16 December 2021

More than an old car #183: Opel Manta A

With the year drawing to a close, I thought it was fitting to write about one of my archives from 2 years back: the rainy weather actually fitted the overall vibes somehow during this time. Seeing unknown classics is always gratifying, especially when no one has yet to bring in new units. It is interesting to see how the usual models are in demand but not like this 1971 Opel Manta A L!

Founded by Adam Opel in Rüsselsheim, Germany on 1862, Opel started off as a manufacturer of sewing machines. It began to make bicycles in 1886 and the first cars were designed in 1899. Opel was the first German car manufacturer to incorporate a mass-production assembly line and by 1928, it was Germany's largest car exporter and had a 37.5% market share. Opel was also instrumental in popularising rockets as a means of propulsion for vehicles, and thus played a significant role in the history of spaceflight and rocket technology. In 1931, General Motors fully acquired Opel and the highly successful Kapitan was introduced in 1935. Automobile production stopped in 1940 and munitions production began in 1942 for the war effort. 

After the war ended, the Opel factories were rebuilt by former employees. GM had also acquired Vauxhall and this led to a rationalisation of the Vauxhall/Opel range across Europe. By the 1980s, Vauxhall and Opel were one and the same. However, GM began making losses in the 1990s and it prompted them to enter an alliance with PSA Peugeot Citroen in 2012: the complete acquisition by PSA was finalised in 2017. 

The Opel logo changed over the years: initially sporting an AO logo, it was changed to a ring crossed by a flying thing in the 1930s. The current logo (with a ring and horizontal lightning) was developed at the end of the 1960s, which is both easily recognisable and reproducible. Opels were sold in Singapore since the 1940s and enjoyed moderate success: quite a few can be seen from old photos from that period. However, classic Opels do not appear to be as collectible as their fellow German brands even till today. Currently, Opels are more commonly seen on private hire cars and their numbers are decreasing every year.

In the 1960s, Opel developed a competing model for the Ford Capri known internally as 'Project 1450': this was in response to the advent of 'pony cars' first introduced by Ford with its Mustang. Opel also noted the 'Stingray' name affixed to Chevrolet Corvettes and decided to adapt the manta ray to its newest offering. From the beginning, Opel marketed the Manta as a sporty men's car: the swooping, graceful body was unlike any other Opel even though it was partly based off the Ascona. The elongated hood with the 'sharknose' front reminiscent of BMW's E9, the rear section with its 4 round headlights and wide doors with frameless windows captured much attention from the public.  

Although it was available only in a 5-seater coupe form, there were 3 main engine types (1.2 litre, 1.6 litre and 1.9 litre). Various trims and special editions were also developed: for instance, the L (for Luxury) trim included chrome-plated tailpipes, pivoting windows for the rear passengers, cigarette lighters and an electric clock. This Manta A with the L trim was powered by a 1584 cc Opel CIH i4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 154 km/h with an acceleration of 17 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 4343 mm long and weighed 945 kg, with a fuel consumption of 9.8 litres/100 km.

Production of the Manta A ended in 1975 with 498,553 units made, where it was replaced by the Manta B. Manta As were sold in Singapore in 1971 by Singapore Motors, although most reviews at that time were focused on the 1.9 litre variant. This unit is an original Singapore-registered car and it is believed to be the only one left here: apparently no one has imported any in currently. Based on old car listings, it has changed colour a few times from blue, to white and its current gold paint scheme. 

Coming across one of these rarities is always a pleasant surprise: one naturally wonders what adventures it has experienced and how it actually survived all these years. Considering that Opel does not seem to be desirable among classic car collectors, hanging on to one is a testament to the owner's passion and love for what it is. Perhaps you will be able to see it one day and admire this survivor for yourself!


4 December 2021

More than an old car #182: Maserati Indy

After a rather hectic week, it is a relief to have some time set aside for more writing. Having trawled through my archives, I was inspired to cover this rather unique 1972 Maserati Indy: it has been a while since I wrote about continental cars and I figured that though the trident brand is relatively well-acquainted with many (for good or for worse), few people would be aware of the rich history behind the older models..

The Indy was conceived as an alternative to the 1960s Ghibli, featuring a V8 engine and seating for 4 people. 2 coachbuilder prototypes were introduced at the 1968 Turin Motor Show, one by Ghia and the other by Vignale: Maserati already had established relationships with both coachbuilders as they had designed other cars for the company. The Vignale design was chosen and was launched subsequently at the 1969 Geneva Motor Show: its name was a reference to Maserati's 2 victories at the Indianapolis (Indy) 500 race in 1939 and 1940.

The genius of Vignale's design was evident in the Indy's side profile: the full-width window hatch flowed down to a cut-off tail incorporating the now-standard horizontal rear light clusters above a full-width rear bumper. Despite not possessing the long low line of the Ghibli, the use of retractable headlights helped to accentuate the flowing lines of the car. In 1970, a larger 4.7 litre engine was introduced and major changes were made to the dashboard: a grab handle was fitted and the aircon vents on the centre console were removed. Instead, it was replaced by gauges for temperature and fuel, and even an analogue clock.

In 1971, cars bound for the North American market were renamed to 'Indy America', and a 4.9 litre engine was also introduced. Externally, an extra grille was fitted on the hood and the Borrani wheels were increased in size to 15 inches. The Indy was available in both automatic and manual transmissions, and was rear-wheel drive despite the engine being located at the front of the car. This unit was powered by a 4136 cc V8 engine (instead of the 4719 cc version), allowing it to reach a top speed of 250 km/h with an acceleration of 7.3 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 4740 mm long and weighed 1650 kg, with a fuel consumption of 19.2 litres/100 km.

Production of the Indy ended in 1975 with no direct successor. A total of 1,104 units were made, of which just 74 were in RHD. The Australian registration suggests that this was 1 of 5 4.2-litre version with a manual transmission sold new in the country! This particular unit has a burgundy exterior with a cream interior, and has clocked about 63,000 miles currently. It was sold in 2016 for A$16,612, where it was acquired by a local classic car collector. Despite being exhibited a few times over the years, it has not been road-registered locally. Indys were not known to be sold in Singapore, though a 4.9 litre unit was test driven here in 1973. The automatic version was noted to have a quick start and the controls were smooth and responsive, along with the brakes. There was praise for the ample rear seat space, although the long seat belt and aircon vent positioning left much to be desired. 

Older Maseratis tend not to be well-recognised, perhaps because of its general lower presence in popular culture etc. Whatever it is, this obscurity is something that is right up my alley and I hope that this has been informative about its presence right here in Singapore. Perhaps you may be able to catch it at exhibitions or even registered on the road!

