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!