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!