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!