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)