25 February 2019

More than an old car #96: Chevrolet Camaro Z28

Over the years in my spotting/documentation journey, I have come across cars of all makes and sizes. However, a notable absence are American cars for some reason: maybe people don't like huge cars or parts are hard to get, I don't know. Imagine my astonishment when I chanced upon this 1981 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 when I was out for a jog!

In April 1965, the renowned Ford Mustang had established itself as the go-to car for Americans, and Chevrolet was itching to grab a piece of the pie. It developed a project, code-named Panther, and informed automotive journalists to attend a meeting of the "Society for the Eradication of Panthers from the Automotive World" via a cryptic telegram. Notwithstanding the rather mysterious way the Camaro was revealed, the origin of its name is quite interesting.

In keeping with the tradition of naming Chevy cars starting with 'C', the general manager, Pete Estes, claimed that 'Camaro' suggested the comradeship of good friends as a personal car should be to its owner. Later on, Chevy managers simply said that it was a "small, vicious animal that eats Mustangs", a clear dig at their rival. Although it was later claimed that Estes saw the word in a French-English dictionary, the actual word is "camarade"; "camaro" is not a recognised word in French.
The Z28 is a performance package that was designed for the Camaro to enter in car racing events at that time. It name is derived from GM's own Regular Production Option (RPO) Z28, which was the code for the Special Performance Package. Such units were often distinguished by racing stripes and a 'Z28' logo on the cars.

The 2nd generation of the Camaro was introduced in 1970, and it went through a series of changes over the years. It performed better than its predecessor in terms of road handling and sound-proofing. For the 1981 model, it differed from the base model with a reverse hood scoop that could open to take in cooler air and a unique front end. The engine was also fitted with a Computer Command Control unit, which provided indicators about the engine status. It was powered by a 5001 cc (305 cubic inch) V8, allowing it to reach a top speed of 173 km/h, with an acceleration of 9.3 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 5019 mm long and weighed 1585 kg.

Production of the 2nd-generation Camaro also ended in 1981, with 20,253 Z28s made in 1981. This unit was recently imported from Australia; although GM only made LHD cars at that time, GM Australia did receive some complete-knock-down units where they were reassembled in RHD. Interestingly, Camaros were also sold in Singapore back in the 1980s, although there are none left currently.

I was really lucky to come across this gem: it had arrived just the day before before it was covered up even until today. Throughout the months, it has never moved, although I have heard that it is awaiting registration! Its VIN number indicates that it is made in USA, under GM (Chevrolet), has a non-passive restraint system, adopts a sports coupe style and made in the Van Nuys plant in California between May and June 1981. This unit looks pretty tidy despite the layer of dust, and I guess you have to wait for a while to see this American muscle tearing up our roads!

18 February 2019

More than an old car #95: Hyundai Sonata EF

Mention the words "Hyundai Sonata" and one may immediately think of the taxis that continue to ply our roads. The general impression is that they are merely cars that bring you from point A to B, without any emotional attachment to them. Sure, they may be common cars, but how often do you come across this 1999 Hyundai Sonata EF?

Hyundai first started out as the Hyundai Engineering and Construction Company, founded by entrepreneur Chung Ju-Yung in 1947. Its name is derived from the Korean word 현대 (Hyeondae), which means "modernity". The Hyundai Motor Company was founded in 1967, in a joint venture with Ford. Later on, it worked with Mitsubishi to have its vehicles powered by Mitsubishi technology, such as engines and drivetrains. In 1998, it acquired a majority in its rival, Kia Motors and currently, it is the world's 4th largest automaker behind GM, VW and Toyota.

The Sonata was first produced in 1985 as a competitor to the Daewoo Royale and it was advertised as an executive car. The name comes from the musical term that we may be familiar with (also Winter Sonata, anyone?). This unit is the 4th generation of the Sonata, also known as the EF Sonata. Somehow, EF also stands for "Elegant Feeling" for marketing purposes. This is also a pre-facelift version, as the headlights and grille were significantly redesigned in 2001.
It was powered by a 1997 cc Hyundai Sirius G4CP i4 engine (based off the renowned Mitsubishi 4G63 engine), allowing it to reach a top speed of 190 km/h, with an acceleration of 10.5 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 4710 mm long and weighed 1340 kg.

