23 December 2019

More than an old car #127: Toyota Supra A70

Walking around private estates can be rewarding even though there may be a lot of area to cover: I had no idea what this was previously, but after some checking, it turned out to be a very rare 1989 Toyota Supra A70!

The Supra is a sports car and grand tourer made by Toyota starting from 1978, where it was based off the Celica liftback: as such, the first 2 generations were known as the Celica Supra. Its name is Latin for 'supreme', which incidentally was the idea that Toyota wanted to promote to buyers. Interestingly, the Supra name was resurrected recently since 2002, with the current J29/DB model based off the BMW Z4. While it is still a far cry from its predecessors, the J29 Supra has received much positive reviews and I understand that there are at least 5 on the road now.

In 1986, the Celica and Supra became 2 different models: the A70 Supra maintained its rear-wheel drive layout while the Celica was now a front-wheel drive car. Notable features included an electrically-controlled suspension system known as TEMS and an anti-lock braking system (ABS). Export markets were given the larger 3 litre engine, while the Japanese market had smaller capacities in order to qualify for tax exemptions. The engines were also available in turbocharged form, and features such as an integrated spoiler were unique to these cars.

It underwent a facelift in 1989, with numerous changes made to the interior. This unit was powered by a 2954 cc 7M-GTE turbo inline-6 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 224 km/h with an acceleration of 7.7 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 4630 mm long and weighed 1583 kg.

Production of the A70 Supra ended in 1993 with about 241,471 units made. This unit is the last one remaining in Singapore, and it was also rare even back in 1987 when it was first released by Borneo Motors. It has been recently given a new lease of life with the extension of its COE, although it does not come out very often. While its successor (the A80 Supra) is more desirable due to its appearance in the Fast and Furious movies, this unicorn also deserves recognition for being able to survive for so long.

It is natural for people to gravitate towards a favorite car, though I feel some regular-looking models are equally desirable as well. The body style is certainly unique among cars of today, and the BBS wheels give it a nice classic touch. And who doesn't love some pop-up headlights? It would be better if you could see it for yourself and marvel at this timeless classic some day!

16 December 2019

More than an old car #126: Lancia Flavia

It is always nice to come across classic cars anytime, anywhere, but it was a bonus to have seen this elusive 1963 Lancia Flavia Vignale Convertible!

The Lancia Flavia was developed by Antonio Fessia, then Central Technical Director of the Lancia motor company in the 1950s, and was unveiled to the public at the Turin Motor Show in 1960. Fessia was determined to produce a suitable front-wheel-drive car, which was inspired by a prototype that he worked on. Its name is based on the Via Flavia, an ancient Roman road, which was in keeping with Lancia's tradition of adopting names from Roman roads.

Initially, only the sedan (berlina) version was available, but a coupe and convertible were gradually introduced. The convertible (introduced in 1962) was based off the sedan, and was designed by Giovanni Michelotti from the Vignale coachbuilder company. As such, it still looks square and sober, although the pouting grille and twin headlights gave it a certain tenacity. A variety of engines were offered, namely 1.5 litre, 1.8 litre and 2 litre engines. This unit was powered by a 1800 cc Lancia H4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 173 km/h with an acceleration of 13 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 4340 mm long and weighed 1150 kg, with a decent fuel consumption of 11 litres/100 km.

Production of the Flavia ended in 1970, although the convertible version was discontinued in 1967. It was a very rare car even until today: out of the 1,601 units made, 834 cars had the 1.8 litre engine. Amazingly, only 49 in total were in RHD! Interestingly, there are only about 10 Lancias in existence in Singapore: seems like people were not that keen to keep the numerous bread-and-butter models that used to roam our roads.

This unit was imported some time in 2012 and I understand it rarely appears, except during the F1 Drivers' Parade every year. I was fortunate to see it up close when it was awaiting maintenance: it really blows the mind to see that we have such unique cars despite our restrictive ownership. This is not just some old car, but one that you'll be hard-pressed to find around the world...having said that, I hope you will be able to find it soon!

14 December 2019

More than an old car #125: Ferrari 348

Walking around office carparks in our financial district has its perks even though it may seem like an unusual place to spot cars. I have seen quite a few high-end models out and about, but never expected to see this 1992 Ferrari 348 TS just parked so casually!

The Ferrari 348 was introduced in 1989 at the Frankfurt Auto Show, where it succeeded the popular 328. As with its predecessors, its name is derived from the engine capacity (3.4 litres) and the number of cylinders (8). It was available in coupe and targa versions, although convertibles were introduced later. The engine was mounted longitudinally and it was coupled to a transverse manual gearbox, giving rise to the TS (transversale spider) designation. As a nod to the classic Testarossa, it featured the iconic straked side intakes and rectangular headlights.

