29 July 2019

More than an old car #112: Ferrari Mondial QV

Out of the 600+ Ferraris here, I estimate about 150 are the older models. Although the Testarossa is the most recognizable model, there are also a couple that fly below the radar, such as these Ferrari Mondial Quattrovalvoles!

The Mondial was designed by Pininfarina and unveiled to the public in 1980, firstly as the Mondial 8. Its name, which is French for 'global' or 'world', originated from Ferrari's racing history in the 500 Mondial Monza, and also to commemorate winning the F1 World Constructors Championship multiple times in the past 5 years. The body panels were fitted onto a unique space-frame chassis and additional louvers at the side provided crucial air flow to the engine and oil cooler, which were near the back of the car. Surprisingly, it featured ample boot space to fit in a few large bags; the Mondial was intended to be a practical 4-seater Ferrari and as such it was quite spacious. It also featured pop-up headlights and a black plastic bumper as seen above.

The Mondial 8 was followed by the QV, where it featured a more powerful engine. A rare convertible variant was also introduced, leading to increased market demand for consumers in the US. Later on, the Mondial 3.2 and Mondial t [both sporting larger engines] also appeared. The Mondial QV was powered by a 2927 cc Tipo F105 32V V8 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 240 km/h with an acceleration of 7.4 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 4580 mm long; the coupe weighed 1490 kg while the cabriolet weighed 1500 kg due to the added reinforcements required in the open-top system.

Production of the Mondial ended in 1993, where it was not replaced by any new models. Of the 1,145 coupes and 629 cabriolets made, only 152 and 24 respectively were made in RHD! The MY 1984 cabriolet, which is also the rarest out of all Mondial models, is most likely the only one in Singapore and there should be around 4 coupes that still exist here. According to their VIN records, the MY 1983 coupe featured 3-point seatbelts for the front and back seats, while the cabriolet featured 2-point seatbelts for the rear occupants.

They were brought in by Hong Seh Motors (our former Ferrari dealer) back in 1983, where they faced strong demand from those wealthy enough to own a supercar. At that time, a Mondial coupe cost S$234,300 while the cabriolet cost S$259,000. Today, they would be worth S$477,047 and S$527,338 respectively! It is always a pleasure to come across such rarities that people do not normally talk about, and maybe you'll get to see them someday!

22 July 2019

More than an old car #111: Lamborghini LM002

Mention 'luxury SUVs' and one may think of the Lamborghini Urus (which really looks unappealing) or the high-class Rolls Royce Cullinan. The trend towards large, family-friendly vehicles has caught on even among the supercar manufacturers, whether for good or worse remains to be seen. However, this is not a recent invention: this 1991 Lamborghini LM002 'Rambo Lambo' is the grandfather of them all!

The LM002 first started out by an attempt by Lamborghini to develop a military vehicle, for use in the oil and gas exploration industry and potentially to be used in war zones, under their Lamborghini Militaria (LM) project. Their first attempt was the Cheetah, which had a rear-mounted engine but it was quickly concluded that the handling was not up to par. As a result, there was further testing and modifications done before the LM002 was unveiled in 1986.

Civilian models were given a luxury package, with full leather trim, air conditioning and power windows among other features. Its tyres were specially made by Pirelli: 2 sets were offered for mixed use and on sand only, and it was designed to carry on in tough terrain and heavy loads, even if the tyres ran flat. It was powered by a hefty 5167 cc V12 engine (similar to the one used in the Countach), allowing it to reach a top speed of 195 km/h with an acceleration of 7.8 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 4900 mm long and weighed a massive 2700 kg. One thing of note is the fuel consumption of the LM002: while it had a fuel capacity of 290 litres, it consumed around 35 litres per 100 km in urban settings! One would probably need to own a petrol station to drive it daily, but then again, the LM002 was the ultimate show-off off-roader to get your hands on.