12 November 2021

More than an old car #181: Nissan AD Resort


In the midst of my posts, I have realised that I have not given much attention these few weeks to non-continental cars, partly due to work fatigue and overall ennui. Being aware of this, I went to take a look at my archives and found this rather remarkable 1995 Nissan AD Resort SLX!

First introduced in 1982, the AD Van was intended to replace the commercial delivery vans based on Nissan's other vehicles. Based off the B11 Sunny wagon, it was more squarish and utilitarian: despite being a van, it came with 4 side doors and a liftback hatch in the back. In 1990, the Y10 series appeared in the market: it was based off the B13 Sunny and a passenger version known as the AD Wagon was introduced in order for consumers to avoid the annual inspection in Japan. The Japan market also received a unique version known as the AD Max: it had 2 front doors, an extended height and double doors were fitted on the back in the 'fourgonette' style.

There was a facelift in 1993, where the squarish headlights were now integrated with the front grille and became more rectangular. It was around this time that the car was exported to Thailand and Malaysia, where it was called the AD Resort. The SEA market version had a larger 1.6 litre engine, and units sold in Thailand had many body styles to choose from owing to their love of pick-up trucks. Only the regular wagon was sold in Malaysia by Edaran Tan Chong Motor Sdn Bhd as far as I am aware. The AD Resort in Malaysia was powered by a 1597 cc GA16DE i4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 170 km/h with an acceleration of 12.1 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 4175 mm long and weighed 1010 kg, with a fuel consumption of 9.5 litres / 100 km.

Production of the Y10 AD Resort ended in 1999, where it was replaced by the Y11 series. Curiously, the AD Resort was never sold in Singapore although it would have complemented the B13 Sunnys that were present here. It was purely coincidental coming across this Malaysian unit: I had thought that it was a Sunny wagon (which was technically not wrong) but some research led me to discover this rarity on the road. There are a small handful of the Y12 series AD wagons here, but they are registered under diplomatic plates. 

As to why wagons never really caught on here, it is noted that they were naturally more expensive despite having more storage space. It appears to be more of a status symbol, and the rise of MPVs have made wagons superfluous: what better car to get that could carry a regular family plus furniture from IKEA? Regardless, coming across this little obscurity from across the causeway was a nice surprise: hopefully you may see them when the borders re-open...

30 October 2021

Miscellaneous classics #8: Mercedes Atego

I guess it's one of those moments where I have to clear my backlog, and that this has been sitting in the archives for a long while. Being caught up with work also means that I have less time to work on the blog, so it would have to be something that does not take up much resources in planning on what to write. Speaking of this, I naturally thought on writing about the few commercial vehicles that I have seen, and I was reminded of this 2001 Mercedes Atego 1517/5360 that I saw some time ago!

The Atego (internal code W970) was introduced in 1998 as the successor to the LK series. It was made available in different cab sizes, from S to L high-roof version, along with different wheelbases between 3020 mm and 6260 mm. Different tonnages were available and designated in the following format: 7xx for 6.5 tonnes, 8xx for 8 tonnes and so on. The 'X's following the designation is the engine horsepower but given as a tenth. Thus, this particular unit thus has a tonnage of 11.99 tonnes based on its 15xx designation with a horsepower of about 170 hp, and its wheelbase was 5360 mm long.

In 2000, a heavy version of the Atego chassis was brought to the market, with designations 1533 and 1833. A year later, the Axor truck replaced the heavy Atego chassis and became a standalone model. The Atego, which remains in production today, went through a facelift in 2004 with wider indicators and a revised front end to be more aligned with the Actros. This Atego was powered by a 4249 cc OM904 94 engine, with a maximum power of 174 hp. It was 6900 mm long and had an unladen weight of 6080 kg, with a gross weight of 11990 kg.

Production of the first-generation Atego ended in 2004 with about 170,000 made, where it was followed by the second generation. It is likely that there are no first-gen Ategos left in Singapore, although a handful of second-generation units still see service under the fire brigade. This particular unit was owned by an art logistics company, which makes sense for it to be so huge. It was fortuitous running into this truck as I only took the picture since its number plate was relatively old. I was therefore pleasantly surprised to find out that it was already a classic this year. However, that also meant that its lifespan was up and sure enough, it had been scrapped.

To be honest, I was not expecting anyone to even know that this actually existed here, such is the general perception of heavy-duty vehicles. As always, I will continue to give these workhorses their much-deserved spotlight just because I would like to. Now that you have heard of this, I hope that you may be able to recognise it in the future..



15 October 2021

More than an old car #180: ZIS-110

With travel plans put on the back burner currently, I figured that it would be a good time to reminisce about my trip to South Korea. It has been a while since I wrote about a vehicle not in Singapore, and I was reminded of this unique rarity while scrolling through my archives. Given its novel background and history, this 1948 ZIS-110 would mot likely be your first exposure to a Soviet-era classic car!

The history of ZIS spans back to 1916, where it was first known as the Avtomobilnoe Moskovskoe Obshchestvo (AMO), or the Moscow Automotive Society. It was part of a government program to establish an automotive industry in Russia: it started out producing Fiat trucks under licence before designing its own vehicle, the AMO F-15 truck in 1924. The company had its name changed to Avtomobil'n'iy zavod Nomjar 2 - Zavod Imeni Stalina [ZIS] (i.e. Automotive Factory No. 2 - Factory named after Stalin) in 1931, after it was re-equipped and expanded with the help of the American firm A.J.Brant Company. As it was during the reign of Stalin, his name had to be incorporated in it somehow.

The first production car known as the ZIS-101 began in 1936: while different car models were made, the company continued to predominantly manufacture trucks and buses instead. Its name was changed in 1956 to Zavod imeni Likhachyova [ZIL], which was named after its former director Ivan Alekseevich Likhachov. However, as the years went by, its vehicles became severely outdated and the company went bankrupt in 2013. It continued to survive as a joint-stock company without producing any vehicles under the name MSC 6 AMO ZIL until its liquidation in 2019, by which time the original factory buildings had been demolished for residential usage.

The 110 was first conceived back in 1943 under the guidance of chief designer Boris Fitterman. Its design was heavily inspired by the pre-war Packard Super Eight 180, which Stalin received as a gift from Franklin D. Roosevelt. Stalin apparently loved the Packard so much that he wanted something similar on Soviet roads, and the task fell on lead designer Andrei Ostrovsev. While it has been claimed that the dies for the 110 were originally from the Packard, it is noted that the production of the 110 used the metric system compared to the imperial system in Packards, resulting in both cars being actually distinct from each other. Body panels were not transferrable and there were slight variations in lengths due to the varied systems used. However, it is undeniable that the decorative trim, fittings and interior design carried Packard DNA, so to speak.