Other features of the 348 included a computer-controlled engine management system, anti-lock brakes and self-diagnosing air-con and heating systems. Initial reception was positive as people praised its revolutionary looks and its nice steering. However, it quickly drew criticism due to its heavy gearbox (where one needed a 'shot-putter's arm' to shift to 2nd gear), catastrophic engine failures and numerous leaks. It was powered by a 3408 cc Tipo F119 V8 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 275 km/h, with an acceleration of 5.6 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 4230 mm long and weighed 1440 kg.

Production of the 348 ended in 1995 with 4,228 TS models made. This unit is one of about 10 left in Singapore, and it was repainted to this striking purple colour from its original yellow. I was aware of its existence previously, and it was a surprise to see that it was still regularly driven in the CBD area. They were sold by the original Ferrari dealer Hong Seh Motors back in 1991, at a rather princely price of S$535,000 [S$795,468 in today's money].

348s are known to be the cheapest Ferraris that one could buy, partly because it was unloved by many critics. It was not particularly quick nor impressive in any sense, and the gearbox made it more suitable for a weekend ride. Yet, it is still nice to see that the owner loves his/her car by driving it to work, perhaps you may see this some day!

2 December 2019

More than an old car #124: Triumph Dolomite 14/65

Having gone for quite a few car exhibitions and meetups, it is always good to see unicorns make their appearance. This 1939 Triumph Dolomite 14/65 Roadster was one of them during this particularly impressive car show!

The Triumph Dolomite was first introduced in 1937, available in both sedan and roadster versions. At that time, Triumph was facing bankruptcy and it was forced to reorganise its finances. Under the leadership of Donald Healy, then technical director of the Triumph Motor Company, the new car was targeted at the luxury sporting saloon market. Its name was derived from a 1934 prototype that Healy used to race in. The 14/65 designation referred to its horsepower output, and this format is still in use today.

One of the more striking details was the 'waterfall' radiator grille, supposedly inspired by American car designs of that era. Being targeted for the middle class, the roadster also featured 'high-end' items such as wire-spoked wheels, wind-up windows and interestingly, a double dickey seat at the rear. 'Dickey seats' were exposed to the elements and strictly speaking, not part of the seating arrangement in a car. As such, it was also known as the 'mother-in-law' seat. There were a range of engines available, although this unit is powered by the more desirable 1991 cc straight-6 engine. It was 4496 mm long and weighed about 1245 kg. The motoring press at that time noted that it could reach a top speed of 80 mph [128 km/h] with an acceleration of 8 seconds [0-50 mph], making it a serious competitor in rally events.

However, while the Dolomite was acknowledged as one of the finest Triumphs made, the company lacked resources to increase capacity and overall production ended in 1939, when Triumph went into receivership. Its factory was also heavily bombed during the war and the Dolomite was never re-introduced. About 50 roadsters with the 1991 cc engine were produced, and it so happens that this unit is only 1 of 8 still in existence! It is understood that this is the only one in Asia, as the majority are in the UK. If I am not mistaken, this was originally in Singapore before it was converted to the classic scheme, and given the rarity, it only appears for special events. However, it had taken part in a rally event in India back in 2015, showing that this is still no slouch on the road.

Looking at the imposing design, I find it a pity that people do not make cars like before. Although the introduction of safety features has benefited us, such elaborate designs had to be sacrificed as a result. Even the headlights of this car are bigger than the ones we see nowadays! The graceful curves and the spare tyre mounted seamlessly with the car body would not be replicated today. I was fortunate to see this exceptional unit last year, and I hope you'll get to see this someday!

28 November 2019

Special feature #2: SG's Toyota Corona

It has been a while since I did a special feature as I did not have the chance to talk to owners previously. I hope to do this once a while, now that I have content. Let me introduce you to this humble 1991 Toyota Corona T170 CD that does not exist anymore...

The Toyota Corona was first introduced way back in 1957, where it was first used as taxis in Japan. Over the years, it evolved gradually to become a popular people's car, including Singapore which received the 3rd-generation model in 1964. Its name is derived from the corona (the scattered light around the sun during a solar eclipse), and it was supposed to signify a 'bright and friendly family car'.

The Corona T170 was the 8th generation model, first released in 1987. It was available in a 4-door sedan and 5-door liftback version and featured a variety of engines. For the Singapore market, we primarily received units powered by a 1587 cc 4A-FE i4 engine, with a choice of automatic or manual gear transmission. The Corona of this generation was larger than its predecessors, up to the 1700 mm maximum width that made it eligible for lower taxes in Japan. It had a facelift in 1989, where the horizontal grille bars became vertical. The T170 Corona was 4480 mm long and weighed 1210 kg.

