28 January 2020

More than an old car #131: Subaru SVX

Years of car-spotting has shown me that despite the restrictive rules regarding car ownership here, there are plenty of rare gems hidden all over the island. Thus, when I was aware that this 1991 Subaru Alcyone SVX was on display over the weekend, I had to make my way down and check out this unicorn myself!

The SVX was a all-wheel drive coupe and was Subaru's first entry into the luxury/performance market. Its name is derived from Alcyone, the brightest star in the Pleiades constellation (as stylised in the Subaru logo), and the acronym for 'Subaru Vehicle X'. It was unveiled to the public at the Tokyo Auto Show in 1989. Designed by Giorgetto Giugario, it notably featured a 'window-within-a-window' configuration, supposedly inspired by the glass-to-glass canopy of a fighter jet. Taking cues from its predecessor, the XT, it featured softer lines and its windows was split 2/3 from the bottom, similar to the Lamborghini Diablo and Delorean DMC.

At that time, the all-wheel drive system was revolutionary, especially when Japanese sports cruisers were few and far between. It provided firm grip on loose/slippery surfaces, and made for a fun drive when paired with its low drag coefficient of 0.29. Unfortunately, the AWD system was also its Achilles' heel: it caused the car to become heavier than its competitors and the cooling system was sometimes unable to cope with the additional effort. All SVXs were equipped with a 3318 cc EG33 flat-6 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 235 km/h with an acceleration of 8.6 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 4625 mm long and weighed 1610 kg, with a fuel consumption of 10.3 litres/100 km.

Production of the SVX ended in 1997, amidst the collapse of Japan's bubble economy and overall poor sales. A total of 24,379 units were sold, of which around 7,000 were in RHD. They are comparatively rare today and one would be hard-pressed to find one even in the main target of the US market. This unit is the only one in Singapore where it belongs to Motor Image, our local Subaru dealer. SVXs were never sold here officially to my knowledge, and I was fortunate to be able to see this when it was on display some time back.

It was quite surprising to see that we have such an oddity here, especially when it does not get displayed often. On one hand, it would be nice if there were registered units here but at least this is better than nothing. I do not know when it will make an appearance again, but I really hope you get to see it soon and appreciate its quirkiness!

24 January 2020

More than an old car #130: Triumph TR3

With the massive backlog of cars that I have to write about, I have chosen to try to feature cars that I have seen in different events/contexts over the years. This 1959 Triumph TR3A that I saw is hopefully a interesting car that most people would not be aware of!

The TR3 was a sports car made by the Standard-Triumph Motor Company, which was first introduced in 1955. It succeeded the TR2, where it featured greater power and improved braking. Many reviewers praised its smooth and powerful engine and the ease of gear changing. As such, it proved popular in rally races and hill climbs.

In 1957, the TR3 underwent a facelift, featuring a wider grille and exterior door handles among other updates. As such, though the actual name did not change, the facelifted model was unofficially known as the TR3A. Another version, known as the TR3B, was offered concurrently with the TR4 in 1961, as it was feared people would not welcome the new model. It was powered by a 1991 cc Standard i4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 164 km/h with an acceleration of 12.55 seconds [0-60 mph]. It was 3835 mm long and weighed 916 kg, with a fuel consumption rate of 11.9 litres/100 km.

Production of the TR3 ended in 1962, where it was replaced by the TR4. About 74,800 units were made, of which 58,236 was the 'TR3A'. It is estimated that only around 9,500 of TR3As still exist today, making this one a nice rarity. I believe there are a few units here, but more uniquely, this one has been in Singapore since day one! TR3s were first sold in the Malayan republic [before Singapore became independent] in 1957 by Federated Motors Limited. This unit appears once a while, and I understand it has changed ownership recently, featuring a new number plate. It is always nice to see less conventional little British cars such as this, and it still looks as stunning as ever. I hope you will be able to catch it on the road soon!

