27 May 2019

More than an old car #103: Saab 96

Having featured the well-known Saab 900 previously, I hope that it has educated you on this car brand that seems to be stuck between being popular and obscure. However, surprises do keep coming, such as this 1967 Saab 96, which is possibly the oldest Saab car in Singapore!

The Saab 96 (internally known as Project 93C) was first introduced in 1960, as a replacement for the 93 and was the 3rd production car by Saab. It featured greater storage space and a larger rear window for better visibility. Some time in 1965, it underwent a facelift that featured a more intricate front end and a longer engine bay, in anticipation for a larger engine. A major facelift also happened in 1974, where the headlights became rectangular and the chrome bow was replaced with black plastic. 

It was praised for its unique aerodynamic shape, giving little wind noise at high speeds and the adjustable back seats, allowing one to load more goods if necessary. The Saab 96 proved popular due to its durability and ease of maintenance, and was suitably equipped for the Nordic conditions such as heating mechanisms, large tyres and abundant ground clearance.

An unusual feature was the 'freewheel', where the transmission could run faster than the engine, providing an advantageous fuel consumption when going downhill for instance. As such, it proved popular at rally events, experiencing success throughout the 60s. It was equipped with a 841 cc Saab i3 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 127 km/h with an acceleration of 24.1 seconds [0-60 mph]. It was 4170 mm long and weighed 873 kg.

Production of the Saab 96 ended in 1980 with 547,221 units made. Currently, this is 1 of 2 units that are left in Singapore, where the other unit is a facelifted version with the rectangular lights. It was first introduced here in 1961 by Malayan Motors, where it had a retail price of $6,950 [approximately $30,000 in today's money]. I am inclined to think that few people would know what this odd-looking machine is, given how Saab is dying out here. It is also surprising that the owner has kept it it good condition, even sporting its original plate number! This unit seems to be driven once in a while and if you're lucky, you can perhaps see it on the road!

20 May 2019

More than an old car #102: Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 3

Mention the words Lancer Evolution, and to the average Joe, it may convey images of souped-up cars and illegal racing by 'ah bengs'. For the car enthusiast, it is seen as a powerful car with decent performance, and one may bemoan the demise of the 'Evo' as Mitsubishi shifts its production to SUVs instead. However, as with old cars here, older Evos tend to be neglected by most people. To be honest, I did not really think much of them until I saw this 1995 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 3 GSR here!

The Evo is the 'high-performance' variant of the regular Lancer cars that we are more familiar with. It was built in limited numbers initially in order to acquire World Rally Championship homologation (ie to be able to compete in the rally races). Available in 10 different versions, they resemble their 'plebeian' cousins even though they were based on different chassis/platforms. Introduced in 1995, the Evo 3 differed from the previous editions by featuring more aggressive styling, side skirts, a large front bumper to introduce more air into the radiator and a larger spoiler, which was unusual for 'regular' cars at that time. GSR models were equipped with conveniences of a typical street car, such as power windows and a rear wiper.

The Evo 3 is well-known for its debut on Jackie Chan's film Thunderbolt, where it pulled off a series of cool stunts that most people would dream of. Interestingly, Jackie Chan had signed a contract with Mitsubishi, where its vehicles feature almost exclusively in his films. It was powered by the classic 1997 cc 4G63T i4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 180 km/h. It was 4310 mm long and weighed 1260 kg.

Production ended in 1996 with 8,998 GSR units made, where it was replaced by the more famous Evo 4. This unit has been in Singapore since the 90s and I believe it is the only one left here. Back then, Evo 3s were not that well-known outside Japan and this was thus parallel-imported. Having changed hands a couple of times, it has been subjected to an overhaul by the current owner, such as the retro 1996 International Swedish Rally livery that sets it apart with its burst of colour. As can be seen, it was previously in Scotia White paint before the livery added a nice classic vibe.

Fortuitously, this car does appear quite often at events, compared to when it was a 'garage queen' that rarely saw daylight. This unit joins an exclusive group of around 10 classic Evos that still exist here, do keep a lookout for them!

13 May 2019

More than an old car #101: Suzuki Swift (Cultus)

It is common knowledge that Singapore is not a friendly place for cars, and this has led to the demise of many old family cars. Comparing pictures of street scenes in the 1990s and today, you will be hard-pressed to find any regular old cars that have persisted for so long, such as this 1991 Suzuki Swift (Cultus) here!

The Suzuki Cultus (badged as the Suzuki Swift in Singapore) was first introduced in 1983 as a replacement to the Fronte 800, which helped Suzuki to establish itself in the Japanese compact car market. The 2nd generation of the Cultus appeared in 1988, continuing the company's plan for an inexpensive 'global car'. Hatchback and sedan styles were available, along with engine capacities between 1 litre to 1.3 litre. Its global nature was proved by its success in the US as the Geo Metro, and in India as the Maruti 1000. This unit was powered by a 993 cc G10 i3 engine, weighed 820 kg and was 4095 mm long.

Production of the Suzuki Cultus ended in 2003, where it was replaced by a revamped model known as the Cultus Crescent. This unit is a facelifted model due to the grille gap, and remarkably there are still a handful that have survived till today, even though this one in question has been scrapped. It looks to have been well-maintained given that the stock wheels had been changed to a sportier type. The Swift was relatively affordable at that time and quite a number of people had this as their family/first car, due to its cheap maintenance expenditure.
I feel it is unfortunate that many people will forget that this existed here, so hopefully years from now people can have a walk down memory lane. Do keep a lookout for the remaining ones here!