Production of the T170 Corona ended in 1992, where it was replaced by the T190 model. Borneo Motors, our local Toyota dealer, first sold them in 1988: apparently the managing director sent out video-cassette tapes to 2,000 owners of the Honda Accord, detailing the rally success and improved features of the Corona. Honda got so concerned that they sent 2 executives from Japan to take a look at Borneo Motors's facilities!

This particular unit was owned by a member of the motoring club in my school for a few months: he had recently bought it from a car dealer when he wanted a cheap and economical car to work on. As with a car that old, it broke down a few times and repair costs was dear on a student budget. Coincidentally, I had seen the exact unit 2 years ago (when it was with the previous owners), and SG graciously took a few of us for a short ride around school. It reminded me of the older taxis of the past, especially in a less-common manual transmission. The cloth seats and the audible rumble of the engine was pretty iconic, and the drive was smooth and efficient.

Unfortunately, I forgot to take more pictures even when I saw it around school: it did not occur to me at that time. SG decided to sell it due to a limited budget, even though he had driven it across to Malaysia to display it at a retro car show, among other adventures. However, no one bought it despite the discounts he gave, and it was sadly scrapped back in May when its lifespan was up.

The Corona T170 is quite iconic for me, since it was the bread-and-butter car that most people would recall driving back then. Not many Coronas are left in Singapore as people upgraded to better and safer cars, although I managed to see another manual unit a few weeks ago! It is always nice to see such regular cars on the road: they are a part of our motoring heritage even though they are overshadowed by many exotic favourites. Maybe you'll be able to see one of them some day and I hope you'll appreciate it for what it's worth!

SG kindly provided some of his pictures, featuring close-up shots!

11 November 2019

More than an old car #123: Nissan Skyline R32 GTR

Legendary race cars have made their mark on the classic car scene, and in the 80s, Japan was the place to be. The love for JDM cars started from this era, with revolutionary vehicles that changed the nature of racing. One of the pioneers would be this 1989 Nissan Skyline R32 GTR!

The Nissan Skyline was a series of passenger cars which was first released in 1957 as the Prince Skyline. Its name is derived from the 'ridge line' separating the mountains and the sky. However, the GTR itself only emerged in 1969 after the merger of the Prince company into Nissan operations. GTR stands for "GT Racer" and it paid homage to the 1964 Prince Skyline S54A.

After cancelling of the GTR name in 1973, Nissan revived it in 1989: it wanted to find a more competitive vehicle to take part in Group A Racing events. Various modifications were made to the base R32 generation, including converting the car to a special all-wheel drive system known as ATTESA E-TS [Advanced Total Traction Engineering System for All-Terrain with Electronic Torque Split], a rear-wheel steering system known as HICAS [High Capacity Actively Controlled Steering] and introducing a larger engine. All these provided low-speed maneuverability and high-speed stability, thus it was no surprise when it did a clean sweep in pole position for many races.

Its reputation as a race-destroyer originated in Australia, where it was given the nickname of
Godzilla due to it being a 'monster from Japan'. The R32 GTR ironically led to the demise of Group A racing due to its overpowering dominance. It was powered by a 2568 cc RB26DETT straight-6 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 180 km/h with an acceleration of 4.9 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 4545 mm long and weighed 1480 kg, while fuel consumption was noted to be 7 litres per 100 km.

Production of the R32 GTR ended in 1994 where it was replaced subsequently by the R33 GTR. 43,924 units were made in total, of which 40,390 were the standard specifications. This particular unit was one of the first few to be registered: around 1 week after Nissan released it for sale in September 1989. Only 2 are known to exist in Singapore, where the other unit is a 1991 model in Gun Grey Metallic. This blue colour is not original: it used to be white, then grey. Back then, R32s in general were not sold officially by Tan Chong Motors, so this unit would have been imported directly from Japan.

There is a nice touch added with the fitting number plate and the fact that it is very rare here makes it all the more amazing. It does not come out on the roads often but I understand it usually resides in a workshop somewhere in Jurong. It may look like an ordinary old car at first glance, but with this information, I hope it has educated you on how extraordinary this is!

4 November 2019

More than an old car #122: Rockne Six 75

Having covered relatively newer cars recently, I decided to change tack and focus on oldies once a while, or what I call the "big boys". This 1932 Rockne Six 75 was an interesting sight to behold, as it was about to set off for a race!

