18 December 2020

More than an old car #160: Prince (Nissan) Skyline

One of the nice things about this blogging journey is to come across rarities that people may not be fully aware about, and I aim to bridge the gap between the car and the individual. This 1968 Prince Skyline S57 is a good example of being rare yet foreign at the same time...

The lineage of the Prince Skyline can be traced back to Fuji Precision Industries back in 1957, with the introduction of the ALSI/BLSI series. Developed by Shinichiro Sakurai, he remained a prominent figure behind the entire Skyline range until his death in 2011. The S50 series was the 2nd in the Skyline family, and the company name had been changed to the Prince Motor Company. At the time, the automobile industry was being reorganized under the guidance of the government to welcome foreign automobile manufacturers, due to the liberalization of automobile imports. Introduced in both sedan and wagon form in 1963, the S50 was intended to be a family sedan, and it proved to be popular among families and taxi drivers in part of Prince's 'maintenance-free' warranty program, such as a 40,000 km/ 2 year warranty for the engine.

In 1964, the more well-known S54 was unveiled and it grew in prominence in the Japan Grand Prix. This led on to the development of the S57 Skyline in 1967, featuring an increased engine output of 88 hp even with a 1.5 litre engine. It was distinguished by a red '88' badge on the grille and a small 'OHC' script on the rear, along with modifications done to the front fascia. Furthermore, as Prince had been merged with Nissan in 1966, there was a discreet 'Nissan' badge on the grille as well. The S57 was powered by a 1483 cc G-15 engine, which was the most powerful 1.5 litre engine intended at that time. It was 4100 mm long and weighed 940 kg

Production of the S50 series ended in 1968 with a total of 114,238 units sold, although there is no breakdown of individual models. Japanese cars of the 1960s are generally very rare today as most fell prey to rust. The first S50 sedans were sold by Kian Gwan Motors (Malaysia) Ltd in 1965, then the sole agent for Prince Motors in Malaya. Some were even entered into races during that period. The S57 especially was produced for only 1 year, so it is not inconceivable that only a few hundred may be left worldwide. Somehow this fresh import has made its way here: the owner must have a keen eye in actually recognising this unique obscurity. A similar unit is for sale at 1.98 million yen (S$25,667), which gives an indication of how uncommon it is. It should be a matter of time before it gets registered, and hopefully you will be able to catch it someday!

28 November 2020

More than an old car #159: Ford Cortina


It never fails to amaze me at how some cars have managed to survive the test of time and remain, even when most of their siblings have been consigned into the depths of history. These Ford Cortina Mk 1s are a living testament to a bygone era of motoring!

The genesis of the Cortina began under the project name of 'Archbishop', where the management at Ford of Britain wanted to create a family-sized car that was economical, cheap to maintain and inexpensive to produce. Initially it was supposed to be called the Ford Consul 325, but was later inspired by the name of the Italian ski resort Cortina d'Ampezzo, site of the 1956 Winter Olympics. Initially available in 2 and 4-door sedan form with a 1.2 litre engine (Standard, Deluxe), various trims appeared later on with larger 1.5 litre engines (Super, GT). A wagon version was introduced in 1963 as well.

The Cortina Lotus was also conceived back in 1961, when Colin Chapman desired to build his own engines for Lotus. He recruited Harry Mundy, a close friend and Keith Duckworth from the Cosworth company to develop a larger, high-performance engine. Walter Hayes, the public relations executive from Ford, requested for these engines to be fitted to 1000 Ford saloons for Group 2 homologation. Ford supplied the body shells while Lotus handled the mechanical and cosmetic changes. Main differences between the Lotus version and the regular ones were a drastically altered rear suspension that made the car stiffer to drive, use of lightweight alloy panels for the doors, bonnet and boot and Lotus badges on the rear wings of the car. All of the Lotus versions were painted white with a green stripe, although as it can be seen (on the regular sedan) it does not necessarily mean that a Cortina in this style is a Lotus one. In 1964, Cortinas underwent a facelift, most notably a full-width grille, disc fron brakes and Aeroflow ventilation indicated by air vents on the C-pillars.

This December 1963 Cortina Lotus was powered by a 1558 cc Lotus-Ford Twin-Cam i4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 176 km/h with an acceleration of 9.5 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 4275 mm long and weighed only 842 kg, with a fuel consumption of 12 litres/100 km. The regular 1962 Cortina sedan was powered by a 1198 cc Ford Kent i4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of only 124 km/h with an acceleration of 22 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 4270 mm long and weighed 814 kg, with a fuel consumption of 9.3 litres/100 km

Production of the Cortina Mk 1 ended in 1966 with a total of 933,143 made. Among them, there were 3,306 Mk 1 Lotus units, with around 2,600 in RHD. Both Cortinas are undergoing restoration and have not seen the road much, although both are owned by different owners. Cortinas of both kinds were sold back in 1963 by Ford of Malaya, where some were also assembled there. The regular 4-door Cortina Deluxe cost $5,995 while the Cortina Lotus was almost twice that at $10,920. One unit was also raced in a local hill climb event in 1963 too. Reviews praised its large seats and boot space with decent performance, although some had a gripe with the front right pillar that obstructed one's view momentarily when the car made a sharp turn. On the other hand, the Cortina Lotus was even lauded as 'one of the world's fastest family saloons'. 

Cortinas used to be the most common car in the UK and it was also prevalent in Singapore. It is therefore somewhat surprising that they are the only ones left here. However, having these survivors around is already a big deal and I hipe you can see them some day!

14 November 2020

More than an old car #158: Nissan Figaro


Japanese cars have always been an ubiquitous sight, but let's narrow it down: looking at the cars from the 90s, Nissan takes a decent percentage. Then, we come to the unique models just like this 1991 Nissan Figaro

Introduced at the 1989 Tokyo Motor Show and made available to the public in 1991, its name is derived from the titular hero in Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro. Based off the 1st-generation Nissan Micra/March, it was the 3rd car in a special projects group known later as the 'Pike cars'. 'Pike cars' generally refer to Japanese cars that have classic designs, from its shape to the grilles and headlights. Production numbers are usually limited in order to suppress the development budget used in modifying these cars. 

Nissan used the marketing tagline 'Back to the Future' and the concept was to be 'unusual in everyday life'. The Figaro was a fixed-profile convertible, that is, the sides remained fixed while the fabric soft-top could be retracted, along with a solid panel and a rear window equipped with a defroster. Examples of such cars with this particular design include the Citroen 2CV and the Fiat 500. Available only in 4 colours, it represented the 4 seasons: namely Emerald Green (spring), Pale Aqua (summer), Topaz Mist (autumn) and Lapis Gray (winter). Nissan planned to make only 8,000 initially, but strong demand led to them rolling out additional units. Demand was so competitive that prospective buyers had to enter in a lottery to even stand a chance. 

Standard equipment included ivory leather seats with contrasting piping, air conditioning, CD player, chrome and Bakelite-style knobs, soft-feel paint on the dashboard top, chrome-trimmed speedometer with smaller inset gauges for fuel and engine temperature; and chrome-trimmed tachometer with inset clock. The Figaro was powered by a 987 cc MA10ET turbo i4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 160 km/h with an acceleration of 12.9 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 3740 mm long and weighed 810 kg, with a fuel consumption of 8.4 litres/100 km.