Production of the LM002 ended in 1993 with only 301 made. Lamborghini continued to make prototype successors without much success, although the Urus can be considered to be its spiritual successor. 1 of them was inadvertently blown up by the US Army in Iraq (belonging to a son of Saddam Hussein) to test the effects of a car bomb and it was not until they returned home to realise what they had destroyed willy-nilly.

This particular unit belongs to the Sultan of Johor and it was exhibited here last year during an event, although I am aware that there is another unregistered unit locally as they were only made in LHD. They are very cool machines, combining both the utility of an off-road vehicle to a fuel-guzzling status car. Owning one would be beyond my wildest dreams despite how environmentally-unfriendly it is. I don't know whether you may get to see this again, but you'll be wowed seeing it in real life!

15 July 2019

More than an old car #110: Mazda 323


As I mentioned a few times already, I aim to cover both valuable and non-valuable old cars that are still in Singapore, simply because they are still a part of our automotive culture today. Let me introduce the humble Mazda Familia/323 for today!

The Mazda Familia (known as the 323 in export markets) was first conceived in the 1960s as Mazda wanted to expand along with the Japan economy. Designed by famed car designer Giorgetto Giugario, the first version was released in 1963, first as a 2-door wagon followed by a conventional sedan. Its name is Spanish for 'family' and was intended to represent the car for the whole family.

The 5th generation (BF series) was introduced in 1985 with an extensive makeover done to the car: it became more spacious and less wide. This was followed by a minor facelift in 1987, most notably to the headlights. A variety of body styles and engines types were available, such as this 1989 4-door sedan and 1992 5-door hatchback in this post, also known as the Familia Astina/323F. The Astina was unusual as it featured pop-up headlights, not something one would associate with a humble family car.

Both units were powered by a 1498 cc B5 i4 engine from what I understand. The sedan could reach a top speed of 160 km/h with an acceleration of 13.1 seconds [0-100 km/h], while the Astina was slightly faster at 187 km/h with an acceleration of 10.9 seconds [0-100 km/h]. The sedan was 4000 mm long and weighed 920 kg, compared to the Astina which was 4260 mm long and weighed 920 kg.

Production of the 5th generation ended in 1994, where it was replaced by the BH generation. Mazda 323s were sold here since 1977 by Asia Motor Company Pte Ltd, before it changed its name to Mazda Motor. However, it was subsumed under the Eurokars Group in 2011 due to declining sales. Many units plied the roads--they were as ubiquitous as the Corollas you see nowadays. Naturally, few people were sentimental and the vast majority were scrapped once the owners started to upgrade their rides. It was therefore quite surprising to see that these units were still around when I saw them. Unfortunately, they were also deregistered shortly afterwards.

I believe there are still a few survivors left, and I would like to appreciate these owners who still faithfully keep their bread-and-butter econoboxes despite their rather low monetary worth. It is after all, a piece of history to recognise and I hope this may be informational to those who are curious what their grandparents/parents were driving back then!

8 July 2019

More than an old car #109: Rolls Royce Camargue

Recently, I found out about a classic car drive that was taking place during Hari Raya public holiday and naturally it piqued my interest. Mr V graciously let me be his passenger for the day and it was really interesting to see many classics that I was aware of in the flesh. Among the many beauties that caught my eye, this 1975 Rolls Royce Camargue was a car that I had wanted to see for quite some time!

The Camargue was developed by Pininfarina, the famed car design company responsible for producing Ferraris at that time, and was designed to be the replacement for the Corniche. It was unveiled in 1975, with the distinction of the most expensive car in the world at £30,000 – equivalent to around S$413,410 in today's money. Interestingly, it shares its name with the Camargue region in southern France. A main selling point of the Camargue was the advanced automatic split-level climate control system: it could blow cold air in your face and hot air at your feet. Though modern cars feature them currently, it was the first of its kind back then.