The Rockne Company was an American car brand that was founded in 1932, under the management of the Studebaker Automobile Company. Studebaker was established by the German immigrant brothers Peter and Clement way back in 1852, where they started out making horse wagons. The first Studebaker car appeared in 1897 and it enjoyed moderate success from the 1920s to the 1950s, before becoming defunct in 1967.

In 1928, Albert Erskine, the president of Studebaker, approached his long-time friend Knute Rockne with a position as sales promotion manager of cars that would eventually bear his name. Rockne was a renowned American football coach at that time for the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, which was near the Studebaker factories at South Bend. Rockne was worried that this would interfere with his duty as a coach but Erskine allayed these concerns. In 1931, Rockne was formally appointed and the first Rockne cars appeared in the showroom. Tragically, Rockne himself died in a plane crash near Kansas 12 days later. This partly accelerated the demise of the Rockne brand just 2 years later in 1933, where it was subsumed back under Studebaker.

The car itself was designed by 2 independent engineers, who had been contracted to create a new low-priced car for the Willys-Overland Company. Ralph Vail, one of the engineers, was passing by South Bend when he decided to drop by the Studebaker plant to advertise his creation. That very afternoon, Erskine was suitably impressed and hired the 2 engineers on the spot. Two cars were greenlighted for production: the "65" on a 2,800 mm wheelbase [which was designed by the engineers], and the "75" on a 2,900 mm wheelbase, which was based on the Studebaker Six. Different variants were built, such as 2-door coupe and convertible, 4-door sedan and a panel van. It was mostly powered by a 3365 cc i6 engine, which was derived from other Studebaker cars.

Production ended in 1933 with 7,324 "75" models made, which was about 20% of all 37,879 Rockne cars. Most cars fell victim to rust or were crushed for scrap metal during WW2, and it was also popularly involved in hot-rod customisation after the war. About 250 Rocknes are known to exist, making this an unlikely rarity to take part in a punishing rally race! This is a Swiss-registered (Zurich) unit that came here in 2018, to take part in a rally from Singapore to Saigon, Vietnam. From what I understand, none were sold here although some were used as taxis in Hong Kong in 1932.

It is not everyday that you get to see such an old car on the road, much less racing against competitors such as the Ford Mustang and Porsche 911. However, it was a nice unique touch to the whole rally and I am sure the owners have many experiences to share. Such events are also very effective in allowing one to see a large variety of cars that Singapore did not receive and I recommend you to go for one if you hear about it!

27 October 2019

More than an old car #121: Panther Kallista

Although I would consider myself as being able to identify how old a car is, some cars that I've seen makes the age prediction hard, such as this 1983 Panther Kallista!

The Panther Westwinds Company (commonly known as Panther) was founded in 1972 by Robert Jankel, a British designer for limousines and armoured cars. It enjoyed success throughout the 1970s, specialising in retro-styled cars based on mechanical components of standard production cars. Most of the body shells were made of fibreglass, though a few Panther cars were made to a higher standard. Interestingly, they were also engaged to make a hovercraft using engines from Honda Gold Wing motorcycles: the plan continued in some secrecy but it disappeared when the company collapsed in 1980. Panther was sold to Kim Yong-Chul, then vice-chairman of Korea's Jindo Group. Production restarted in 1981 with a flurry of vehicles made, including the Kallista.

In 1987, Panther was sold to the Ssangyong Group: although production of the Kallista ended in 1990, a few units were made in South Korea up till 1992, as the revitalisation project was not successful. It was transferred under ownership of Daewoo in 1999, but Jankel managed to buy the Panther name back in 2001. However, he passed away in 2005, signifying the demise of an unusual brand.

The Kallista was the replacement model for the Lima and was first introduced in 1982. It took styling cues from classic Morgan and Allard cars, while using a series of Ford engines. The modern front chin spoiler helps with aerodynamics although it looks somewhat out of place with the styling. It was also noted to have relatively poor cushioning and restricted luggage space, according to a review in 1984. This unit was powered by a 1597 cc CVH i4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 170 km/h with an acceleration of 11.5 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 3905 mm long and weighed 870 kg.

Production of the Kallista ended with around 1,437 made. This is 1 of 6 units remaining in Singapore, although I have yet to see the others personally. Kallistas were sold here by Autohouse Trading Pte Ltd, a distributor that also sold TVR cars too. At S$76,455 [or S$149,165 in today's money], it was a car not meant for anybody but multi-car owners who were fine without creature comforts. This particular unit is the most active: it tends to appear during events and partly because it still runs on normal plates. Personally, this car always confuses me: it is hard to tell immediately that it is an old car, rather than a modern-day neo-classic vehicle instead. It still looks brand new and belies its actual age. That said, it is an interesting car to see up close; maybe you'll see it soon!