Production of the EF Sonata ended in 2005 (inclusive of the facelifted model). There are still a small handful of facelifted EFs here, but it was my first time seeing such an old Korean car. It has been deregistered recently, and I believe the car is also gone from the road. Judging from the yellowed headlights and missing grille parts, it must have been well-traveled. Korean cars were not known for being reliable back then and it is very rare for one to survive until today. They may look boring, but after all they are a part of car culture in Singapore!

11 February 2019

More than an old car #94: Rolls Royce Silver Cloud

It is no surprise that Rolls Royce (RR) often takes the lead in combining luxury and sophistication in its vehicles. They are built in such a way that compels you to pay attention to its elegance and huge size, including this 1961 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud 2!

The Silver Cloud was first produced in 1955 and was the main flagship model of RR during the post-war years. It was the last RR car to have a body-on-frame construction, ie a fixed chassis with the car body being designed by various coachbuilders. However, the majority were built with a standard-sized steel body shell, while the doors and front hood were made from an aluminium-based alloy. The Silver Cloud 2 was externally identical to its earlier version, the Silver Cloud 1, except with a more powerful 6230 cc V8 engine. This allowed the car to reach a top speed of 166 km/h, with an acceleration of 13.5 seconds [0-100 km/h]. Considering that it was 5378 mm long and weighed 2113 kg, its performance is considered impressive.

Production of the Silver Cloud ended in 1966. Out of the 7,372 that were made, 2,417 were the Silver Cloud 2. This unit belongs to the Fullerton Hotel, and it is only used to ferry important personages or as a wedding car. I am aware of 3 other units here and they are not spotted often. What is more impressive is that it still has a regular car plate, meaning it bears the full amount of road tax amounting to more than $7000! On the other hand, it would be just a small trifle in the hotel's profitability. Rarely will you get to come across such a stunning car like this, so drop by Fullerton Hotel to check it out!

5 February 2019

More than an old car #93: Ferrari F40

Back in 2017, I had the chance to go for a classic car exhibition held at Marina Bay Sands: I had chanced upon it by accident and naturally, I was compelled to go for it. It was a sight to behold when I arrived, but nothing prepared me for the moment when I saw this 1989 Ferrari F40 in the flesh! Over the years I had heard of this legend, and that day, I was struck dumb at this living, breathing creature in front of me...

The F40 was first produced in 1987 and it was to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Ferrari. Enzo Ferrari, then the chairman of his namesake company, desired to create a performance car amidst customers' complaints that Ferrari models were getting too comfortable (seriously?). As a result, intensive research was done to devise a road-legal racing machine, to add on to the fame generated by the 288 GTO that was designed previously.

The body was made of a combination of Kevlar, carbon fibre and aluminum which provided strength and low weight. It took its styling cues from the renowned Lamborghini Countach, and the final result featured a lowered front end, air ducts at the side to boost airflow, and its distinctive spoiler which kept the car straight at high speeds. Personally, it looks so pleasing from all angles: I am a sucker for wedge-shaped cars and there is this feeling that the F40 is barely containing its aggressiveness...and the headlights look so natural!

With the mid-engine layout, the rear of the car would open like a shell and the transparent Plexiglas cover enable one to admire the intricacies of the engine. To lighten up the car further, various accessories such as door handles, radio and sound system were stripped. Air-con was still included to combat the intense heat from the engine right behind the driver. Extensive road and track tests were carried out from 1985 until it was unveiled to the public.

Initial reviews were mixed: it looked great but it was not a very nice vehicle to drive around in. The F40 was described as a 'go-kart with a plastic body', having poor rear-view visibility and being mechanically unreliable. It was powered by a 2936 cc Tipo F120 V8 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 324 km/h with an acceleration of 4.1 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 4358 mm long, 1123 mm high and weighed 1100 kg.

Initially, Ferrari planned to make only 400 units, with a selling price of $400,000. Due to the death of Enzo in 1989, the resulting speculations drove up the price into the millions. Thus, Ferrari capitalised on the increased perceived value and proceeded to make 1337 cars in total, which was considered common by supercar standards. All were in LHD and as a result, cannot be registered in Singapore. There is another unit here, as a garage queen of course, but you can see it near the Tanglin area.

The F40 has become the benchmark of Ferrari performance and due to the fact that it appeared in many racing games in the 1990s, it was a fantasy of many impressionable children. It often occupied a prime spot in many bedrooms and is an integral part of the Prancing Horse's identity today. It is not everyday that you get to see such a famous icon, so do check it out if you are able to!