Production also ended in 1991, although excess stock was sold up till December 1992. Out of the 20,073 units made, 5,632 of them were in Emerald Green including this particular car. All of them were initially only available in RHD, although recently there are around 18 cars that have been converted to LHD. More colours were included via aftermarket customisation, such as pink, red and orange. 

Based on its identification number, this unit was 1 of 551 in this colour produced in July 1991. I am aware of the one other unit in Pale Aqua as it seems to be more commonly spotted than the one in the post. Interestingly, it has a relatively low mileage of 79,760 km. which is a further clue that it hardly goes on the road! Figaros were never sold officially in Singapore, although it remains very popular in the UK with around 3,000 on the roads. To be honest, I did not know of this unit's existence until recently, and it was by sheer chance that I saw it parking far off during a morning run. Coincidentally, our local newspaper published a feature on the 2 Figaros here, both owned by sisters. This unit was acquired in 1994 and cost about S$120,000, which is still a sizeable sum of money.

Both Figaros in Singapore are apparently single-owner cars, and it remains to be seen whether they will be put up for sale. It was amazing to see such a unicorn up close, and would you not smile at such at this cute little guy? I have not seen it again at that spot even though live near the area, perhaps you may be the lucky one to see this unicorn!

30 October 2020

Historic classic rides #4: Toyota Mark II


I know that it has been a long time since I wrote about classics based off old pictures, so what better time to restart this with this 1971 Toyota Corona Mark II that I found from the archives!

The Corona Mark II, first introduced in 1968, was intended to fill the gap between the high-end Crown and the pedestrian Corolla. This was instrumental in allowing Toyota to establish itself as a mainstream international automaker and pursue new market opportunities. It was sold at Toyopet Store dealerships, alongside the Corona itself. The name "Mark II" indicated that it was a secondary model to the original Corona, and also created a connotation to the 'more classy' nature of the Jaguar Mark II. However, the Mark II still shared the same emblem as its less luxurious brother up till the end of production.

Initially available in a 4-door sedan (RT60) and 2-door hardtop form (RT70), station wagons (RT78/79) and coupe utility (RT69) forms were introduced some time later. The Mark II could be had in a myriad of engine types, based on the market and specific body styles. A facelift was carried out in 1970 along with the introduction of a 1.7 litre engine, and the 1971 facelift gave rise to the above unit known as the 'eagle mask'. This was powered by a 1707 cc 6R SOHC inline-4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 160 km/h. It was 4295 mm long, 170 mm longer than the Corona and weighed 1000 kg.

Production of the T60 Mark II ended in 1972, where it was succeeded by the X10 series. Mark IIs were first sold here in 1969 by Borneo Motors, but none are known to exist here today. As with Japanese cars of the late 60s, they were vulnerable to rust and were not seen as valuable enough to maintain and keep on the roads. Strangely, even with the recent glut of imported classics, no one has brought in any of them. On the other hand, these are quite rare to find nowadays and even when they appear on the market, they are not going for cheap (around S$15,000). I hope this has been informative to show the cars that used to be here, and possibly owned by your parents/grandparents back then!

24 October 2020

More than an old car #157: Ferrari Dino 246

It has been a while since I wrote on luxury classics, and what better car to focus on than these exquisite legends from the Ferrari line, the Dino 246

The 206 GT under the Dino marque was the predecessor to the 246, and was first introduced in 1967. The small-engined Ferrari came about due to regulations in Formula 2 racing, where the engines used had to be production-based and produced in quantities of less than 500 per year. At that time, Ferrari had to enter into an alliance with Fiat as it was unable to meet that figure. While initially shunned by purists, it gradually won over the target audience. 

The 246 GT, introduced in 1969 at the Turin Show, was almost identical to the 206 GT except with a longer wheelbase, increased engine size, a change in location for the fuel filler cap on the left sail panel and a wider diameter for the exhaust pipes. There were 3 iterations of the 246, known as the 'L' series (1969-1970), 'M' series (1971 only) and 'E' series (1971-1974). 'E' series cars had its quarter bumpers that finished short of the grille opening, circular cooling ducts and the rear number plate light was now a rectangular unit mounted on the boot lid. Initially available in coupe form only, a targa top version known as the GTS was introduced in 1972, where it can be easily distinguished by a black removable roof panel and lack of rear quarter windows. 

Both the 246 GT and GTS were powered by a 2418 cc Dino V6 engine, allowing them to reach a top speed of 235 km/h with an acceleration of 6.2 seconds [0-100 km/h]. While both were 4235 mm long and were very thirsty with a fuel consumption of 15.5 litres / 100 km, the GT was 1080 kg while the GTS was 1100 kg

Production of the 246 ended in 1974 with 3,761 made, of which only 488 GTs and 235 GTSs were in RHD. I understand that there are at least 3 units here, all in Rosso Chiaro and 1 of them is still on regular plates! The GT is from 1973 while the GTS is a 1974 unit. While both units in the pictures are imports, a small number of them were brought in back in the 1970s by Hong Seh Motors and I am sure prices must have been out of reach for the common man. Prices for the 246 have been steadily appreciating as more people have recognised its beauty and heritage. 

The rough burbling of the potent V6, packaged within smooth flowing lines that pays homage to the original Ferrari line is not something you come across everyday. Coupled with the fact that they can be counted with just one hand here, the coolness factor inevitably shoots through the roof. I really hope that you can see this stylish beauty yourself some day, for to be honest, words cannot adequately describe what I actually feel!

17 October 2020

More than an old car #156: Suzuki Baleno

As mentioned previously, I have always focused on both exotic and non-exotic classic cars, for both play an important role in forming the history as you know it. It thus gives me great pleasure to introduce this rather nondescript 1998 Suzuki Baleno, which you might not have noticed back then...

The Baleno (Italian for 'flash'), also known as the Cultus Crescent in Japan, was first introduced in 1995 as a successor for the popular supermini Cultus/Swift. It marked Suzuki's first foray into the competitive compact car market and was marketed as a distinct model, although it shared many internal components with its smaller sibling. Initially available as a 3-door hatchback and a 4-door sedan, a wagon version (a first for Suzuki) was introduced in 1996.

A facelift was carried out in 1998 for Japan cars, featuring a rounder grille and larger headlights, along with a renaming to Cultus. At the same time, a larger 1.8 litre engine was also introduced to the range. The Baleno was powered by a 1298 cc G13BB i4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 160 km/h with an acceleration of 12.5 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 4195 mm long and weighed 890 kg, with a fuel consumption of 6.6 litres/100 km. Interestingly, while the 1.3 litre engine was supposedly exclusive to the 3-door hatchback, the sedans sold in Singapore had them too.

Production of the Baleno ended in 2002 for the Japanese market with a total of 122,978 units sold, although it was made as late as 2007 in India. The hatchback was phased out in 2000, followed by the sedan in 2001 and the wagons in 2002. It was succeeded by the Aerio/Liana, and also the Chevrolet Optra which was imported and sold by Suzuki. It was sold in Singapore from 1998 by Champion Motors, which still remains as our Suzuki dealer and was retailing at S$86,950 for the sedan and S$96,950 for the wagon.

I understand that there is a blue pre-facelift wagon still around and it is most likely the last one standing. This sedan is long gone unfortunately, but it is still impressive that the owner had kept it for so long. This is an example of a classic that would have flown under the radar for many of you, and even I was quite lucky to snap a shot while it was at a red light. Though I never saw it again, I feel that it is good enough that this picture even exists, and I hope that this has been informative for you!