On the exterior, the 110 was fitted with 2 rear lights even though traffic rules at that time only required 1 to be placed on the left. It also had headlight lamps, where the bulb itself was both a reflector and a diffuser: this was different from conventional headlights with separate components. It was also the first Soviet car with direction indicators (made in the American style), which could be turned on by switches on the dashboard or via the left steering column lever. 

The dashboard was fitted with the standard gauges (speedometer, thermometer etc), but an interesting feature was the speedometer needle changing colour at different speeds: it was green up to 60 km/h, yellow from 60-120 km/h and red above 120 km/h. The numbers on the speedometer scale also did not have the last zeroes i.e. "8, 10, 12" instead of "80, 100, 120". As the flagship Soviet car, the interior was fitted with a radio receiver, hydraulic windows and a cigarette lighter among other luxuries.

2 main body styles, namely a 4-door sedan and a 4-door convertible (phaeton) were produced although an ambulance version was also available. Sedans were painted in black, burgundy and blue, although 1 unit was painted in green and gifted to the then-Patriarch of Moscow Alexy I by Stalin. Phaetons were available in black, gray, gray-blue and beige. The 110s were primarily distributed to government branches and was out of reach for the typical peasant unsurprisingly, though some were also gifted to foreign communist leaders like Mao Zedong and Ho Chi Minh. Interestingly, some also saw use as inter-city taxis, where they were painted in dual-tone white and brown. An armoured version known as the ZIS-115 was commissioned by Stalin, which featured reinforced aviation armour and bulletproof glass.

The car was powered by a hefty 6002 cc inline-8 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 140 km/h with an acceleration of 23.1 seconds [0-60 mph]. Naturally, whoever owned it would probably not be terribly concerned with the eye-popping fuel consumption of 23 litres / 100 km. With a length of 6000 mm, height of 1730 mm and weighing in at 2575 kg, it was simply The Car to be in. There is a saying that goes "don't measure by the miles per gallon, but the smiles per gallon", which rings true for this instance, but I would probably be feeling like a literal god and forget about the dollars being converted to exhaust gases.

Production of the 110 ended in 1958 (or 1961 as some sources suggest) with just 2,083 cars made. It is estimated that about 200 still exist today, with half of them still on the road. This unit was noted to be a gift by the Soviets to Kim Il Sung, the first leader of the DPRK. It was captured by the ROK forces on 22 October 1950 near the Chongchon river in Pyongyang, where it was subsequently gifted to the widow of General Walton Walker. It made an appearance at the 1951 Los Angeles Motorama, but after that its history became quite murky. Nothing was heard of until 1982, where the UN Korean War Allies Association (UNKWAA) discovered it in the possession of a car collector in New Jersey. The UNKWAA returned the vehicle in 2013, where it has since resided in the War Museum of Korea in Seoul. 

It goes without saying that none of them existed in Singapore: in fact the only time a Russian car brand entered the local market was the short-lived Lada between 1977 to 1981, and subsequently in the 1990s under Togliatti Cars. The lack of maintenance knowledge (and trying to decipher potentially useful manuals in Cyrillic) effectively puts these Soviet-era cars out of reach from even the most enthusiastic collector in this part of the world. The fact that there was one right here in Seoul was a big surprise as I had never heard of its existence before...I hope that this has been a fresh insight to Soviet classic cars, especially one as illustrious as this. Hopefully, you may be able to see it some day!

1 October 2021

More than an old car #179: Sunbeam Rapier

Car events now seem to be a lifetime ago as a result of current restrictions, and I am sure many of us are raring for a time where we can enjoy looking at many cars again without any fear. As a little throwback to when we were oblivious to the situation today, I felt it was a good moment to introduce this little obscurity of a 1956 Sunbeam Rapier!

The Rapier was launched by the Rootes Group in 1955, where it was based off the Hillman Minx. Curiously, the Hillman Minx itself debuted later in 1956 instead. Its styling, undertaken by Raymond Lowey Associates, was heavily influenced by the titular designer's Studebaker Starliner. Car bodies were built by Pressed Steel, shipped to Thrupp & Maberly in London where they were painted, then sent to the Rootes assembly plant where their engines were installed. Overall, the fractured nature of car production back then was an unwieldy beast that had fortunately died out. 

The car was equipped with a steering column gear change, leather trim and a Laycock de Normanville overdrive system. Typical of the period, cars were available in two-tone paint schemes like the above unit. The overdrive system was given praise by the late Sir Stirling Moss, who noted that the car could perform like a 2-litre engine car instead of a 1.3 litre one. Reviews also praised the instrument panel for showing important information at a glance, the wide view from the windscreen and seat comfort. Minor gripes included sluggish brakes and unnecessary clicking sounds when the wipers were in operation.

Despite being a 2-door car, it was able to fit 6 adults decently. Interestingly, the Rapier was also used in competition despite looking anything but sporty: it won the Special Touring Class up to 1600 cc in the 1956 Mille Miglia, and emerged 5th place at the 1958 Monte Carlo rally which were significant achievements. The Rapier was powered by a 1390 cc overhead valve straight-4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 85 mph with an acceleration of 21.7 seconds [0-60 mph]. It was 4070 mm long and had a fuel consumption rate of 9.3 litres / 100 km.

Production of the Series 1 Rapiers ended in 1958 with only 7,477 units made, where it was replaced by the Series 2. Rapiers were sold in Malaya (ie before Singapore became independent) by Lyons Motors Ltd in 1956, where they retailed at $7,180. While some units had been registered here in Singapore, none have survived till today: this unit was from Malaysia which had been here for an event. As with most 50s cars, not many remain partly due to scarcity of parts and knowledge to maintain these machines. With just 20 remaining in the UK, it would be reasonable to approximate around 100 remaining worldwide...

Although cars from your grandparents' era tend to be overlooked, they are veritable time machines that carry a nostalgia for a simpler period of history. The styling cues that appeared pioneered the way for car designs later on and are duly recognised as a significant part of what makes a car, a car. I was fortunate to be able to see this unique rarity, although I lamented not being able to take proper pictures due to the lack of access. While you probably won't see this anytime soon on the roads, I hope this has been fruitful in letting you know about its existence!

17 September 2021

More than an old car #178: Lexus GS300

Real-life stuff has taken the forefront so this page has regrettably being put on the back burner. However, there are just so many cars that I would like to share with you all, so I will still continue to do my best in educating about the old cars here! Having delved into my archives for a fair bit, I was able to re-discover this 1998 Lexus S160 GS300! (which I did not recall taking pictures...)

The GS300 (also known as the Toyota Aristo in Japan) was first conceived in 1988 by Italdesign Giugario, where they aimed to produce a deluxe saloon that favoured a more simplified, European style appearance instead of the many bells and whistles that characterised Japanese cars of that era. The GS name stands for 'Grand Sedan': although it sounded relatively plain, it was still able to convey a sense of luxury. Its name in the Japan market was derived from Aristotle, which had the connotation of 'being the best'. Its design merged elements of the flagship LS and SC coupe to a more rounded, aerodynamic wedge, featuring a higher rear bootlid and wider proportions than rival vehicles. As such, it had a relatively low drag coefficient of 0.31. The car was assembled almost virtually by robots, who performed 4,200 welds while humans only did 8 of them. 

