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!