10 October 2020

More than an old car #155: Saab 9000

Things have become more busy from now on and thus I may not post that frequently...however I have literally hundreds of cars in my archives that I would really like to write about, so I seek your patience! Let us focus on this rather unique 1988 Saab 9000 CC that I came across recently!

The genesis of the 9000 first began in 1974 as a replacement for the Saab 99, known as New Generation Saab. The project was delayed and restarted in 1977 as an intended merger with Volvo, known as the X29. When the merger failed, Saab then began talks with Fiat-owned Lancia. It was first released to the public in 1984, and it represented Saab's foray into the executive car market after receiving positive feedback from the earlier 900 model. Saab shared a platform with Fiat and as such, its body was also designed by Giorgetto Giugario. Despite the 9000's similarity to its Italian cousins (Fiat Croma, Lancia Thema), only 7 car parts were interchangeable. This was partly due to the radically different front end for crash protection purposes.

The 9000 was initially available only as a 5-door hatchback known as the CC (Combi Coupe), although a variety of engines and special versions were offered. In 1987, a sedan version was introduced, known as the CD (Corps Diplomatique). A facelifted liftback was also introduced in 1991, known as the CS (Combi Sedan) featuring new grilles, headlights and a modified rear end. The 9000 CC was powered by a 1985 cc B202 i4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 190 km/h with an acceleration of 9.4 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 4620 mm long and weighed 1320 kg, with a fuel consumption of 8.6 litre/100 km.

Production of the Saab 9000 ended in 1998 where it was succeeded by the 9-5. A total of 503,087 were made, of which 216,385 were the 9000 CC liftback. It was sold here back in 1987 by Minerva Motor Pte Ltd, at a price of S$147,150 [S$279,028 in today's money]. Local reviews praised its ride comfort and luxurious looks, although there was a tendency for understeer when driven around corners. Another gripe was its higher price compared to German competitors.

This unit could very well be the only one left in Singapore, as Saab 9000s were not as highly regarded as its well-established competitors in the Mercedes W124 and BMW E34. Evidently, it has not moved for quite some time as seen by the thick layer of dust on it, even though its lifespan had been extended. While you may not be able to see this one on the roads any time soon, I hope this has been informative in bringing these cars closer to home!

3 October 2020

More than an old car #154: Hyundai Accent


Having featured quite a handful of exotic vehicles, I figured that I should not ignore the usual bread-and-butter cars that would have played a more visible role in one's life. I'm not sure if any of you or your parents have owned this 1998 Hyundai Accent X3 before though....

The Accent model was first introduced in 1994 as a replacement for the Excel. It was the 1st Korean car to be developed with 100% proprietary technology as Hyundai seeked to solve the inconvenience of giving royalties to Mitsubishi, with whom they had a long-standing relationship. Its name means "to emphasise" and also happened to be the abbreviation of the decidedly less cooler "Advanced Compact Car of Epochmaking New Technology". 

It was released in sedan, coupe and 3/5-door hatchback form, and underwent a facelift in 1997 with modifications to the front end and the taillights. For the first time in a Korean small car, it featured Anti-lock Braking System and a driver's airbag, although they were still considered as add-on options. Surprisingly, the Accent was quite popular overseas such as in Australia, where it was the most successful imported vehicle in the country's history. The car was powered by a 1495 cc G4HK DOHC 16V i4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 180 km/h with an acceleration of 10.8 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 4115 mm long and weighed 987 kg, with a fuel consumption of 6.8 litres/100 km. 

Production of the Accent X3 ended in 1999, where it was replaced by the LC generation. The Accent was first sold here in 1994 by Komoco Auto, which is still our local Hyundai dealer today. The facelifted Accent was retailing at a price of S$69,990 in 1998, which would be S$93,881 in today's money. This particular unit could very well be the last one left here as plenty were scrapped for newer cars. Compounded with the reality that Korean cars are not seen as being collectible, it really shows how much the owner treasures this classic. What is more amazing is that it is in stock condition, down to the original hubcaps. 

While it may not necessarily attract much attention compared to other well-established brands, it deserves to hold its head up high for being an absolute survivor. As I have always intended to adopt an egalitarian approach in my features, I hope that this has been an eye-opener if you were not aware of this previously. Now hopefully, you will be able to see past its drab appearance and appreciate the overall package!

26 September 2020

Miscellaneous classics #6: Volvo FL 10

Spotting old cars has become something like second nature to me, and I am sure there are others out there who also possess this keen eye to detail for cars in general. However, to date, I have never seen any peer that has remotely featured the 'uncool, loud and dirty' workhorses. It has been a long while since I wrote about atypical classic vehicles, and I figured why not be a trendsetter yet again and introduce this unlikely behemoth of a 1998 Volvo FL 10 tow truck/wrecker

The FL series is Volvo's smallest truck and is thus suitable for construction work, local and regional distribution and garbage collection. It was introduced in 1985 in response to decreasing global competitiveness in the heavy truck market. Its name stands for 'Forward Control Low-Level Cab' and was available in various drivetrain configurations. This unit is a six-by-four (6x4), meaning that it has a drivetrain of 3 axles (6 wheels) delivering power to 2 wheel ends on 2 axles (4 wheels).

As expected from Volvo, the FL trucks featured top-notch safety systems, such as a Z-Cam wheel brake. Furthermore, the spacious cab length of 250 cm and an advanced cab suspension provided much comfort for the driver. The FL 10 was powered by a humongous 9603 cc D10 inline-6 diesel engine, allowing it to reach average speed of 79 km/h, with an acceleration of an eternally-long 68 seconds [0-60 mph]. However, as with commercial vehicles here, its speed limit is restricted to 60 km/h. It weighed 10900 kg, with a maximum laden weight of 24000 kg and had a fuel consumption of 37 litres/100 km. Judging from its size, I would presume it to be around 7 m long.

Production of the FL 10 ended in 1998, making this unit possibly one of the last of its kind before it was succeeded by the FM series. However, FL trucks still remain in production though with smaller engines. This particular unit, owned by Yishun Towing, was registered on March 1999 and it will no longer exist after 2022 when its COE expires. It has seen regular action towing all kinds of vehicles, such as this picture below. I was drawn to it by its squarish angles and it looked quite run-down, and was therefore gratified to see that it was indeed as old as it looked.

I would believe that this is the last one remaining here, unless I hear of other units still around. FL 10s were mainly used by our fire brigade (shown below) and as prime mover trucks. Information on heavy vehicles are generally harder to find, so apologies for not being able to write as much as I wanted. Interestingly, there was a Volvo Trucks plant in Malaysia and this unit could very well have come from there also. 

This is indeed a very left-field subject matter as I am sure no one would give a second look to trucks in general. While I am the first to actually write about this unique piece of history, I hope this has been informative in some way: I don't really expect people to go gaga over them but at least I have done my part in documenting its existence. If you are lucky, try to catch it on the move before it is gone forever!

12 September 2020

More than an old car #153: Alfa Romeo Alfetta

Alfa Romeo (AR) has remained a prominent brand among the classic cars circle. Naturally, some models are more well-received than others, but today I would like to give a shoutout to this comparably obscure 1976 Alfa Romeo Alfetta Berlina!