In 1993, development began for the 2nd generation in earnest under chief engineer Yasushi Nakagawa, and a concept was subsequently unveiled at the 1995 Detroit Motor Show. The car was shorter than before, but made considerably larger inside due to a newer wheelbase. Luggage capacity was also increased from 404 to 515 litres and it was even more aerodynamic than its predecessor with a drag coefficient of 0.29. The unique 4-headlight treatment was a head turner, and one could see the resemblance to the Mercedes W210 which appeared shortly before. 

Lexus promoted the arrival of the GS300 with the tagline 'Something Wicked This Way Comes', with good reason: it was fitted with the same engines behind the fan favourite Supra A80, and the US-market cars also received a larger 4-litre engine known as the GS400. This prompted Lexus to claim that it was the world's fastest production sedan in 1997, as it was theoretically able to outrun the BMW E39 M5. In 2000, it received a facelift with a slightly modified grille and subtly tinted headlights, while the interior received more wood trim. Various special editions were also offered throughout its production run, though mostly limited to the Aristo model.

This GS300 was powered by a 2997 cc 2JZ-GE i6 engine, allowing it to reach an electronically-controlled top speed of 230 km/h with an acceleration of 8.2 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 4805 mm long and weighed 2120 kg, with a fuel consumption of 13.3 litres / 100 km.

Production of the S160 series ended in 2005, where it was replaced by the S190 series. Naturally, they are a rare sight nowadays with its relatively pricey road tax, with an estimated 7 left on the roads. GS300s were sold here in 1998 by Borneo Motors and one unit was noted to change hands recently. Despite its rather bland exterior (much like modern car designs), this unassuming executive sedan packs a punch: what better way to arrive on time for your meeting than to be delivered via raw power? 

The GS300 would be what people might call a 'sleeper', although this term has been bandied around for so many times that it has lost the original significance. However, let this not distract you from the fact of its classic and last-survivors status: hopefully this has been useful for you to identify them in the future!

3 September 2021

More than an old car #177: Triumph Herald

Currently I have some time to spare and I felt it would be good to catch up on the backlog. These few days, I aim to look through the archives from years back and see if I can dig out interesting pictures to write on. This picture was taken more than 5 years ago (how time flies!) and this very carpark has been closed recently for redevelopment. However, finding this 1967 Triumph Herald 1200 there was pretty much a stroke of luck!

Towards the end of the 1950s, the Standard-Triumph (ST) company were offering a range of 2-seater Triumph sports cars along with Standard-brand saloons. However, the cars were due for an update and ST began work on what would be the Herald. Initially, the Herald was supposed to be sold under the Standard brand as it fit the model naming scheme (Ensign, Pennant and Standard itself), but this was changed as the Triumph name had more brand equity. 

Giovanni Michelotti was commissioned to style the car, and he quickly developed designs for a 2-door saloon that gave 93% all-round visibility and razor-edge looks which were getting popular. The car featured a separate chassis from the body, and each panel could be unbolted so that different body styles could be used. The instruments only featured a single large speedometer with a fuel gauge on the dashboard, although slightly more perks were available in the saloon. Initially, coupes and saloons fitted with a 948 cc engine were the only versions available, and a convertible was introduced in 1960. 

ST ran into financial difficulties in 1960 and was taken over by Leyland Motors in 1961. This released more resources for the Herald's development and led to the introduction of the 1200, featuring a larger engine, rubber-covered bumpers and a wooden laminated dashboard among other changes. A 3-door estate and a van version known as the Courier were also introduced. The 948 cc cars were phased out by 1964, and around this time an upmarket version known as the Herald 12/50 also made an appearance. It was only available in 2-door saloon form and was distinguished by a vinyl-fabric sunroof (as a standard option) and a fine-barred aluminum grille. 

October 1967 saw the entry of the Herald 13/60 with a restyled front end, and the sunroof was available as an option instead. Engine size increased to 1296 cc and the Herald continued to persist until its style and performance became severely outdated. The Herald was popular enough to outlive the Triumph 1300, which was intended to be the Herald's successor. Interestingly, Heralds remained popular enough for their chassis to be used as kit cars due to the separation between body and chassis mentioned previously.

This particular unit had the 1147 cc OHV i4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 74 mph (119 km/h) with an acceleration of 28.6 seconds [0-60 mph]. It was 3886 mm long and weighed 800 kg, with a fuel consumption of 34 mpg (7 litres / 100 km).

Production of the Herald ended in 1971 with more than 500,000 made, of which 43,299 were the 1200 convertibles. This unit is an original Singapore-registered car and it has gone through a handful of changes: a white stripe was added and the grille design was changed to the standard version (featuring the 2 individual grilles). It was by accident that I saw this car: apparently it was part of a wedding convoy which had stopped at the carpark. There are currently about 4 Heralds here (2 convertibles and 2 saloons), making them relatively scarce in this region. They continue to be unique cars to own, in part of their background and the position it occupies among cars of the 1960s. 

One can only imagine the myriad experiences this unit has experienced over the years. For a car that is almost as old as the country, it still looks almost new and I am inclined to think that it runs well too. While it remains to be seen if it ever makes a reappearance again, this should not be stopping you to hopefully be able to identify it if you are lucky enough!

20 August 2021

More than an old car #176: Volvo S40


It would be reasonable to say that even though I generally know quite a fair bit of old cars, there are still some which slip through the cracks. Being able to find relatively unknown models within famous brands is refreshing, and my thoughts would invariably go "We have this here?" and "How is this still alive?" Seeing this 2001 Volvo S40 evoked the same reactions, especially when it was on campus!

The first S40 was developed and manufactured in collaboration with the Mitsubishi Carisma, an Europe-only model and was intended to replace the 440/460 series. Initially, Volvo wanted to call the cars 'S4' and 'F4' (for the wagon), but Audi had already claimed a trademark on the S4 name. As such, it had to rename them as S40 and V40 respectively, where the V stood for 'versatility'. Designed by Peter Horbury, it debuted at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 1995 and many of them were produced at the Nedcar factory in Born, Netherlands. This also marked the last Volvos to be produced at the Born plant. 

