that it will be taken off the road in 2020, since such vehicles only have a lifespan of 20 years. This model is the earlier Y100 series as seen by the quad round headlights; the one beside it is the facelifted Y200 version, which only appeared around 2003. These vehicles have received a bad rep due to the glaring lack of safety equipment for people sitting at the back, and people have been injured in accidents involving them as well.

More often than not, you may associate this lorry with a very old man hunched behind the wheel and a lot of junk at the back. Actually, I have sat in one before and while it is cool to feel the wind in your hair, you do feel quite exposed to the traffic around you. I believe this pick-up version only exists within the Asian continent, which is our unique alternative to the Ford/Dodge/Ram trucks elsewhere.

I had been captivated by their quaint headlights and quickly realised that they are pretty old compared to our car population. The fact that they will be gone in the next few years without anyone caring about them made me decide to preserve this piece of our automotive history in this blog. There are still quite a number of them but they are getting rarer as days go by. Do keep a lookout for them before they are gone!

7 June 2018

More than an old car #70: Jensen Interceptor III


Some of you may have noticed that I keep featuring cars in this particular exhibition area. This was the Car of the Year event organised by Luxglove which was held at Marina Bay Sands, featuring some 45 classic cars! What greeted me was pure heaven--plenty of exotics were featured such as a Ferrari F40 and an old Mustang. This 1974 Jensen Interceptor III convertible was also another highlight, especially when I had never heard of the Jensen brand until then!

In 1931, the brothers Alan and Richard Jensen started working at W J Smith & Sons, an old established firm of motor bodywork builders. With the death of founder William Smith, the brothers took over the business and renamed it the Jensen Motor Company in 1934. It started out making customised car bodies for firm such as Morris and Singer, and also manufactured trucks under the JNSN marque. After the war, it started producing more sports cars such as the Interceptor. The Jensen brothers retired in 1966 and the company steadily deteriorated due to decreased sales. It was liquidated on 1976, though the brand was briefly revived up till 2002. In 2015, it was announced that the Jensen name would be revived but there has been no news till this day.

The Interceptor was a grand tourer hand-built at the Kelvin Way factory from 1966. Its name was previously used for a older model and steel was used to make the body shell, compared to glass-reinforced plastic previously. It is noted that the styling for the Interceptor was remarkably similar to the Brasinca Uirapuru, a Brazilian-made car which featured a distinctively large, curving wrap-around rear window. Minor external changes were made, resulting in 3 distinct editions. This specimen was powered by a whopping 7206cc Chrysler TNT V8 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 217 km/h with an acceleration of 7.8 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 4686 mm long and weighed 1814 kg.

Production ended in 1976 with 6,408 built in total. Out of the 512 convertibles made, only 90 were in RHD. I am aware of 1 other model [a coupe though] that is currently registered in Singapore! Though it may look quite ungainly, underneath the hood lies a beast. It was also featured in Fast and Furious 6--an unlikely but unique appearance! This unit is currently unregistered, though it may soon sport a local plate. If you are lucky, you may see it soon!

4 June 2018

More than an old car #69: BMW 2002

Many of you would be familiar with BMWs and perhaps how imposing they are--you would probably form an immediate impression that these drivers are somewhat wealthy. Yet, BMW has also rolled out some pretty cute cars in the past, such as this 1972 BMW 2002.

The 2002 was part of the 02 series, which was a range of compact executive cars produced from 1966. It was designed to be more sportier than its predecessor, the "New Class" range of cars. The 2002 only came into being in order to break into the US market. It turned out that many people loved the 2002 and this quickly established BMW as an international brand.

As with cars of that era, technology that we take for granted today, such as airbags, rearview camera, and power steering were non-existent for this 2002. The constant engagement between the driver and the road enhanced the overall driving experience, and there was a near 360-degree visibility with no blind spots given how small the pillars are. It was powered by a 1990 cc M10 i4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 170 km/h, with an acceleration of 10.4 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 4230 mm long and weighed just 990 kg.

Production ended in 1976 with about 6800 made in RHD. I am aware of 2 more residing here, and one of them is always hidden at the far corner of a carpark. This unit was recently imported from the UK as it still sports the UK road tax disc. It has a very quaint look that never goes out of style, and it is easy to see why people still fall in love with it. I was reading this article about how one man in the USA was so addicted to the 2002 that he owned some 50 of them! This ended up destroying his marriage and his relationships with his friends, which was pretty sad. It is heartening how people here still love this car, I hope you will too after reading it!