The Alfetta was conceived in the face of increased competition from new stylistic trends, and it was recognised that customers would not want the design to deviate too much for their liking. Designed in-house by Centro Stile Alfa Romeo and led by Giuseppe Scarnati, its name was a throwback to AR's sporting glories in the 1951 F1 Grand Prix in a bid to convince customers that the brand was still as strong as ever.

Introduced to the public in 1972, the Alfetta adopted a squarish look but retained the iconic twin round headlights and grille, along with 3 chrome bars flanking it. The rear, however, was quite high: it contributed aerodynamic advantages and large boot space, although it could not be fully exploited as the bodywork could be damaged. The interior was also true to the AR tradition: the driving position aimed to be as comfortable as possible, the instrument panels could be read easily and there was more space given to the front seats by rerouting the gearbox. 

The Alfetta underwent a facelift in 1975, featuring a single pair of headlights. In 1977, new engine ranges were introduced along with the introduction of rectangular headlights that remained until the end of production (with the exception of the Quadrifoglio Oro between 1982-1984). Along the way, changes were made to the bumpers and rubber strips were added as well. This unit was powered by a 1570 cc Twin Cam i4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 175 km/h with an acceleration of 11.5 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 4240 mm long, weighed 1040 kg and had a fuel consumption of 11.9 litres/100 km

Production of the Alfetta Berlina ended in 1984 with more than 448,000 made, of which 77,103 were the 1.6 litre version. This was 1 of 2 that exists here, with the other being a recent import from 1978. Interestingly, it had been deregistered for quite some time and was awaiting a new windscreen. Unfortunately, I am aware that it had been scrapped/exported recently as the lay-up period had been exceeded. Alfettas were sold here in 1974 by City Motors Sdn Bhd, with a starting price of S$22,490. As can be seen, the steering wheel has seen better days and it sports rare classic Fondmetal wheels: while it bears a strong resemblance to the iconic BBS rims, I have never seen any other car sporting this particular brand.

Given how uncommon it is, I understand that most people would not have been aware of it, especially this unit that hasn't seen the road for a while now. While this has disappeared forever, please do keep a lookout for the other unit: now at least you would know what you are looking at!

5 September 2020

More than an old car #152: Subaru Impreza WRX

Subarus have always remained a hot favourite among enthusiasts, who more often than not go about modifying it to greater heights. Although it has been associated with the image of 'boy racers' here, it was not long ago that Subaru churned out rather nondescript vehicles until the advent of the Legacy. This 1999 Subaru Impreza WRX GC8 was a progenitor to the success of the brand worldwide and is a testament to how a breakthrough product could do so much for a company!

The Impreza was first introduced in 1992 and was intended to be part of Subaru's plan to target the global car market. Its name is based off 'impresa', which is an antiquated word that refers to an emblem. It featured a soft image with rounded corners and the chassis was adapted from the 1st-generation Legacy. As Subaru became heavily involved in the World Rally Championship (WRC), high-performance versions of the Impreza were given the designation WRX (World Rally eXperimental). 

The WRX cars differed from its regular brothers by featuring all-wheel drive, stiffened suspensions and turbocharged engines. On top of that, the more extreme WRX STi (Subaru Technica International) was also launched in 1994, where it remains a sought-after classic today. A facelift was done in 1996 and in 1998, with modifications done to the headlamps and the dashboard. All WRX cars feature the chassis code GC8 (for coupes and sedans) or GF (for 5-door hatchbacks), followed by a letter from A to G. Throughout its lifetime, many variants and 'special editions' have been released and it may be hard to keep track. 

This particular unit is more accurately known as a GC8F Impreza WRX Type RA 555 Limited: the 'F' indicates that it was made in 1999, the Type RA is a stripped-down version of the WRX in the Japanese market featuring reduced soundproofing, no air-conditioning, manual windows and more robust engines. '555' is a cigarette company that became an icon when it featured prominently in famous rally driver Colin McRae's Impreza in 1993. Incidentally, this is number 214 out of 1000 limited-edition cars spun off to celebrate Subaru's stellar performance in the WRC. It was equipped with a 1993 cc EJ20 H4 engine, allowing it to maintain an acceleration of 4.9 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 4340 mm long and weighed 1240 kg.

Production of the GC8 Impreza ended in 2000, where it was replaced by the GD/GG series. I understand that there are around 10 GC8s that still exist here, although none of them are the 555 Limited edition. Impreza WRXs were sold here since 1994 and they have remained beloved over the years. It demands one's fullest attention on the road and handsomely rewards the owner with raw power, making it a favourite for performance-enhancing modifications. While finding a bone-stock unit is like finding a needle in a haystack, I am aware of a grey unit that is evidently well-travelled. 

The Sonic Blue paintwork with gold wheels is an iconic image associated with Imprezas, and I regret not taking more pictures of it back then. While such car meets are still a long way from materialising due to the current pandemic, it was really nice to come up close with a rare legend. If you are lucky, you may be able to spot it some day!

21 July 2020

More than an old car #151: Honda Vamos

I have a soft spot for unconventional-looking cars simply because it demands you to look at them. Whether or not it rubs you the other way is subjective, but this 1970 Honda Vamos would make you yearn for more!

The Vamos was first introduced in 1970, where it was officially known as 'Vamos Honda'. Its name is derived from the Spanish word, meaning 'to go', and it was certainly an unusual conveyance to do just that. The car was intended to be a Swiss Army knife of sorts, as Honda claimed it was suitable for security purposes, construction sites, factory transportation and farm management among other uses. Beneath its rudimentary appearance, the Vamos incorporated safety features such as protective guard pipes (which served as doors) higher than the occupants' centre of gravity, a roll bar, lap seatbelts as standard and a partly tempered glass windscreen. The spare tyre in front also doubled as a shock absorber in case of emergency. Uniquely, it used a MacPherson strut front suspension and a De Dion tube with half leaf springs in the back.

It was offered in 3 different body types: a 2-seater (Vamos 2), 4- seater (Vamos 4) and a 4-seater with a full-length canvas top (Vamos Full Holo). Interestingly, the Vamos was offered in 4 colours: McKinley White, Caravan Green, Andes Yellow and Alpine Blue, although most were sold in green. The Vamos shared its engine with the N360 and Z360 sister cars, and was supposed to compete with the Suzuki Jimny and the limited-edition Daihatsu Fellow buggy. Due to the open cab configuration, all instrumentation and switches had to be both water- and dust proof.

It was powered by a 354 cc air-cooled i2 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 90 km/h. It was only 2,995 mm long and weighed 520 kg, with a load capacity of 350 kg. Owing to its small size, fuel consumption was also very favourable at 25 km/litre

Production of the Vamos ended in 1973, with only 2,500 units made. The Vamos name was resurrected in 1999 for a totally unrelated micro/kei van. Honda had intended to produce 2,000 units per month, but general unpopularity due to the lack of off-road performance despite its appearance greatly impacted sales. It is likely that even fewer still survive, with the overwhelming majority still in Japan. The fact that one actually made its way here is seriously impressive given how obscure it is even to car enthusiasts. A similar unit was sold for almost 2.1 million yen (S$27, 230), which goes to prove that such oddities do not come cheap.

While it remains unregistered, it is interesting to see what plans the owner has for this car. Despite its exposed nature, it can definitely attract eyeballs since very few cars are designed like that in the first place. If you are lucky, you may get to see it on the roads some day!