21 October 2019

More than an old car #120: Mitsubishi Colt Galant GTO

Japanese cars really took off in the 1970s with revolutionary designs such as the Datsun 240Z and Toyota Celica. Naturally, they continue to be hot favourites among collectors today. However, there are plenty of less popular siblings that fall by the wayside, such as this 1972 Mitsubishi Colt Galant GTO!

The Galant GTO (Gran Touring Omologato) was first introduced as a sporty coupe version of the Colt Galant sedan. "Galant" is French for "brave and brilliant", a sentiment that Mitsubishi wanted to impress on the public. Mitsubishi designer Hiroaki Kamisago, who was studying design in California, took inspiration from contemporary muscle cars such as the Ford Mustang and Pontiac Firebird: it featured a long hood, a raised cut-off ducktail rear and round quad-headlights. Furthermore, the unique reverse-slant nose produced an image of sharp, skillful driving despite its small size. The 3 side-intake outlets and the curves along the base of the window further increased its aerodynamics. It was the second Mitsubishi car to feature roll-down side windows and a pillarless design: you can see that the glass windows are touching each other without anything in between.

The GTO was unveiled to the public in 1969 as the Galant GTX-1, and sales began in 1970. In 1972, the engines were upgraded and a facelift was carried out, most notably a 1-piece slat-style grille and 3-piece rear lights. In 1975, the grille was changed to a honeycomb pattern and the engines were further upgraded. This unit was powered by a 1597 cc 4G32 i4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 180 km/h with an acceleration of 10.2 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 4125 mm long and weighed 950 kg.

Production of the Galant GTO ended in 1977 with 95,720 units made. However, only about 150 pre-facelift models are known to exist today, making this an unlikely rarity. Most owners switched over to other Mitsubishi offerings such as the Sigma and those who continued to hold on to them treated it as a hobby, not for daily use. This unit was imported from Thailand and registered in 2018, although I am not sure how much it is being driven currently. Galant GTOs were sold in Singapore back then but they were not popular due to a higher price, compared to the Toyota Celica. Furthermore, they are underappreciated and relatively unknown, thus contributing to their low numbers. It was nice to come across an obscure classic and that someone here actually appreciates it; maybe you'll get to see it soon!

14 October 2019

Historic classic rides #2: Rolls Royce Silver Wraith State Landaulette by Hooper

State cars have always been a source of fascination for me: how the head of state traveled could indicate a lot about his/her prestige and, to an extent, the loyalty to the country. Most office-holders will travel around in the respective car brand from the country, but for those that do not have an automobile industry, it is also interesting to see what cars are used too. I was inspired to find out more about these special cars from an Instagram post showing how the vehicles featured in our National Day celebrations have changed over the decades, and was I surprised when I discovered this 1954 Rolls Royce Silver Wraith State Landaulette by Hooper that existed here before!

The Silver Wraith was the first post-war car made by RR, introduced in 1946. It replaced the earlier RR Wraith made between 1938 to 1939 (where 1 unit exits here!), although in keeping with the mood of post-war austerity, the size was somewhat reduced. England after the war had more urgent requirements than luxury cars: there was a shortage of raw materials and even petrol was rationed. As a result, RR was initially hesitant to take on this project. However, it was decided that both RR and Bentley cars, which were strictly separate series previously, would have parts that were interchangeable so as to cut costs.

Some changes included a more rigid frame, a newer type of gearbox and chromium-plated cylinder bores for the engine. As with RR cars of that period, only the chassis was provided and the bodywork were supplied by various independent coachbuilders: it was unlikely that 2 units looked alike due to customer specifications and requests. The Silver Wraith was available in 2 different wheelbases: 3226 mm and 3378 mm. Depending on the bodywork placed on the car, it could easily exceed 5 m in length. It was powered by a 4566 cc i6 engine, which was pretty huge considering the time period. Production of the Silver Wraith ended in 1958, of which 1,244 were the short-wheelbase version and 639 were the long-wheelbase version.

This particular unit [chassis number #BLW92] is not a typical Silver Wraith, but a one-off State Landaulette version built by Hooper & Co. The coachbuilder had been commissioned in 1953 to build this car, and other than its unique collapsible roof at the rear, it also featured a internal telephone, seats coated in special plastic to deter termites and teak covering the dashboard etc. In all, it weighed an estimated 2340 kg when it was sent to Singapore in 1954! The Governor of Singapore had used a RR Phantom III as his official car and this Silver Wraith was its replacement.

Throughout its time here, it was used for official duties such as ferrying our first President, Yusof bin Ishak: he is most well-known for gracing his visage on our dollar notes. Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh also travelled in it when he visited Singapore in 1959. Interestingly, it does not sport a number plate but a crown insignia instead. You can see how the landaulette would work in the above picture.