Although it was intended to be the flagship model of RR, it was ultimately let down by poor styling. The Camargue featured a rather large grille that did not help to accentuate its supposed classiness, as it had to accommodate the huge 6750 cc V8 engine. Furthermore, the bodywork was deemed too bloated and slab-like, making the rear wheels look smaller than it looked. Early drawings of the car depicted a smaller front, and something seemed to be lost when translating into reality.

As a result of its fancy air-con system, the Camargue was twice as expensive as the hot favourite 4-door Silver Shadow and 50% more compared to the Corniche: it was therefore hard to justify why the Camargue was better than its siblings. Furthermore, while it faced little rivalry in the luxury-car niche, other cars such as the Ferrari 400 or Cadillac Eldorado were cheaper and of better quality. It could reach a top speed of 190 km/h, weighed 2330 kg and was 5169 mm long.

Production of the Camargue ended in 1986 with 531 made, of which only 184 were in RHD. In a rare instance, RR was vulnerable to complacency and lack of market understanding, as purists derided its astronomical price and poor unique selling points. Even the Camargues available today suffer from a reduction in value in the classic car market.

According to the owner, this unit was recently imported from Hong Kong and he is the 3rd owner currently. He believes it is the only one in South-East Asia at the moment: apparently none were brought into Singapore when it was released. An estimated 400-450 units still exist and this particular one is unit number 29. He felt that this epitomises the 'gentlemen's coupe', like what James Bond would drive while chasing the baddies! While reliable, the parts are difficult to acquire partly because of their rarity.

Despite the disparaging labels tacked to it ("high-end lemon", "uncool and horrid"), it was certainly interesting to see it up close. It really imposes itself just like what a RR must do, and it must be a leap of faith for the owner to bring in an unconventional classic. However, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I heard a few others complimenting it too. Do keep an eye out for this pretty unique classic!

4 July 2019

More than an old car #108: Daihatsu Hijet S85

Mention 'Japanese vans' and most of you would immediately think of the ubiquitous Toyota Hiace/Nissan Urvan that are innumerable here. Understandably, few would mention Daihatsu Hijets because they don't really seem to stand out from the crowd. However, once a while, something odd may pop up just like this 1991 Daihatsu Hijet S85 here!

The Hijet was first introduced in 1960 and released under kei car standards, appealing to many Japanese during the post-war years. Its name is a combination of 'high performance' and 'midget'. For the S80 series, it was introduced in 1986 where it featured a large rear glass window and an engine upgrade, among other features. At that time, Daihatsu entered into alliances with Piaggio of Italy and Kia in South Korea, where derivatives of the Hijet were produced. Although the Hijet made its way to the US (to be classified as an agricultural vehicle), it endured declining popularity and withdrew its presence in 1992.

While popular among young people, it lost out to its rivals due to its weak styling and inferior cargo space. It was powered by a 993 cc CB-41 i3 engine, allowing to reach a top speed of 100 km/h. As it fell under the kei car category, it was only 3295 mm long.

Production of the S80 series ended in 1994, which was then succeeded by the S100 series. Previously, they were available in both passenger and cargo van formats, and were brought in by Sin Tien Seng, our local Daihatsu dealer. No cargo vans exist due to the 20-year rule, and I believe this unit is the last passenger van standing. It has undergone a marked changeover when I saw it in 2017 till now. Apparently, it has changed ownership just a few months ago, and the current owner was creative in converting it to the famous "Mystery Machine" in the Scooby-Doo TV series. It adds a comical, adorable touch to a nondescript van otherwise. Furthermore, its current number plate is a reference to the mysterious disappearance of MH370, which is a bold choice to have considering the furor over the issue.

I managed to see it up close and it was hilarious to find a Scooby-Doo doll strapped to the front seat. Due to its quirky nature, it actually went viral, with many people pleasantly surprised at the pop-culture reference. It has certainly changed perceptions that old cars just look boring and unappealing. Do keep a lookout for our Mystery Machine and its 'meddling kids' in solving some mysteries!