More than an old car #150: Triumph GT6

2 years ago, I thoroughly enjoyed myself at the classic car concours held at the Fullerton Hotel, and I am sure we never thought that car events would be forced to a halt today. It may be a long while before we are able to feel the pleasure of admiring these pieces of history displayed for all to see, but let me indulge in some nostalgia with this 1967 Triumph GT6!

In 1963, the Standard-Triumph Motor Company commissioned the renowned car designer, Giovanni Michelotti to design a 'grand tourer' for its latest offering, the Triumph GT4. The prototype was stylistically pleasing, but the added weight due to the new body resulted in poor performance from the then-current 4-cylinder engine. Some time later, a more powerful 6-cylinder engine was used as a replacement, resulting in the GT6 (GT model and 6-cylinder engine). It was also called the 'poor man's E-Type': you could see the hints in the sleek fastback design and the opening rear hatch. While strictly for 2 occupants, a small rear seat could be ordered, big enough for small children.

The interior featured a wooden dashboard which housed a full range of instruments, with carpets and heater included as standard. Despite the superior performance when compared against its direct competitor, the MG BGT, the rear suspension was heavily criticised. It was unable to live up to the expectations of Triumph owners, who took issue with its propensity to break apart during hard cornering. As the GT6 was designed with the US market in mind, Triumph had to nip the problem in the bud.

In 1969, the Mk 2 was released with obvious facelifts done and an improved suspension. Shortly afterwards in 1970, the final iteration, the Mk 3, was released. The Mk 1 GT6 was powered by a 1996 cc i6 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 171 km/h with an acceleration of 12 seconds [0-60 mph]. It was 3632 mm long and weighed in at an impressively light 864 kg.

Production of the GT6 ended in 1973, with 15,818 Mark Is made. It is understood that a majority of them were in LHD for the US market, making RHD versions quite rare too. This immaculate example is currently the only one in Singapore, as it was never sold here officially back then. However, at least 1 Mk 3 existed here in 1977 based from old newspaper ads that I found. The wire wheels are a classic touch and the red paint hints at its power under the hood. It doesn't appear on the roads often except during events, but the fact that this still lives on after so long is a testament to its timeless appeal even despite its obscurity. Hopefully, you will be able to see it soon!

13 July 2020

More than an old car #149: Mercedes W108/W109

Mercedes has often been associated with elegance and wealth, and this reputation has been well-entrenched back in the 1930s. It is therefore of no surprise that this 1966 W108 300 SEb and the 1972 W109 300 SEL 3.5 are stalwarts of this proud tradition!

The W108/W109 first debuted at the Frankfurt Auto Show in 1965, featuring three W108s (250 S, 250 SE, and 300 SEb) and a sole W109 (300 SEL). Made only in sedan form, it succeeded the preceding W111/W112 as a result of changing fashion trends: while the styling cues was still by famed designer Paul Bracq, the W108/W109 lost the distinctive fintails although the windscreen was noticeably widened.

Initially, the W108 was designated for the standard wheelbase while the W109 had a longer one, and the smaller inline-6 engines were assigned to the W108 only, with the exception of the 300 SEb. Other than that, they looked alike externally. Both models eventually featured the larger V8 engines in 1967 (for W109) and 1970 (W108). The W109 had more luxurious items than the W108, such as burled walnut dashboards, automatic transmission, and power windows along with optional air conditioning system. Furthermore, the W108 had steel coil springs while the W109 featured self-leveling air suspension.

The W108 300 SEb was powered by a 2996 cc M189 i6 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 195 km/h with an acceleration of 12 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 4900 mm long and weighed 1575 kg, with a fuel consumption of 18 litres/100 km. On the other hand, the W109 300 SE 3.5 had a 3499 cc M116 V8 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 210 km/h with an acceleration of 9 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 5000 mm long and weighed in at 1670 kg, with a fuel consumption of 13.2 litres/100 km.

Production of the W108/W109 ended in 1972, where it was replaced by the W116 series. Out of the 383,361 built, only 2,737 were the 300 SEb and 9,483 were the 300 SEL 3.5. The more common 250 and 280 S were sold by Cycle and Carriage, where they were assembled locally at a factory in Hillview. The 300 SELs, however, were specially imported.

Both units happen to be very rare in the world, making them pleasantly surprising spots. I understand that the red W108 (most likely an import) has recently changed colour to white. While you have a higher chance of spotting a W108 in Singapore, the W109s are more desired and thus less common to pick out. However, it exudes class no matter which angle you look at it, and it is no surprise that W108/W109s were often associated with the rich and famous. I hope that you will be able to see these beauties some day!

29 June 2020

More than an old car #148: Ford Mustang

Today's feature was a request by one of my followers who wanted to see/read about Ford Mustangs. I realised that it was high time to feature this legend after covering about other less well-known cars. Incidentally, this 1966 Ford Mustang is the only picture that I have so far...

The Mustang was conceived over a period of 18 months from September 1962 to March 1964, under the direction of renowned automobile executive Lee Iacocca. Ford's three design studios (Ford, Lincoln-Mercury and Advanced Design) were tasked to create proposals for the new vehicle, with these goals in mind: it would seat four, have bucket seats and a floor mounted shifter, weigh no more than 2,500 pounds (1,100 kg) and be no more than 5 m long, sell for less than US$2,500, and have multiple power, comfort, and luxury options.

The Ford design team produced the winning prototype under the guidance of Joe Oros, L. David Ash, Gale Halderman, and John Foster. Oros desired that the car should appeal to both women and men, have a Ferrari-like front end with the motif centered on the front and a sporty, European-like design. Its name was derived from an early prototype, which was inspired by the North American P-51 Mustang fighter plane. To decrease developmental costs, the Mustang used components from the Ford Falcon and Fairlane, although the body was entirely different. Although the hardtops accounted for the highest sales, a convertible and a fastback version was also designed.

The Mustang was first made available 4 months before the start of the 1965 production year, and although they were marketed as 1965 models, enthusiasts still refer to them as the 1964½ model year. The 1966 Mustang differed from the previous year by a new front grille (slotted pattern instead of 'honeycomb' styling), the lack of 4 bars extending from the 'corral' (horse logo), and the presence of 3 horizontal bars on the emblem in front of the rear tyre.

It was powered by a 4727 cc (289 cubic inch) Ford Windsor HiPo V8, allowing it to reach a top speed of 209 km/h with an acceleration of 6.6 seconds [0-100 km/h]. The HiPo engine was a more powerful version of the standard 289 block, with modifications done to the components that allowed it to produce a power output of 271 hp. It was 4613 mm long and weighed 1333 kg, with a hefty fuel consumption of 17.8 litres/100 km.

Production of the 1st-generation Mustang ended in 1973, with nearly 500,000 hardtops made between 1964 to 1966 alone. I believe that this unit is one of about 209 units converted to RHD by Ford Australia, and was imported here some time in 2017. I am aware of another unit in red which rarely appears. No Mustangs were ever sold in Singapore until in 2016, where the S550 (6th-gen model) was officially produced in RHD and sold by our authorised Ford dealer.

The 1st-gen Mustang has always been a mainstay in popular culture and is well-recognised by many. Although it is unfortunate that we never had them previously, it is nice to see that people have appreciated its value well enough to bring it to our shores. The Mustang also heralded the rise of the 'pony car' and the subsequent fascination by adolescents worldwide. Hopefully, you will be able to see this legend for yourself one day!