Unfortunately, it was sent back to Europe some time after 1965, where it was owned by a automobile collector: as seen below he took it to the Swiss Alps in one of his many adventures. It was also loaned for use in official ceremonies back in the UK as well: the late Queen Mother and Princess Alexandria travelled in it before. Currently, someone else bought it from the collector and it is now available for wedding rentals and film features, while sporting a nice number plate too.

It boggles the mind to imagine that such a grand, imposing car literally ruled the roads so long ago. Such a sight would be very uncommon nowadays, as flashiness is generally frowned upon in the current economic climate. This was a car that commanded immediate respect from the poor to the rich, and it continues to strike awe even today. It would have been really cool to see it still around here, but it seems like good things must come to an end. I hope this has given you a sneak peek of the over-the-top grandeur that we used to possess!

[Credits to National Archives of Singapore, rrab.com and Google Images]

7 October 2019

More than an old car #119: BMW 327

There has been a massive backlog of cars that I want to write about, and the ones I have covered so far are barely the tip of the iceberg in terms of the ones I have found.  Let me focus on showcasing one of the "big boys" such as this 1937 BMW 327!

The BMW 327 was first introduced in 1937 and was based off a shortened version of its predecessor, the 326. As with cars of that era, it was noted for its distinctive streamlined flowing style and the iconic BMW grille. It was initially launched as a cabriolet, although a coupe version appeared in 1938. The 327 was equipped with an innovative hydraulic braking system and an advanced suspension, contributing to its popularity as a sporty cruiser.

In the 1930s, the main plant was located at Eisenach, where bigger cars such as the 327 and motorcycles were made. Production of the 327 was halted in 1941, as motorcycles and aircraft engines were made for the war effort. This drew the attention of the Allied forces and the subsequent partial destruction of the factory. After the war, the region where the factory was located belonged to the Soviets, who did not want to return the factory to BMW. A protracted dispute arose concerning the title of the BMW brand and its assets. It was only in 1952 when it was determined that cars made in the Eisenach plant after the war would be badged as an EMW instead (with a red-and-white colouration).

The 327 was powered by a 1971 cc M78 i6 engine, although a higher-powered version was also available (known as the 327/28). As a result, it could reach a top speed of 140 km/h, which was considered impressive back then. It was 4500 mm long and weighed 1100 kg.

Production of the 327 ended in 1955 with the introduction of the BMW 503. A total of 1,965 were built, of which 1,396 were made before the war. This unit is a LHD model and is thus eligible for registration since it was made before 1940. Although I saw it a few years ago, I took this opportunity to take a better picture and appreciate its beauty. It is evident that this is only driven on special events and it looks well taken care of. Not every day can you see this on the road, and you should keep a lookout for events such like this!

30 September 2019

More than an old car #118: Daihatsu Fellow

Old Japanese cars are a rarer sight compared to continental models, partly due to a lack of awareness and popularity. Performance issues also crop up every now and then, thus it could be understood why they are not well-loved. I was therefore pleasantly surprised to come across this mint-condition 1969 Daihatsu Fellow SS outside a showroom!

The Daihatsu Fellow was first introduced in 1966 as a kei car, which attracted Japanese consumers due to lower taxes payable. It was designed to seat 4 adults comfortably despite the rather small box-shaped body, and one could load/unload baggage in the trunk easily because of a hinge outside the car. Interestingly, it was also the first Japanese car to feature rectangular headlights. It was offered as a sedan, wagon, mini truck and a panel van.

 As Honda had released the N360 around the same time, Daihatsu attempted to capitalise by making its engine more powerful, leading to the introduction of the SS trim. Although the Fellow helped Daihatsu to increase its market share of light vehicles, it failed to dominate the market. Various facelifts were carried out, most notably the grille design and a front bumper that was mounted higher in 1969. It was powered by a 356 cc ZM 2-cylinder engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 115 km/h with an acceleration of 25.9 seconds [0-100 km/h]. As a kei car, the Fellow was only 2990 mm long and weighed 495 kg.

Production of the Fellow ended in 1970, where it was replaced by a revamped Fellow Max. This particular unit was apparently the 1st Daihatsu car that was imported by Sin Tien Seng, our local Daihatsu dealer in 1969. It has been preserved and exhibited at their 30th anniversary event in 1999. Up close, you could see how rudimentary the car was: no-frills dashboard, simple seats and non-fancy steering wheel. None have survived for so long, probably due to rust issues that plagued Japanese cars during that era. It is a very interesting piece of history that is worth remembering, since this is not a very well-known car even among JDM fans. Perhaps your parents or relatives have driven one before when times were simpler, hope that this is a walk down memory lane for them!