3 different engines (with 1.6 litre, 1.8 litre and 2 litre capacities) were available; Singapore received the 1.8 litre and 2 litre turbocharged (T4) variants, where the latter was used by the Traffic Police Expressway Patrol. In mid-2000, the S40 underwent a facelift and subsequent cars were called 'Phase 2'. Other than external changes such as larger headlights, modified front bumpers and front wings, there were technical improvements such as revised suspensions and larger tyres. Another update came in 2003 with chrome mouldings and a button on the tailgate. This S40 was powered by a 1783 cc B4184 S2 i4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 200 km/h with an acceleration of 10.5 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 4516 mm long and weighed 1255 kg, with a fuel consumption of 11.5 litres / 100 km

Production of the 1st-generation S40 ended in 2004 where it was replaced by the 2nd generation, with a total of about 1 million made. This unit was an unexpected find as it first appeared in school out of nowhere. Gradually, I realised that the owner was apparently a student as well, although I never had a chance to find out more. It has been given an extended lease of life, although whether for 5 years or 10 years remains to be seen. A further check on this car also revealed that it used to be black, before being painted red some time in 2019. While I am hesitant to claim that this is the last one here, it would be prudent to maintain that the number of 1st-gen S40s remaining can be counted on 1 hand. 

S40s were sold here by SM Motors, retailing at S$132,888 in 2000. While Volvo's reputation has been greatly boosted by the legendary 200/700/900 series, the S40 tends to be a 'forgotten child': the loss of its traditional boxy look could have been a factor. Not many would have been aware of its existence and it appears that others have faded out quietly as well. It may look so ordinary that you could have missed it out, but now that you have learnt about this, I would hope that you may be able to recognise it!

8 August 2021

More than an old car #175: BMW E23 745i

It has been a while since I posted as I was busy with real-life stuff. While I may post less often, I will still work on content to continue spreading knowledge about old cars here. There have been many interesting cars that I have seen over the years, and bigger ones just look amazing with their presence. However, big cars does not mean they go slow, as this 1984 BMW E23 745i can attest!

The E23 was the first generation of the 7 Series luxury cars, replacing the earlier E3 series produced in 1968. Its design styling was conceived by Paul Bracq, but he left in 1974; Manfred Rennen continued with work on the exterior styling. At the market launch in 1977, the lower-end 725, 728 and 730 models made their debut. Options available included leather upholstery, wood trim and an in-car cellular telephone, among other creature comforts. Anti-lock braking system was introduced in 1979, and a facelift occurred in 1982 with wider and more 'angular' front grilles, along with changes in the dashboard and controls. 

It was also in 1979 that the range-topping 745i was introduced for the European market, but only in LHD configuration. The name 745i comes from the theoretical assumption that turbocharged engines have approximately 1.4 times more power than naturally aspirated engines. As such, a 3.2 litre (3205 cc) turbocharged engine would have similar power to a 4.5 litre (4487 cc) naturally aspirated engine. Due to the specific engine bay configuration, the additional turbocharger could not be fitted on the left side as it would interfere with the steering column, thus a RHD version was impossible. 

At this moment, the brains at BMW's Rosslyn plant in South Africa sprang into action. Naturally, they were not content with selling a LHD-only car in the RHD SA market. Helmed by Eberhard von Koerber, the team worked closely with Paul Rosche, the head of BMW's Motorsport department and experimented with various possible engines to solve the problem. In the end, instead of using the original 12-valve M106 engine, they proposed using the more potent 24-valve M88/3 3453 cc straight-6 engine, derived from the same heart behind the legendary M1 supercar and designed by Rosche himself no less. It produced more power (280 hp) compared to the Euro version (248 hp) and was the fastest 7-series car in the world when it appeared in 1984.

BMW did not label this unlikely child as an 'M7', and till this day it has never developed a range-topping M version of the 7 series, despite almost all other models having an M version. It is unknown why BMW did not equip the Euro 745i with M88s in the first place, although it is widely conjectured that the M88 was too noisy for a refined luxury sedan. Compared to the Euro 745i, the SA spec had stiffer suspensions and larger 16-inch BBS Mahle alloy wheels on the exterior: there were no M badges or any special trim items. 

The interior, however, was covered in ultra-soft (and expensive) Nappa leather and the centre console was shaped slightly different from the Euro spec. Cars fitted with the automatic transmission also did not have the typical "PRND321" markings, instead it was covered by a leather boot. A review by CAR magazine praised its 'sumptous interior' and noted that it was unassuming enough to be used on grocery runs, and yet true enthusiasts would have a 'marvellous experience, if you could afford it': it retailed for 70,052 rand in 1984, which is equivalent to 1,106,026 rand (S$101,493) in 2021! The SA 745i could reach a top speed of 235 km/h with an acceleration of 7.1 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 4860 mm long and weighed 1690 kg, with a fuel consumption of 9 litres / 100 km

Production of the E23 ended ended in 1986, where it was replaced by the more popular E32 series. Out of around 285,000 units made, only 209 of them were the SA 745i! This unit is one of 197 that was equipped with the 4-speed automatic transmission, and it is plausible that even fewer remain on the road. Decked out in the 745i-specific Arctic (blue) metallic colour with a unique Oyster (tan) interior, it would have looked like just another old car, but there is more that meets the eye. Although E23s were sold previously in Singapore, the SA 745i naturally did not make its way here; this car is noted to be a recent import hailing from Gauteng province. It still sports a sticker from Mapogo A Mathamaga, a private security firm in South Africa. Judging from the dust and overall condition, it appears to have been idle for a long while.

One can only imagine the price paid for such a unicorn, especially when only RHDs can be used in Singapore generally. Being a 'sleeper' as well is the cherry on the cake: owning a bland-looking 4-door car that could give a modern-day Porsche a good run of its money is an ultimate power move. I had always wondered if someone brought this exclusive version here after reading about it some time back, and lo and behold, my dream was answered. I admit that I nearly overlooked its rarity and thought it was just a typical E23 that was brought in, even though it was a novelty in itself since apparently only 1 original Singapore unit remains. Just to make sure, I went to the back to check for badges and was dumbfounded to see the real McCoy.

It is likely that it will be registered some time in the future, although how long will that be is a question in itself. I am sure that when it appears, it would be in better shape than it is now; although I like the rather rugged look. Who knows what stories are there behind all the chipped paint and rust? Do stay tuned for this unique rarity!

9 July 2021

Miscellaneous classics #7: Mitsubishi Fuso Fighter


It has been a while since I wrote about commercial vehicles, and these days I have been paying attention to them more. There are a few gems that I have found which naturally most people would be hard-pressed to notice. I don't mean this in a negative way, just that these are vehicles that would be rarer than the exotic cars on the street. Since they are out there 'for the picking' and usually ignored, why not learn more about them? It was by accident that I discovered this 1990 Mitsubishi Fuso Fighter FM557F in a random corner, and it took quite a while to get more details due to the lack of identification marks...