22 June 2020

Miscellanous classics #5: Bugatti Type 38A

When I was in Seoul recently, I made it a point to visit any place that had cool cars, be it classic or modern. Previously, I was aware that South Korea had a very bland car scene, both in terms of colour and variety. Although this statement remains true to a large extent, it was nevertheless fascinating to see Korean cars that never made it to Singapore, nor even around the world. I was also fortunate to drop by the Samsung Transportation Museum at Yongin (near Everland theme park) and the collection there was a sight to behold, notwithstanding that it was the 1st car museum I ever went to. Along the way, I will feature some of the cars that I have seen in this museum. Let me start off with this exquisite 1927 Bugatti Type 38A!

Automobiles Ettore Bugatti was first established in 1909 by its eponymous founder, in the then-German city of Molsheim (located in the Alsace region of France). Mr Bugatti was born into an artistic family and demonstrated an instinctive understanding of motor vehicle construction. Even before the company was founded, Bugatti had already developed around 10 cars while working under the influential de Dietrich family. During World War 1, the company designed aircraft engines but it was never put to use. It experienced much success for developing some of the fastest, most luxurious and technologically advanced road cars back in the day, such as winning the first-ever Monaco Grand Prix in 1929.

In 1939, Ettore Bugatti's son Jean Bugatti died while testing a Type 57 tank-bodied race car near the Molsheim factory, and this marked a turning point in the company's fortunes. After World War 2, the factory was in ruins and Ettore passed away in 1947. The Bugatti company fell into decline and ceased all operations in 1952. Subsequent attempts were made to revive the brand but they failed. In 1987, Italian entrepreneur Romano Artoli acquired the brand and established Bugatti Automobili S.p.A: during this time it became famous for its EB110 sports car but due to the recessions in the late 90s, its operations stopped again. The Volkswagen group then acquired the Bugatti brand in 1998 and currently, it is well-known for its Veyron and Chiron hypercars, of which we have some right here in Singapore...

The Type 38, introduced in 1926, was the successor of the Type 30. Its wheelbase was extended by 27 cm and it had larger brake drums on all 4 wheels. It was available in either a 4-seater convertible or a 2-seater coupe version. As with cars of that era, the body was supplied by coach-builders: in this case it was the French coach-builder Lavocat et Marsaud. The convertible has a fixed roof made of interlaced wooden slats, giving the illusion of a soft top. Some cars like this unit had split windscreens which helped to ventilate the cabin, while the dashboard featured the characteristic 4-spoke steering wheel. All units were powered by a 1991 cc inline-8 engine, but a few had a supercharger fitted on it and were known as the Type 38A. It was 4320 mm long and weighed in rather substantially at 1200 kg.

Production of the Type 38 ended quickly in 1927, where it was replaced by the Type 43. Out of the 385 units made, only 39 were the Type 38A, making this car a remarkable rarity. Old Bugatti cars are often forgotten as they are overshadowed by their admittedly more impressive modern brothers. They are also more removed from what people are familiar with, as Bugatti never made a relatively 'mainstream' car. This unit still sports its French registration number plate from Paris (albeit a relatively newer one), although I am aware that it has been here for many years now.

Bugattis were never sold in Singapore to the best of my knowledge, so it was a treat to see this machine in Seoul of all places. I believe there are also no unregistered units here, but who knows? While it may be harder to appreciate these pre-war vehicles, especially when this is not in Singapore, I will still make it a point to try to educate all of you about what I have seen. Hopefully, this has been an eye-opening piece for you about this special Bugatti!

15 June 2020

More than an old car #147: MG TA

There is a huge backlog of cars that I want to write about, but with the aim of trying to improve my content, I have started to provide professionally-done better pictures for everyone's enjoyment. Naturally, I have to start off with these beautiful 1938 MG TAs!

The MG TA was first introduced in 1936, in the wake of MG's sale to Morris Motors. Amidst instructions to increase profits for Morris, MG's former managing director Cecil Kimber was forced to stop the development of racing cars. He had to work with new restrictions such as uniformity of parts, and the TA was thus born in mid-1935. Initially known as the T-Type, 5 different versions were released over 2 decades where they were the last of the traditional sports cars.

Many people were disappointed initially by the change to the Morris-derived engines. Yet, it turned out that performance was better than MG cars previously. The chassis was strengthened and its body was of traditional construction, built out of ash tree frames. Adopting styling cues from its predecessor, the MG PB, it also featured a spare wheel carrier and a 15-gallon fuel tank at the back. The hood was hinged upwards in such a way that provided easy access to the engines, and it was recognised to be cleaner than the cars before that. At the same time, the TA also featured a more comfortable interior, such as greater elbow room, seats with separate cushions and an improved safety glass windscreen.

All TAs were equipped with a 1292 cc MPJG i4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 127 km/h with an acceleration of 23.1 seconds [0-60 mph]. It was 3543 mm long and weighed only 793 kg. In 1938, the TA was also available with a more luxurious Tickford drophead coupe body, built by coachbuilder Salmons of Newport Pagnell. Main differences include wind-up windows, individual bucket seats and an adjustable soft top.

Production of the TA ended in 1939, where it was succeeded by the TB. 3,003 regular TAs and only 252 Tickford coupes were produced. It is estimated that fewer than half of Tickford cars still exist today, and the above unit (in black) is supposedly the only one in the region. From my interaction with the owner, it seems that he had imported it for quite some time and that it sees regular action at the F1 Drivers' Parade: there were signatures of famous drivers on the dashboard. There are also a handful of regular TAs in Singapore too and they appear from time to time.

Cars nowadays are not made like before, although with legitimate reasons such as passenger safety. However, one would admit that the TA is still able to draw much attention, from the wire-spoked wheels to its graceful curves. I encourage you to just look out on the roads and see for yourself the gems that come up unannounced sometimes!

8 June 2020

More than an old car #146: Toyota Corolla E100

Cars come in all shapes and sizes, and some definitely stand out less than others. I was going out for lunch when I saw this seemingly boring old car about to drive off and didn't pay much attention to it. However, something just felt novel and I managed to snap a shot before it was gone. After some searching, I was pleasantly surprised to have caught this 1992 Toyota Corolla E100 liftback by pure chance!

The Corolla E100 was the 7th generation produced under the long-running name. It was larger, heavier and visually more aerodynamic than its predecessor, the E90, earning it the nickname 'big-body Toyota'. The design cues was supposed to emulate a 'mini Lexus', to build on the recent success of Toyota's flagship range. Produced during the time of Japan's bubble economy, it featured fewer body panels for increased strength, lower cost and fewer panel gaps. At the same time, Toyota aimed this Corolla at mostly first-time buyers: it received positive reviews for being reliable and sturdy. In 1993, it underwent a facelift with modifications done to the front fascia and interior trims.

A variety of body styles were produced, such as regular 4-door sedans, 5-door wagons and 5-door liftbacks like this unit here. Different engines were made available, but most units in Singapore were powered by a 1587 cc 4A-FE i4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 195 km/h with an acceleration of 10 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 4210 mm long and weighed 1070 kg, with a good fuel consumption of 12.2 km/litre.

Production of the E100 ended in 1998, where it was replaced by the E110 series. There are still quite a handful of sedan versions on the road, but liftbacks like this are very rare: in fact, this should be one of the last ones standing! Till today, they remain quite popular with enthusiasts and I confess that it is one that I hope to own as my 1st car. While its rather frumpy shape belies its age, it still remains an affordable classic and I hope that it gets more love!