23 September 2019

Miscellaneous classics #3: Ford Econovan/Mazda Bongo E2500

It has been a while since I wrote about old trucks here, and after finding out that Ford Econovans/Mazda E2500 trucks are getting rarer, it compelled me to at least acknowledge their existence in Singapore!

The Ford Econovan, primarily known as the Mazda Bongo/E2500, was first introduced in 1966 with van and truck versions available. Its name is derived from the bongo, a species of antelope living in Central Africa. From 1977, it was exported to other countries such as South Korea and known by a variety of names. The 3rd generation of the Bongo appeared in 1983, and over its lifespan, it was subjected to facelifts and engine upgrades.

This particular unit is a 1999 model and it featured a 2499 cc Mazda WL i4 engine, but as with commercial vehicles here, its speed is restricted to 60 km/h. It was 4475 mm long and weighed 1490 kg while unladen, but could accommodate almost twice its weight with an overall laden weight of 2860 kg. Curiously, it sports a relatively new registration number: it could have changed hands recently to be used till its lifespan was up. The Mazda truck is a 1997 model and while it had the same specifications, it has a different front-end design since it was made under Mazda licensing. It had also been deregistered when I saw it, but somehow it still ended up on the road.

Production of the Econovan/Bongo ended in 1999, where it was replaced by a newer generation. I may be sentimental, but personally it looks better than the current lorries these days due to its simplistic, angular looks. Whatever units that are left here are certainly very minuscule and are due for scrapping in the next 2 years. Certainly, it is a vehicle that many would not bother with since it is so dispensable, but at least I have captured its flickering existence in its 20-year lifespan here. Maybe this will allow you to take a closer look at our commercial vehicles here and see them before they are gone!

16 September 2019

More than an old car #117: Austin/Morris/Rover Mini

Most people will associate the words "classic car" to the VW Beetle, and also the Austin/Morris/Rover Mini as well! They are a key part of British culture as we know it, notably through Mr Bean, toys and T-shirts from London. I will try to summarise the wealth of information out there regarding this famous classic, but you can read up more if you are interested!

The Mini came about due to a fuel shortage caused by the Suez Canal crisis in 1956. Small cars, such as the Fiat 500, were favoured even in the UK. Leonard Lord, the head of BMC, detested the foreign cars and wished to introduce a 'proper miniature car'. His requirement was that the car should fit within a box measuring 3 m*1.2 m*1.2 m, and the passenger space should occupy 1.8 m out of the 3 m length. Alec Issigonis, a car designer in BMC, was appointed to come up with the design. He had been working on a few projects, one of which was a very small car called the XC9003. With the dictum by Lord, XC9003 became the priority and the Mini was unveiled in 1959.

Many features were designed to increase passenger space: sliding windows allowed single-skin doors to be fitted, increasing elbow room, and the boot lid was hinged at the bottom so that the car could be driven with it open to increase luggage space. There were legitimate concerns about passenger safety due to its size and it was partly the reason why the Mini was withdrawn from the US market in 1968. The Mini was initially marketed as the Austin and Morris Mini, and numerous versions were created throughout its lifetime. It was a strong seller in its native UK and eventually achieved great popularity worldwide, having been featured in films such as "The Italian Job" and great success in motorsport rallies.

Minis were powered by a variety of engines, and as mentioned previously, came in different styles. The blue unit is a Austin Clubman model, as seen by the more squarish frontal look. The yellow unit is a Morris Mini and the red one is a Rover Mini, although they look alike to the untrained eye. Rover Minis were powered by a 1,275 cc i4 engine while the other Mins had a 998 cc engine instead. As it was designed to be a family car, it was meant to be easy to maintain and work on. Its cuteness also endeared itself to women especially, who were more comfortable with smaller cars.

Production of the Mini ended in 2000, when its parent company Rover Group was broken up by BMW. A total of 5,387,862 cars were made and the subsequent Mini Hatch capitalised on the success of its predecessor. Minis were sold in Singapore by Malayan Motors from 1961, where it also contributed to the local motorsports community in the Singapore GP back in the early 60s and 70s. Even till today, there are quite a handful of Minis still on the roads and are perennial favourites at classic car shows along with the VW Beetle. Incidentally, there is one near my neighbourhood and I see it everyday, so I would believe they could also be hiding around yours as well!

9 September 2019

More than an old car #116: Proton Perdana

Having covered cars that originate from places around the globe, I decided to focus on something closer to home ie our neighbour, Malaysia. It was by chance that I saw this somewhat older car with a distinctive front end, and naturally I was attracted to it. After doing further research, I realised that I had seen similar units like this 1999 Proton Perdana here many years ago...