The Fuso Fighter appeared in 1984, as the successor to the aging FK series of medium-sized trucks. Positioned between the small Canter and the large The Great, it adopted the same headlights, doors and rear panels of its bigger sibling. Some export markets featured 4 round headlights, although units in Singapore were fitted with square headlamps. In 1987, a panel moulding was attached to the top of the radiator grille, although it is noted that this feature was not necessarily applied to all units. Depending on the market, there were even variations in the logos: some units featured the word "Mitsubishi" on the grille, while other units had "Fuso". Japanese-market units had the words on the panel moulding mentioned previously, so the only way to get the actual age was to check the vehicle registry...

Compared to cars, there were a lot more truck body variations, each with its unique chassis identification. This unit is recorded as a FM557F, which could be deduced to represent a short wheelbase, and I believe the B10M label is not original. The Fighter was powered by a hefty 7545 cc Mitsubishi 6D16 inline-6 diesel engine, but as with all commercial vehicles here, its speed was capped to 60 km/h. It was 6,635 mm long and weighed 6,150 kg due to the towing apparatus, but its overall towing capacity could reach 16,000 kg

Production of the 1st-generation Fighter continued until 1992, where it was replaced by the 2nd generation which is still in production today. A cursory look at the heavy vehicles plying the roads here would reveal a majority of Fuso Fighters: dump trucks, cement mixers and others. However, almost all of the 1st generation Fighters have disappeared here mainly due to age, emission controls and relative lack of comfort. This could very well be one of the last survivors, as I am only aware of just 1 other old Fighter that is under restricted use in construction! Even this unit is not often seen on the road...

Older tow trucks technically do not have a lifespan limit based on the registry: they are only hindered by the owner's willingness to extend its COE, or its right to be on the road. While it is natural that people tend to use these heavy vehicles for hard work and have less sentimental value towards them, I think it is still remarkable that this unit continues to defy the odds and continue to serve its purpose. It may still be second nature to brush off these old clunkers since they do not look glamorous, but just take a minute to appreciate this relic if you do see it!

25 June 2021

More than an old car #174: Mercedes W140


The 90s was a transition period: cars were becoming less angular and increased safety regulations led to many radical changes both inside and outside. Amidst all this change, the various car manufacturers also had to consider how this would impact their sales. With the well-heeled customers becoming more discerning of their tastes, various vehicles rose to the challenge such as this 1996 Mercedes W140 S420L!

The genesis of the W140 began back in 1981 with the project being helmed by Bruno Sacco. Several design proposals were studied from 1982 to 1986, and various engine designs were also considered in 1987. The overall design of the W140 took cues from other luxury cars of the period, such as the BMW E32 and the Jaguar XJ40. However, with the introduction of the Lexus LS400 in 1989 and BMW's development of their own V12 engine, Daimler-Benz were forced to make adjustments in order to ensure the W140 remained competitive: this led to cost overruns and a delay in release as a result.

However, when it finally debuted in 1991 at the Geneva Motor Show, the wait felt well-deserved. It was replete with luxuries such as heated seats, double-paned soundproof glass, leather interior and the introduction of rear-parking markers (later replaced by the Parktronic/parking assistance guide). The braking system was also improved and the Electronic Stability Program (ESP) made use of on-board computers to help with vehicle response during difficult driving conditions. 

As with the W126, the sedans were available in short and long-wheelbase versions along with a coupe (which subsequently became known as the CL class). Various engines were offered, from 2.8 litres all the way to 6 litres. All models were renamed in 1993, becoming S_ _ _ regardless of wheelbase length, body style and engine type. In 1994, there was a first facelift which featured wider headlights and radiator grille, while the rear headlights were joined by a bar running across the width. Another facelift happened in mid-1996 (like this unit) with the rear indicators now clear instead of amber, along with the introduction of front passenger airbags and xenon headlights. 

The S420L had a 4196 cc M119 V8 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 245 km/h with an acceleration of 8.3 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 5213 mm long and weighed a rather hefty 2000 kg, with an equally thirsty fuel consumption of 14.2 litres / 100 km. All things considered, it was faster than it looked: the V8 engines did its job well in providing a sedate ride for the mostly upper-class passengers. There was much criticism about how bloated it was although the sheer luxury of the interior mitigated some of the unhappiness: how could you not resist sinking yourself into those sofa seats?

Production of the W140 ended in 1998, where it was succeeded by the W220 series. More than 432,000 units were made, of which 35,191 were the extended wheelbase S420 sedans. There are still a handful of lower-end S280/S320 units which can still be found once in a while, although higher-capacity engines like this unit could very well be the last man standing. The W140 was also a popular choice for the movers and shakers of its day: well-loved by CEOs, celebrities, dictators and even gangs. Princess Diana died in one and the Japanese yakuza were so often seen in them that the "yakuza/VIP style" modifications arose from it.

Interestingly, I saw this particular unit just 1 day apart: it turned up at a carpark near my area although the owner does not reside here. It is still out and about, although finding what would probably be the last one in Singapore may prove to be a tall order. Seeing a 90s barge on the road is nonetheless a sight to behold...perhaps you may see this one day!

11 June 2021

More than an old car #173: Daihatsu Move


It gives me great pleasure to share about old cars in Singapore, from the overly exotic to the downright quotidian. While most people naturally gravitate to the weird and wonderful, I have a soft spot for rather common ones as well, which the Constant Reader would have known from my posts. What makes it more unfortunate is that most people would not even know of their existence until they disappear, such as this 1999 Daihatsu Move L901...

The Move first appeared in 1995, where it shared the same platform as the kei-size Mira. Classified as a light "tall wagon" or minivan, the additional overhead space was much welcomed compared to the Mira. This 2nd-generation L900 Move (also known as the L901 for export markets), was introduced in 1998 due to the revision of collision safety for mini vehicles. While it followed its predecessor's design in order to save costs, the overall appearance was modernised. Italdesign Giugario was involved in making this rather unassuming car look attractive: considering the standards of its time, it has not fared too badly.

A variety of grades were available for the Japanese domestic market although the engine size was capped at 659 cc. These included a turbocharged version known as the Aero Down Custom, on top of various add-ons like aero parts and decals on the doors. Export versions had a larger engine but consequently less varied than its Japanese siblings. Closer to home, the Perodua Kenari was introduced in 2000, where it shared many similarities with the Move.