1 June 2020

More than an old car #145: Lotus Esprit

If you are an avid fan of the James Bond film series, mention The Spy Who Loved Me and you may think about the submarine car. While something like this still remains a distant possibility, you could have a chance to see its inspiration in the Lotus Esprit!

The Esprit was first conceived in 1970 by Tony Rudd, a renowned British engineer who had just joined Lotus. This ambitious project, known as the Project M70, was intended to be a successor to the Europa and was supposed to be a 2-door mid-engined coupe. Giorgetto Giugario was involved in the styling and although Colin Chapman [the founder of Lotus] wanted to scrap it, a prototype was developed in time for the 1972 Turin Auto Show and this convinced Chapman to green-light the project. 

It was unveiled to the public in 1975 at the Paris Motor Show, with production commencing a year later. The 1st-generation Esprits, known as the S1, featured a wedge-shaped fibreglass body mounted on a steel chassis and weighed in at a surprisingly light 900 kg. In 1981, the S3 and Turbo models were introduced. They were distinguished by the type of engine and exterior appearance: the Turbo models had a more powerful 2174 cc Type 910 i4 engine and prominent "turbo esprit" decals on the nose and the sides. It could reach a top speed of 245 km/h with an acceleration of 5.8 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 4191 mm long and weighed 1220 kg, with a fuel consumption of 10 litres/100 km.

In 1987, the Esprit was restyled by British designer Peter Stevens. Although it was markedly more rounded and less angular, Giugario was said to have liked this design too. Now known as the X180, the Esprit now came with Kevlar-reinforced roof and sides for roll-over protection. The body panels were produced using a new process called VARI (Vacuum Assisted Resin Injection), which offered advantages to the previous hand lay-up process. Some X180 Esprits were fitted with a high-compression variant of the previous Type 912 engine and thus were also known as the Esprit HC. The HCs were powered by a 2174 cc Type 912 i4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 245 km/h with an acceleration of 5.5 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 4330 mm long and weighed 1268 kg, with a fuel consumption of 12 litres/100 km.

Production of the Esprit actually continued all the way till 2004 with the S4, designed by Julian Thomson. A total of 10,675 units were made, of which there were 2,274 S3 Turbos and 573 X180 HCs. Local news reviews had praised it as an "absolute sports car" with a powerful yet docile engine and excellent road handling, although there were gripes about its stiff clutch, audible engine noise and heavy steering. The S3 Turbo was first sold in 1981 by Kim Teck Leong Pte Ltd, the Lotus dealer back then for a rather huge price of S$143,120 [S$262,907 in today's money]. The X180 HC was sold in 1988 by Italia Pte Ltd at a price of S$238,000 [S$451,294 in today's money]!

The red unit, a 1988 model, has a storied history from what I have heard. It belonged to the Khoo Teck Puat family, a renowned local philanthropist [and incidentally wealthy] before it was sold off. At some point in life, it received an S4 body-kit and had some voodoo done on the engine, making it less reliable unfortunately. Recently, this unit suffered an engine fire when a car owner friend of mine briefly owned it! Its ownership has been transferred again and now it is awaiting restoration. The picture below was taken back in 2017, when the then-owner made a rare appearance. Subsequently, it was 'abandoned' as seen above before my friend owned it.

The yellow unit, a 1982 model, has changed hands recently and is embellished with decals and stick-on letters. I first saw it in 2014 at my 1st-ever classic car show, where it looked a lot cleaner back then. According to its VIN, it was made at the Hethel plant, although curiously labelled as an export LHD model.

The Lotus Esprit has appeared in films, most notably in the James Bond franchise although none of the 2 models above were featured. Esprits remain cult classics as it exudes a different atmosphere: this is not your average grocery car but one that demands your fullest appreciation. How could you not be taken away by just how it looks?! There are still a handful of Esprits around but they are mostly elusive; however, I hope you will have the chance to spot one, since you can't miss how unique they look!

23 May 2020

More than an old car #144: Rover 216

It is always nice to come across cars that others may not immediately consider as 'actual classics', either because of their unreliability or overall 'nondescript-ness'. This pristine 1993 Rover 216 Cabriolet is a personal favourite of mine just because not many would care about it!

The Rover 200 series (known as the 216 in certain export markets) arose as a result of an alliance between British Leyland (parent company of Rover) and Honda back in 1984, when there was a strong demand for small family saloons. Both BL and Honda contributed to the design of the car and its engines, especially for the 2nd generation R8 Rover 200. At that time, it was the first car to be introduced by the newly-privatised Rover Group.

It was initially designed as a 5-door hatchback, similar to the Austin Maestro and based off the Honda Concerto. Some time later, a 3-door hatchback, coupe and convertible version was released by Rover, without any Honda car equivalent. In 1993, it underwent a slight facelift, featuring modified front headlights and a new grille. A variety of engines were available, but units in Singapore were powered by a 1590 cc Honda D16A6 i4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 193 km/h with an acceleration of 8.9 seconds [0-100 km/h]. The 216 cabriolet was 4220 mm long, weighed 1112 kg and had an estimated fuel consumption of 8.5 litres/100 km.

Production of the Rover 216 ended in 1995, where it was succeeded by the R3 Rover 200. It was first released to the Singapore market in June 1993, but as it was unable to gain much traction among customers, it faded into obscurity. Very few units are known to exist here, although there is a red one that has been put on sale for quite a long time.

It is really a quirky classic that is unloved by many, but as I aim to cover all types of old cars, it is always nice to cover some left-field vehicles. Since no one would bother about them, why not I fill in the gap? After all, they are part of Singapore's car heritage in their own unique way. Maybe it will help you to be more observant on the roads, who knows what rare cars you may spot!

18 May 2020

More than an old car #143: Volvo 850

I am not sure how much does the average person knows about Volvos, but perhaps you may have heard something about their brick/tank-like safety. To be honest, when I saw this previously, I did not really put much thought in it other than 'it's a old car'. After some research, I was quite surprised that this 1996 Volvo 850 SE was a unicorn!

Volvo had built up a reputation for making safe and reliable cars, but as a result of this it was often associated with a less-than-favourable image of snobbish intellectual elites. Sales started to slow down and it reported its first loss in history in 1990. Therefore, Volvo had to reinvent itself to remain relevant during that period.

When it was first introduced in 1991, it was launched with the slogan "A dynamic car with 4 unique innovations", namely the newly-developed 5-cylinder engine that powered the front wheels, Delta-link rear axle, Side Impact Protection System (SIPS) and a self-adjusting seatbelt reel for the front seats. The 850 still retained iconic cues such as the boxy, spacious interior and the emphasis on safety with SIPS, a system of honeycomb material used in the sills, B-pillar and doors that dispersed the shock of a side impact. It was originally available only in sedan form, with the wagon coming later in 1993. The 850 was facelifted in 1994, featuring thinner headlights, new indicators and bumpers. Sedans, previously known as the GLE, was renamed to SE too.

Volvo also made a limited-edition version known as the T-5R, featuring a more powerful turbocharged engine with unique wheels and interior modifications. From what I understand, there used to be a handful of them in Singapore but none have remained. This 850 SE was powered by a 1984 cc B5204FS i5 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 215 km/h with an acceleration of 8.6 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 4661 mm long and weighed 1500 kg, with a fuel consumption of 8.8 litres/100 km.