The Perdana was developed in response to a need for a larger, more luxurious car after the launch of the popular Saga and Wira; its name is the Malay word for 'prime'. It was unveiled to the public in 1995 and served as competition to similar cars such as the Toyota Camry and Nissan Cefiro. Due to the extensive collaboration with Mitsubishi, the Perdana was based off the 7th-generation Mitsubishi Eterna/Galant, with only minor internal changes for the Malaysian market. It was also the first Proton car to feature cruise control, anti-lock braking system and power windows, which contributed to excessive demand in the first few months.

In 1998, the Perdana was revamped although it was still part of the 1st generation: it featured a newly-designed front end, a body kit, a suspension system tuned by Lotus and more importantly an engine upgrade. A major facelift happened in 2003, with a front grille resembling that of Alfa Romeo and modified bumpers among other changes. This unit features the smaller grille ie pre-facelift version: it was equipped with a 1997 cc Mitsubishi 6A12 V6 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 205 km/h with an acceleration of 13 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 4610 mm long and weighed 1375 kg.

Production of the Perdana ended in 2010 where it was replaced by the 2nd generation model. Throughout its lifetime, more than 77,000 were sold, of which around 53,000 had the V6 engine. They were first sold in Singapore in 1999 by Cycle and Carriage, a big dealer that primarily distributes Mercedes and Mitsubishi cars here. However, some units were recalled in 2001 due to a ball joint problem, and this sounded the death knell for the Perdana's survival here. None are known to exist locally while you can still find a handful in Malaysia.

This is definitely a car that lacks recognition outside of Asia: even in the UK and Australia, Protons were not favoured by the general public. Like what I always do, I hope to preserve its existence on our roads even though it may not have any sentimental value to most of you. This is what I set out to achieve with my blog from the very beginning; now you may be able to identify it!

2 September 2019

Historic classic rides #1: Nissan Cedric 330/ Datsun 220C

(Credits to Wong Ye Yong on Facebook)

For this particular piece, I decided to write about old cars in Singapore that I have not seen personally before. Previously, I preferred to write about cars that I had photographed as it felt original. However, I was also attracted by the variety of rides that existed before my time, which subsequently became extinct. I figured it could be a nice history lesson of the old cars that existed before some of you were even born, and it was also due to popular demand. Let me kick off this series with the Nissan Cedric 330/Datsun 220C taxis!

The 330 was the 4th generation of the Cedric range and was first introduced in 1976. It still carried a distinctly American styling, as Japanese designers were still relying on continental cars as inspiration. In export markets including Singapore, it was known as the Datsun 200C/220C/260C/280C, with reference to its engine capacity. As with previous generations of Cedrics, they were also popular as taxis as seen in the picture. These units were powered by a 2164 cc SD22 diesel i4 engine, allowing it to reach a theoretical top speed of 170 km/h. It was more likely, however, that their top speed was controlled in some way. The Cedric 330 was 4690 mm long and weighed 1420 kg. It was first sold here in 1976 by Tan Chong Motors, our local Nissan dealer, where it was made available for civilian use too.

Production of the 330 ended in 1979, where it was replaced by the 5th-generation 430. These cars here belonged to the Singapore Airport Bus Services (SABS), which also operated a fleet of buses that ferried tourists from Changi Airport to various hotels. SABS was first formed in 1977, where it was under the management of Singapore Bus Services (SBS), which is the bus company that we know of today. While the bus services were well-received, this was not the case for the taxi branch: many Singaporeans had the misconception that it only carried tourists, and the fact that it was not licensed to enter the CBD during morning peak hours also hurt its reputation.

SABS had a fleet of 200 taxis and drivers could rent them at S$31 per day [S$61 in today's money]: the drivers would pay only for the fuel while SABS bore the maintenance costs. Compared to its competitors with rental rates between S$36-38 [S$71-75 today], it was attractive to potential drivers. There were special taxi stands for SABS taxis, where they could pick up passengers during the evening rush hour. However, SABS incurred much losses over the years and it faded quietly off the radar some time in 2004.

This concept was rather interesting during its time but with the rise of ride-hailing services, such a service would not last long today. Nonetheless, it is a unique piece of history that many people may not be aware of: I had to read up about SABS online initially. Furthermore, none of the Datsun 220Cs have survived today, as with most Japanese cars of that era. It would have been lovely to see one still hanging on all this while...and I hope that this was informative for you!

PS: if you have old pictures of your own car/family car (ideally already extinct in Singapore), you are welcome to send them to me and I'll try to feature it!