24 September 2018

More than an old car #81: Toyota Sera

Back in the 90s, Toyota was the most common car on the roads, not less due to the ever-faithful Corolla and its many variants. However, many great cars of that era have been left forgotten, and I had never heard of this 1990 Toyota Sera until I saw it for myself.

The Sera was unveiled to the public in 1988 as the AXV-II concept car, and it was noted for its unique butterfly wing doors and its glass canopy. Its name is French for "will" [recall 'que sera, sera']. The butterfly doors was used to promote Toyota's corporate image by implementing it on a small, low-production car, although such style was associated with high-end models such as the Mercedes 300 SL. Even the technology behind these doors was quite high-level, as the viscosity of the damper fluid required to operate the door had to be regulated according to the seasons.
It was powered by a 1497cc 5E-FHE i4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 195 km/h. It was 3860 mm long and weighed 930 kg.

Production ended in 1995 with only 15,941 made. They have become very rare here as well: I am aware of around 5 units only! It is noted that they were not sold here originally by the local Toyota dealer, thus they could have been parallel-imported. They represent the quirkiness of 90s Japanese designs--it has become a cult classic as people begin to appreciate their uniqueness. I don't know whether you will be able to find one on the road, but you won't be able to miss it when you see it!

16 September 2018

More than an old car #80: Mercedes W126 380 SEC

Mercedes has always remained a perennial favourite among classic car lovers, and even in Singapore it is by far the most-represented among the old cars here. 2-door Mercs are somewhat less common, but some are more rare than others...how many of you have seen this 1983 Mercedes W126 380 SEC?

The W126 was borne from Mercedes' project to develop cars with better handling, an improved ride and better fuel efficiency. Its body design was supposed to be more aerodynamic and subsequent testing showed that it could save up to 10% fuel compared to its predecessor, the W116. At the same time, there was greater emphasis on safety, such as the introduction of driver-side airbags, traction control, crumple zones and fluted taillights, which maximised the rear visibility even when the lights were dirty.

The W126 was unveiled in 1979 and the coupe version, known as the SEC [S-Klasse-Einspritzmotor-Coupe] premiered in 1981. Throughout the whole lifetime of the W126, there were 4 different types of SECs made, which corresponded with its engine capacity. The 380 SEC was powered by a 3839 cc M116 V8 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 210 km/h with an acceleration of 9.6 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 4910 mm long and weighed 1585 kg.

Production of the W126 ended in 1992, but out of the 70,000-odd coupes made, only 11,267 were the 380 SEC variant. There seems to be 3 of them on the roads and I had the privilege to see 2 of them, including this one! This picture was taken back in 2015 near a hospital, so I presume a doctor isusing it as a daily driver. Some of you would have noticed the more numerous 300 SEL sedans that are still going strong, but considering how rare the coupe version is, it feels more satisfying finding even one in the wild!

10 September 2018

More than an old lorry #2: Mitsubishi L200

Mitsubishi is pretty well-known here, but as with my previous post on the Toyota Dyna, I feel compelled not to forget the workhorses among us like this 2000 Mitsubishi L200 lorry. And no, I'm not trolling if you expected to see more conventional cars instead...

The L200 is a pick-up truck that has been made since 1978, and you may also see the present version, known as the Mitsubishi Triton. This unit over here is the predecessor of the Triton, also known as the Strada [Italian for "road"]. 2 generations were made, although this one was the export market version. Typically, the trucks that were made had off-road capabilities and were much larger in size. Interestingly, all the L200s since then have been made in Thailand. It is powered by a 2477 cc 4D56 i4 engine and was 4890 mm long. It weighed 1390 kg while unladen and had a maximum laden weight of 2550 kg. As with all lorries here, it can carry up to 6 people at the back: the shelter and guard rails are required by law to make it more safe for the people behind.

If you observe the lorries more carefully, you would realise that the older ones are not as common as you think. Since vehicles with the G plate can only be driven for 20 years, this one here may be taken off the road very soon. It is also a shame that they can only be registered by businesses, since I believe there are private buyers out there who would love this gem. Just try to see as many of them before they disappear from the roads, but at least I have preserved a snapshot for future viewers...

3 September 2018

More than an old car #79: Daihatsu Charade

Japanese cars are currently the most popular choice for car drivers here, and everyone would at least know about Toyota, Nissan and Mazda. However, among these big players, there are less well-known brands and their range of models, such as this 1989 Daihatsu Charade G100 and G102.

Daihatsu is one of Japan's oldest surviving internal combustion engine manufacturer, where it started out as Hatsudoki Seizou Co. Ltd. in 1907. In 1951, it adapted the kanji word of Osaka (where it was headquartered) into the company name, thus becoming "dai hatsu". It ventured into car manufacturing and began exports to the European market in the 1960s. Throughout the years, it attained lower-than-expected sales and it began to pull out of the various overseas markets, starting with the US in 1992. Toyota had also started increasing their shareholdings in Daihatsu since 1967 and in 2016, Daihatsu became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Toyota. In Singapore, the most common ones are the Daihatsu Hijet vans and the cute-ish Copen. Yet most of you would struggle to even remember this brand in the first place!

The Charade was first produced in 1977, where it became an overnight success in Japan despite stricter restrictions on emission standards for small cars. It was also popular in Latin America as the car could run on low-octane fuel, which was common back then. The 3rd generation of the Charade [G100 series] appeared in 1987. It was available in a 3/5 door hatchback, although a 4-door sedan was also offered from 1989 onwards. Different types of engines were used for different trim models, but this unit was powered by a 993 cc CB i3 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 145 km/h with an acceleration of 14 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 3610 mm long and weighed 735 kg.
For the sedan, it was powered by a 1296 cc HC i4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 167 km/h with an acceleration of 11.7 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 3995 mm long and weighed slightly heavier at 845 kg.

Production ended in 1993 with the arrival of the new Charade generation, but it lived on in China until 2012, known as the Tianjin Xiali. With the ceaseless march towards a car-lite society, many Charades have fallen victim to the merciless COE system and thus, there are only a handful of them left here. I was therefore pleasantly surprised to come across these units again after 2 years where they are still plodding on. The period wheels lend it a nostalgic touch and its unassuming presence is characteristic of cars in that era. I hope that with this knowledge, you will be able to appreciate them before they are gone!