Production of the 850 ended in 1996 with 716,903 units made in total. The 850 was first sold locally in 1992 by SM Motors, our local Volvo dealer. This particular unit was once red before it underwent a makeover to look like the range-topping T-5R, from the iconic Cream Yellow paint to the more aggressive-looking front lip. I believe this car is still around although I have not seen it ever since I took this picture 3 years ago. This could very well be the only one left here, with not more than 5 as a reasonable estimate! I do not know whether you can see this again, but at least you will be aware of this unlikely classic roaming the roads!

14 May 2020

Miscellaneous classics #4: Daihatsu Hijet S91

It has been a while since I covered our humble work vehicles, so I decided to bring the spotlight on this forgotten workhorse: a 1999 Daihatsu Hijet S91!

The S90/S100 Hijet succeeded the S80 model when it was unveiled to the public at the Tokyo Motor Show in 1993. Its wheelbase had been extended by 100 mm, and was praised for its large indoor volume and quietness at high speeds. Interestingly, Daihatsu also entered the Indonesian market, where all its vehicles were sold by PT Astra Daihatsu Motor. This particular unit is more accurately known as the Daihatsu Zebra Espass, which was a 'Completely Built Up' model: JDM cars never had these rounded headlights.
They were available in both truck and van models, although I do not know why these Indonesian-market vehicles were imported in the first place. It was powered by a 1295 cc HC-C i4 engine, but as with commercial vehicles here, its top speed was limited to 70 km/h. It was 3395 mm long, had an unladen weight of 830 kg and a laden weight of almost twice is mass at 1655 kg.

Production of the S90 Hijet ended on 2007, although its successor, the S200 was introduced back in 1999. They were sold by Sin Tien Seng, our local Daihatsu dealer between 1997 to 2000. Uncommon to begin with, none are known to exist today in Singapore, although one can still see a handful of its Malaysian equivalent known as the Perodua Rusa.

Back then, I had always wondered what this unusual-looking truck was back when I was younger, and I was fortunate to be able to snap a shot of this classic before it got scrapped last year. I am sure that no one else would have bothered about an old, beat-up truck, much less photograph it. To be honest, I do not know how many of you would appreciate its existence, but I hope I have done my part in capturing a forgotten slice of history!

11 May 2020

More than an old car #142: Toyota Estima Emina

Recently, I got a request to write about old minivans in Singapore. This gave me some food for thought as I realised that I had not seen many of them around in the 1st place (not including the passenger versions of goods vans). However, after some sourcing from my old pictures, I managed to find this sole image of this 1998 Toyota Estima Emina!

The Estima (also known as the Previa/Tarago in overseas markets) was first introduced as a concept model at the 1989 Tokyo Motor Show. It attracted much attention, from its futuristic egg-shaped design to the front wheel located in front of the front seat which was unprecedented at that time. Owing to its shape, the engine had to be located almost flat underneath the front seats: one could access the spark plugs by removing the front passenger seat, the carpet and an access panel. As such, all engine-driven accessories such as the air-con compressor and radiator fan could be easily reached by opening the front hood, and this system was known as 'Supplemental Accessory Drive System', or 'SADS'.

At the same time, 2 smaller versions were introduced in the Japanese market, known as the Estima Emina and the Estima Lucida. They competed with the Nissan Serena as the parent Estima itself was deemed too big, and furthermore they were eligible for a lower tax band because of their smaller size. Its name is a combination and derivation of 'estimable' and 'eminent'. While it was produced for just 1 generation, it underwent 2 facelifts with notable changes to the grille design and headlights. This unit is the 2nd facelifted model, produced between 1996 to 1999. It was powered by a 2438 cc 2TZ-FE i4 engine with a fuel consumption of 8.6 km/litre. It was 4690 mm long and weighed 1660 kg.

Production of the Estima Emina ended in 2000 with around 12,000 units made. The Emina had come up short in its struggle with the Serena, and it reaped low profit margins despite the high developmental costs. With the introduction of more serious competition in the form of the Honda Odyssey, the Emina had to bow out. Eminas were sold in Singapore back in 1997, along with the parent Estima and only less than 5 still exist here! This particular unit has been off the road for quite some time, hopefully it's still kept somewhere.

There is something endearing about these quirky 'egg vans': its rounded shape provided maximum space for the occupants and it is quite rare to see an old minivan that has remained till today. Many were scrapped as owners progressed on to more comfortable and powerful options. I am not sure whether you will get to see this any time soon, but you could keep your eyes peeled for an egg on wheels the next time!

4 May 2020

More than an old car #141: Jaguar E-Type

 Having seen a fair share of classic cars, there are but a few that invariably takes my breath away. Enzo Ferrari, the founder of the eponymous company, once called it "the most beautiful car ever made". It has been recognised as an icon of the Sixties and remains ever-popular despite its age...introducing the Jaguar E-Type!

The E-Type (also known as the XK-E in North America) was the successor of the D-Type racing car, which had experienced success by winning at Le Mans for 3 consecutive years. At that time in 1960, Jaguar employed a novel racing principle: the front suspension and bodywork were directly bolted to the body tub, and the engine was stored in the front subframe. In short, this made the cars very light. It was unveiled to the public in 1961 at the Geneva Auto Show There were 3 distinct generations of the E-Type, namely Series 1 to 3. Series 1 cars remain the most desirable, in part of their low numbers and it was the car that inspired many rave reviews about its elegant curves and long bonnet. In 1964, the engine was upgraded to a 4.2 litre i6 engine, along with relevant modifications such as an electric cooling fan for the radiator. All cars were fitted with wire wheels, which remains part of the allure of an E-Type.

The Series 2, which appeared in 1968, featured a number of design changes, largely due to US regulations. The glass headlight covers were removed and the iconic 'mouth' was enlarged, along with the front indicators being relocated below the bumpers. Furthermore, headrests were also mandated and the dashboard was also redesigned. In 1971, the Series 3 appeared where it featured a large cross-slatted front grille, fender flares and quad tailpipes. Notably, the engine was enlarged to a 5.3 litre V12, which was originally designed for the 24 Hours of Le Mans races.

The Series 1 (1962 model) was powered by a 3781 cc XK i6 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 240 km/h with an acceleration of 6.5 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 4455 mm long and weighed 1250 kg, with a fuel consumption of 16.3 litres/ 100 km.
The Series 2 (1970 model) was powered by a larger 4235 cc XK i6 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 231 km/h with an acceleration of 7 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 4453 mm long and weighed 1321 kg, with a fuel consumption of 16.5 litres/ 100 km.
The Series 3 (1974 model) was powered by an even larger 5343 cc Jaguar V12 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 241 km/h with an acceleration of 6.7 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 4684 mm long and weighed 1515 kg, with a fuel consumption of 23 litres/ 100 km.

Production of the E-Type ended in 1974 with a total of around 72,515 made: of which 943 were the 3.8 litre Series 1 RHD roadsters, 776 were Series 2 RHD roadsters and 1872 were Series 3 RHD roadsters. They were first sold in Singapore in 1961, with a retail price of $15,750 for the roadster and $16,350 for the fixed-head coupe. Reviews back then praised its ease of driving, superb handling and smooth braking, although it was thought that the car boot was too small to be of practical use.

While there are a small handful of E-Types that are originally registered here, there are an increasing number of imported units that have reached our shores. I am not one to praise cars often, but the E-Type really makes you notice its presence based on how graceful it is. It is fortunate that there are still these beauties around here, try to see one if you can!