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...