13 January 2020

More than an old car #129: Toyota MR2

People may associate Japanese cars with boring family vehicles, and while true to a certain extent, there are exciting cars such as this 1986 Toyota MR2 AW11 that don't get the love they deserve!

The MR2 started out initially as a design project, with the goal of a car that would be enjoyable to drive and yet provide good economy. Much work was done to determine the location of the engine, which eventually ended up in a mid-transverse placement in the SA-X concept vehicle. At that time, it was the first mid-engined car made by Toyota. It was later designed to be a sports car, which eventually debuted at the 1983 Tokyo Motor Show. Its name stands for either 'mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 2-seater' or "mid-ship, run-about, 2-seater'. Even the logo used was a bird of prey that formed the words 'AW'.

The suspension and handling of the car was designed by Toyota, with the help of Lotus engineering. As a result, the final product was easy to drive and provided much fun, thanks to the high-revving engine. Although the styling was somewhat bulky and abrupt, the good handling and smooth transmission made up for the shortcomings.

The W10 generation underwent 2 facelifts for both interior and exterior, such as including full-length side skirts and an additional brake light. It was available in 2 engine types, but units in Singapore were powered by a 1587 cc 4A-GE i4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 200 km/h with an acceleration of 8.1 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 3950 mm long and weighed 1035 kg.

Production of the AW10 generation ended in 1989 with 163,845 units made, where it was succeeded by the SW20 generation. The AW11 model was first sold in Singapore in 1985 by Borneo Motors, where it retailed for S$52,521 [S$97,236 in today's money]. This is one of less than 5 units remaining here surprisingly, even though it may not look like a 'rare' car at first glance. There is a certain character around this car: despite its blocky understated look, it is still capable of providing sheer driving pleasure for the driver. One is more likely to find them at events, and it is still nice to know that such classics are still around!

6 January 2020

More than an old car #128: Peugeot 405

Firstly, I would like to wish all readers a happy new year and a good start to 2020! So many changes have happened in the last decade and while we do not know what is going to come for this new one, I hope that you'll get to realise your dreams and aspirations along the way. Let me start this year with this somewhat unconventional 1994 Peugeot 405 GR!

The Peugeot 405 was first introduced in 1987 where it succeeded the 305. At that time, it was the French manufacturer's first attempt at a front-wheel drive mid-size car. It quickly became very popular in Europe, where it was awarded the European Car of the Year in 1988, due to its superb chassis and reliable engines. Initially released as a sedan, an estate/station wagon version appeared in 1989. It had a relatively low drag coefficient of 0.30, making it very aerodynamic, and earned rave reviews for ride quality and transmission. It underwent a facelift in 1992, with modifications notably done to the rear.

The 405 was available with various engines and trim levels, of which the GR was the intermediate level. Local units were sold with the 1580 cc XU5 M i4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 168 km/h with an acceleration of 16.2 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 4408 mm long and weighed 1080 kg, with a fuel consumption of 8.7 litres/100 km.

Production in Europe ended in 1997, where it was replaced by the 406. However, it is technically still made as of today in Iran and Azerbaijan. For some reason, Iranians love Peugeots a lot, probably because the cars are locally manufactured and affordable. Yet, it was recently announced that the 405 would cease production in mid-2020. To date, production figures are estimated to be about 5 million.

In Singapore, the 405 was sold from 1988 by Advance Automobiles: Peugeot did not have an official showroom unlike today. In 1992, the GR (GLi for this car) was made available in automatic transmission at a price of S$85,980 [S$127,840 in today's money], which was not really cheap. This should be one of the last units left here as most of them succumbed to the COE monster, but it seems that the owner intends to keep it for the long term.

This is a quintessential 90s car, with the boxy styling and cloth seats, although it may not look sophisticated nor classic at first glance. Even as we progress into a new decade, it is fascinating to continue seeing such interesting cars on the road. As such, this has spurred me to continue keeping this blog up for as long as I can!