The Move was powered by a 989 cc EJ-DE i3 engine, although JDM versions had the 659 cc EF-SE engines in order to qualify as a kei car. It could reach a top speed of 140 km/h, with an acceleration of 15 seconds [0-100 km/h]. As a result of kei car deimnsions, it was only 3411 mm long and weighed 790 kg, with a fuel consumption of 5.7 litres / 100 km

Production of the 2nd generation Move ended in 2002 where it was succeeded by the L150 series. However, the made-in-Malaysia Kenari remained up till 2009: there are still quite a handful in Singapore. The same cannot be said for the Move: this unit was scrapped just 4 days after I saw it outside the Toyota/Lexus showroom and I believe none still remain here. It happened to be driven by a car dealer: the owner might had wanted to trade it in for something newer. Interestingly, the steering wheel had been modified to accommodate a disabled driver, similar to this contraption here:

I felt it was both amazing and poignant that this little workhorse had served its owner for the past 20 years even through disability, until it outlived its usefulness: perhaps the owner may have given up driving for good, or had chosen one of the newer Toyotas out there in order to continue enjoying the freedom of the road. Truth be told, the Move just felt puny and probably inadequate for future driving duty. 

While the Move has gone the way of the dodo at least in Singapore, I was still glad to have captured this unassuming classic right before it disappeared, and I will continue to try to preserve our car history as the years go by! Hope that this has been a refreshing peek into something you might not have observed usually...

21 May 2021

More than an old car #172: Nissan Safari

In my years of spotting, I have seen all sorts of cars: big to small, exotic and normal. However, seeing this 1985 Nissan Safari fire engine was surreal, notwithstanding the vehicle choice but the sheer coolness of it. How many of you would claim to see an old fire engine in the middle of nowhere?

The Patrol is a series of 4-wheel drive vehicles, which was first introduced in 1951. The first-generation models bore a strong resemblance to the Willys Jeep and heralded a new direction in Japanese automobile manufacturing, along with the advent of the rugged Toyota Land Cruiser. The 3rd generation, known as the 160 series, made its appearance in 1980. It was at this point that the 'Safari' name began to be used for Japanese-market vehicles: overseas units were still sold as the Patrol. The Safari was available in a few styles, including a double-cab chassis for fire trucks and were produced at the Nissan Kyushu factory. 

In 1982, the Nissan logo was moved to the centre of the grille and an an extra engine was added to the lineup. Around that time, production of the Patrol also began in Spain where some were used as army vehicles. The round headlights were changed to rectangular ones in 1985 and it remained somewhat unchanged till the end of production in 1994, with around 13,250 registered in Japan.

The Safari was powered by a 3956 cc PF40 i6 engine (a special version for fire trucks compared to the standard SD33 engine), allowing it to reach a top speed of 150 km/h with an acceleration of 15.3 seconds (0-100 km/h). It was 4795 mm long and weighed 2100 kg, with a fuel consumption of 14.8 litres / 100 km.

Based on the (faded) wordings on the truck and various plaques on it, chassis number 403876 was fitted by Yoshitani Kikai Seisakusho, Inc., a manufacturer of fire trucks and fire-fighting equipment in Showa 60 (1985), where it had a water pump with serial number 60-2014A. It was owned by the Yamaguchi plant of Kyowa Hakko Bio Co Ltd, a manufacturer of pharmaceutical products. 


While no Safaris existed in Singapore back then, much less a fire engine version, you could imagine how this unit would have been like when it was called up for duty. A controlled rush, sirens flashing, loudhailer blaring, and the rush of water flowing from the hose...perhaps it may have seen active duty before being owned by the pharmaceutical company: firefighters standing at the back or cramped in the cab, both tense yet composed?

How or why it ended up here so far from home would make for an interesting thought exercise: it is unlikely to be registered here, so perhaps a static display or sorts? Who knows what adventures, fires, incidents it has seen in Japan, only to end up rather ignominiously with a fridge for French baby food stuffed in the seat. It was a bizarre surprise to see a fridge for a passenger...

Incidentally, the Safari would have been dwarfed by the fire engines that we used in the 80s to 90s such as Scania and Dennis trucks. Evidently, its size must have been adapted to the narrow roads and cramped places. While I don't know if it is still around, I hope this has been informative in exposing you to the more unconventional classic vehicles here: it's not all about cars as you would have seen!

13 May 2021

More than an old car #171: Austin 8

The next few weeks may be busy for me, so please understand if my posts are not that regular. With that said, let me introduce you to this 1946 Austin 8, which I believe many would not have heard about it...

The Austin 8 was first introduced in 1939, which incidentally coincided with WW2. It succeeded the best-selling Austin 7 as the predecessor had become increasingly dated for customers. A restyling was called for and following the arrival of Leonard Lord, the development of a new car was accelerated. The chassis was completely new and was bolted to the body, with semi-elliptic leaf springs for its suspensions. Initially, 4 base models were introduced: 2 and 4-door saloons, 2 and 4-door tourers and a van. There was also a special version made for the British military known as the 'Tilly', which was a purely 2-seater tourer featuring some differences from the civilian units. 

After the war, production resumed but this time, only the 4-door six light saloon and van remained. However, tourers were still produced but only in Australia by General Motors-Holden. Reviews at that time were positive: there was admiration on the effectiveness of its handling, straightforward control panel, brakes and general convenience for passengers such as a large boot, sun visor and rear blinds. The Austin 8 was powered by a 900 cc 4-cylinder engine (the same as the Austin 7), allowing it to reach a top speed of 56 mph (90 km/h), with an acceleration of 40.5 seconds (0-80 km/h). It was 149 inches (3785 mm) long and weighed 15.5 cwt (787 kg), with a fuel consumption of 38.7 miles per gallon (6 litres / 100 km).

Production of the 8 ended in 1948 with 56,103 units made, of which an estimated 189 post-war saloons are known to exist today. This particular unit is understood to be an original Singapore car with registration S8192: Austin 8s were sold here based on old newspaper records. It still exists here today to my knowledge under a new number plate, and the yellow-black paint really makes it stand out. As with many cars from this era, they are pretty obscure to begin with. While I do not know if it will appear anytime soon, I hope that this has been informative about a organic slice of Singapore's motor history!

(credits to @garytsl on Instagram)

30 April 2021

More than an old car #170: Toyota Hilux Surf


Having left school for a while, I look back at schooling days with some nostalgia. Throughout my time, I have come across old cars of varying shapes and sizes, and this 1993 Toyota Hilux Surf SSR-X was one of the stand-outs just because it was so uncommon...

The Hilux Surf was first conceived of back in 1981 with a prototype conversion done to the Hilux truck known as the Trekker. It was done by the Winnebago company with approval from Toyota and assembled only in the US. In 1984, the Hilux Surf (or 4Runner for the export version) came into being by modifying the short-bed Hilux truck: as such all the Hilux Surfs for the 1st generation only had 2 doors. 

For the 2nd generation, the car featured a freshly designed body although it remained identical from the B-pillar onwards. Almost all units were now available in 4-door format, with very few 2-door units made. In 1991, it underwent a facelift featuring more irregularly-shaped headlights. There were also different special edition models released as well. Interestingly, opening the rear tailgate of the Hilux Surf required one to retract the glass window into the tailgate, then opening the tailgate just like a pickup truck. This differed from its competitors which had the tailgate open upwards along with the glass.

