13 April 2020

More than an old car #140: Morris Oxford Twenty

Much as I would like to know about every old car that still remains in Singapore, there will always be a few wildcards that catch me off guard, such as this 1934 Morris Oxford Twenty!

The Oxford was a series of motor car models produced by Morris Motors, and its name was derived from the hometown of the company's founder W. H. Morris. Incidentally, the focus on car-making subsequently turned Oxford into an industrial city. The Oxford Six dated all the way back to 1921 with the F-type Bullnose, and it was in 1934 that the name was changed from Six to Sixteen to reflect the new car's tax horsepower category. Later on, the Twenty joined the range, where it was powered by a 2561 cc straight-6 engine.

The outward appearance of the Twenty was improved from its predecessor (the Six), with the provision of an automatic clutch and hydraulic shock absorbers. Some features include a thermostatic control for the cooling system, self-cancelling direction indicators and an individual blade for each windscreen wiper. It was available in 2 styles: the saloon in the picture and a Special coupe version. Not much details can be found regarding these cars except that its wheelbase was 2896 mm long.

Production ended in 1935 where it was succeeded just 9 months later by the Big Six series 2 range of cars, with only 6,308 made. The 'Oxford' name also disappeared until 1948 where it was resurrected again. This unit could well be the only one here, sporting what I believe is its original registration. Interestingly, they were sold here in Singapore (then still a colony) in 1935 by Malayan Motors Ltd, where it was touted as a car with 'dignity, comfort and luxury'. This unit has received a colour change from yellow to green between the 2 years that I saw it, but I do not know much about this unit's exact history. Yet, it seems to be in running condition since it has changed locations multiple times.

I am more impressed that this oldie is still out and about, but you would be forgiven if you have never heard of it before: it does not seem to come for events and is in workshops most of the time. However, it is worth saluting the owner's efforts to keep it running, where it can be a visceral reminder of our motoring heritage despite our short history. Maybe you'll get to see it soon!

8 April 2020

More than an old car #139: Mitsubishi 3000GT/GTO

Japanese cars of the 90s revolutionised how the average person viewed cars. The onslaught of legends such as the Nissan R32 GTR, Honda NSX and Mazda RX7 captivated the hearts of many people both young and old alike. Amidst the jostling of attention, the 1993 Mitsubishi 3000GT often falls through the cracks in a bid to be recognised as an icon...

The 3000GT, also known as the GTO in the Japanese domestic market, was first exhibited at the Tokyo Motor Show in 1989 as the Mitsubishi HSX concept. It was made available to the public from 1990 onwards. The 3000GT/GTO was aimed to compete with fellow rivals such as the Toyota Supra and Subaru SVX in the 2+2 seating grand tourer segment, and was designed with the endless straight roads of the North American market in mind. Its name was resurrected, having been used in the more obscure Colt Galant GTO that I covered previously.

Taking design cues from the Diamante, it featured a bulged hood and air intake slats in front of the tyres. The pre-facelift models were internally known as the Z16A, where it featured iconic pop-up headlights. At the same time, it was ambitiously equipped with features such as a Getrag 5-speed manual transmission, 4-wheel steering, a drive shaft made of high tensile steel and active aerodynamics with automatically-adjusting front and rear spoilers. Initial reviews praised its brutal acceleration, but disparaged the apparent uselessness of the active aero and other 'special' electronic gadgets which added weight to an already-heavy platform. Mitsubishi also entered into a collaborative effort with Chrysler in 1990, leading to the badge-engineered Dodge Stealth for the North American market even though the 3000GT was also available there.

It underwent a facelift in 1993, most notably with the loss of the pop-up headlights to 4 fixed-projector lamps. In 1999, there was another facelift featuring a more aggressive front bumper and modified headlights. The much-maligned active aero system was removed in 1996, making the car more likable as it became lighter and quicker. The car was powered by a 2972 cc 6G72 V6 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 236 km/h with an acceleration of 8.2 seconds. It was 4565 mm long and weighed in at a hefty 1650 kg, with a relatively thirsty fuel consumption rate of 11.9 litres/100 km.

Production of the 3000GT ended in 2000 with an estimated 200,000 units made in total (including the Dodge Stealth). This unit is 1 of about 8 that are known to still exist in Singapore, making it a unexpected rarity!  More interestingly, I used to see this unit in school frequently as it was supposedly owned by a student, but I have yet to see it till today. 3000GTs were not sold officially by Cycle and Carriage based on my knowledge, so they must have been parallel-imported in.

The 3000GT was featured prominently in the Jackie Chan film Thunderbolt along with the Lancer Evolution 3, as part of Mitsubishi's product placement agreement with him. The 3000GT gets less recognition as a classic 90s Japanese car, most probably because it was not nimble enough to navigate the winding mountain roads nor performed especially well on the track due to its weight. However, it still remains an icon for many a child who wished to be like Jackie Chan, tearing up the track and stopping baddies. I still know of a handful of GTOs that come regularly for car meets, do look out for them if you are able to!