The car was available in various trims from the base 'SSR' through 'SSR Ltd', 'SSR-V' 'SSR-X' and 'SSR-X Ltd' to the range topping 'SSR-G'. Various engines were also offered for the car, but this unit was powered by a 2982 cc 1KZ-TE turbo i4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 155 km/h with an acceleration of 16 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 4490 mm long and weighed 1880 kg, with a fuel consumption of 11.5 litres / 100 km.

Production of the 2nd generation Hilux Surf ended in 1995 with the arrival of the 3rd generation; about 308,549 units had been registered by then. This is a Malaysian unit as none are known to exist locally today, although small numbers were present back in the 90s where they were used as company vehicles. There has been an increasing number of Japanese SUVs being imported here over the past few years, as more people fall in love with its rugged nature. It is likely that similar units may end up here in the next few years (when they are able to get registered). Until then, you will be extremely lucky to see one before that!

17 April 2021

More than an old car #169: Daimler Six


It is not surprising that car manufacturers have created various sub-brands to cater to different target audiences. Jaguar went the less common route by acquiring Daimler back then, but it still continues to captivate people with this 1996 Daimler Six!

The Jaguar X300 series of cars, introduced in 1994 at the Paris Motor Show, was the first XJ series produced under Ford ownership. It was the result of an extensive facilities renewal program by Ford: for instance, there were state-of-the-art body welding robots used in production of the car bodies. Externally, the bonnet became more curved to accommodate the 4 separate round headlamps and the bumpers were now integrated with the body.

4 different engines were used: 3.2 litres, 4.0 litres (turbocharged and non-turbocharged) and a 6.0 litre V12. However, these engines were used in a variety of trim levels, along with a long-wheelbase version which appeared in 1995 (known internally as the X330). The Daimler name was used for the highest trim level of the X300, featuring chrome door mirrors, door handles and a fluted grille surround. Models with the 4 litre engine were known as the Daimler Six while those with the 6 litre engine were known as the Daimler Double Six. 

It was powered by a 3980 cc AJ16 inline-6 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 232 km/h with an acceleration of 8.1 seconds [0-100 km/h]. Being the LWB version, it was 5149 mm long and weighed 1825 kg, with a fuel consumption of 10.6 litres / 100 km.

Production of the X300 ended in 1997 with 92,038 made, where it was succeeded by the X308 series. Out of these, only 1,330 were the Daimler Six in LWB, which makes it surprisingly rare. An estimated 3 Daimler Sixes still exist here including this one. The fact that I saw this unit a few times is a pleasant surprise especially when they become unicorns in this country. Daimler were positioned for the people who wanted more exclusivity from common Jaguars, but not shell out too much for such privilege. I'm sure you'll get to see this some day! 

2 April 2021

More than an old car #168: Honda S800


I have been focused on mainly continental brands, and perhaps it is time to shift my content back to something more Asia-centric...anyway, here's a 1967 Honda S800 from my archives in 2014, and as you can see picture quality leaves much to be desired..

The S800, first introduced at the 1965 Tokyo Auto Show, was the successor to the S600 and competed with the likes of small sports cars such as the MG Midget and Triumph Spitfire. The noticeable differences were a different grille shape compared to the S600, a larger engine and a power bulge on the hood, which served an aesthetic purpose only. 

The potent engine was also high-revving to the point that it was described as the fastest production 1-litre car in the world back in 1967. Early examples (about 1,600 cars) featured a chain drive and independent suspension up to 1968, when subsequent units featured a conventional drive-shaft and disc brakes. In 1968, the S800M was released for the domestic market, featuring side marker lights on the outside and flush-mounted interior door handles. While these changes were geared for the American market, they were not exported there officially.

The S800 was powered by a 791 cc AS800E i4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 160 km/h with an acceleration of 13.5 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 3335 mm long and weighed 720 kg, with a fuel consumption of 8.6 litres/100 km

Production of the S800 ended in 1970 with 11,536 units made. Honda did not make another S roadster for nearly 30 years until the S2000. This unit does not seem to exist here anymore, although I am aware of a newly-imported coupe that is currently here. I regret not taking better shots of it when it resided in the area up till 2016, where it was owned by a Japanese man. That being said, having a scuffed shot is still better than nothing, and perhaps you may get to see the existing ones soon!

12 March 2021

More than an old car #167: Cadillac Fleetwood

The past few weeks has been busy, but I am still thankful to have this private space to write on what I am passionate about. Having been asked to cover some rare cars, I am still fascinated by the variety of unicorns here, such as this 1980 Cadillac Fleetwood Series 75!

The Series 75 was a series of full-size (ie very large) cars produced by Cadillac from the 1930s till the 1980s. When they were first introduced, they featured body styles by Fleetwood, a coachbuilder that had been absorbed by General Motors in 1931. The 'Fleetwood' name was thus applied to Cadillacs later on in history to signify a higher trim than the pedestrian Series 62/Deville. A modern equivalent would be the Mercedes Maybach models compared to the regular S-Class cars, but the size of typical American cars back in the day could match, or even exceed the Rolls-Royces of today.

In 1977, the '10.5th' generation Series 75s were introduced: online data do not really recognise it as a separate generation but a continuation of the 10th generation 75s. The main difference was a decrease in engine and overall size. In 1981, the engine was given a unique 'modulated displacement' system designed by Eaton Corporation, which in layman's terms meant that the engine cylinders could be deactivated. This was supposed to help the car run effectively under light load conditions, but it proved to be too much to handle for the onboard computer: this engine was dropped after just 1 year. This unit was powered by a 6030 cc (368 cubic inch) L62 V8 engine (not the special engine), allowing it to reach a top speed of 171 km/h with an acceleration of 15.2 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 6205 mm long, weighed 2161 kg and had an incredibly thirsty fuel consumption of 19.9 litres/100 km.

Production of this '10.5 generation' ended in 1984, where it was replaced by the even more-downsized 11th generation. Interestingly, this unit was an actual Singapore car: it was a 'barn find' that had been registered briefly, before it got cast aside by the owner and never put up for sale. The car was left untouched for some 20 years before it got bought over by a group of local collectors. Restoration seems to be in progress as it looks better than when I saw it 2 years ago. However, given the dearth of spare parts, getting it on the road again would be an interesting project. Cadillacs in general existed in small numbers during the 80s, back when RHD conversions were tacitly allowed. However, the difficulty in maintaining American cars and exorbitant taxes led to their extinction. 

Having seen it up close, I can attest to how huge it is. It would definitely be a head-turner if it ever goes out on the road: all other cars would look positively tiny beside it. However, its length is also a curse: HDB carparks would become out-of-bounds to such a behemoth. I have no idea when it will ever be registered, but if it happens, you would not be able to miss this one!