27 May 2022

More than an old car #192: Honda Civic (SB)

I can't believe that it's been almost 3 years since I followed along for a drive: so many things have changed since then and I hope that we have rounded a corner currently. What caught my attention was this lovely 1979 Honda Civic SB: this unit is currently the only 1st-generation Civic that exists here, though who knows there could be more brought in soon...

Designed by Shinya Iwakura, the Civic was largely developed as a new platform: it was the result of taking the previous Honda N600 by making it larger, along with the doubling of the engine capacity. Its smaller size allowed it to outperform American competitors, especially when the 1973 oil crisis hit. The good fuel mileage and compact design attracted many peopled away from large cars such as the Toyota Crown. Originally available in fastback sedan and hatchback form, a wagon version was introduced in 1974. Fastback sedans (like this unit) can be distinguished from the hatchback based on whether the rear portion could be opened fully. 

In 1975, a revised engine with CVCC (Compound Vortex Controlled Combustion) was released. It had a head design that promoted cleaner, more efficient combustion: this eliminated the need for catalytic converters or unleaded fuel to meet changing emissions standards. Civics had a sales advantage because the buyer could choose any type of fuel or gasoline products available, making it even more popular in the aftermath of the oil crisis. Despite it, Civics were prone to rust especially during winter: nearly a million cars were recalled by the NHTSA and owners had the right to receive replacements or cash reimbursements.

Civics were also assembled in New Zealand and Indonesia with only certain ranges available. A sportier model known as the Civic RS was released for the Japanese market only with a more powerful engine and increased performance parts. It received a facelift in 1978, featuring a black grille, 1/2 amber signals (from 1/3 amber signals) and reverse lights mounted on the bumper.

This unit was powered by a 1238 cc EB2 inline-4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 147 km/h with an acceleration of 13.7 seconds [0-100 km/h]. With dimensions of 3560 x 1505 x 1330 mm and weighing in at just 670 kg, it was deft enough to navigate the relatively small streets of Japan. The fuel consumption of 8.6 litres / 100 km was the answer to concerns of thirstiness in view of the oil crisis.

Production of the first-generation Civic ended in 1979, where it was succeeded by the second-generation model. Civics were sold here in 1973 where the 2-door hatchback retailed for S$9,400. Local reviews praised its comfort level despite its small size, along with precise steering and excellent al-round visibility. None of the original Civics in Singapore still exist: this 2-door sedan was imported from Malaysia in 2018. As of the time of writing, it is up for sale at $29,888 which I feel is a reasonable price given that demand for old Japanese cars will continue to rise across the board. 

The Civic name is quintessentially Honda, and the juxtaposition between the grandfather of economy cars and its modern-day descendants is eye-boggling to say the least. It kept Honda in business and paved the way for the company to go from strength to strength: subsequent Civics remain much loved, or at the least acknowledged for its reliability and affordability. Here's to the 'car of the people' and I hope you will see this old beauty one day! 

14 May 2022

More than an old car #191: Porsche 924 Carrera GT

Does anyone feel that as you grow older, time flows even faster? It's already quite a distance into 2022 and I still can't believe that we are getting older at a faster rate. However, this lovely 1981 Porsche 924 Carrera GT in stunning Guards Red still looks timeless today even among its admittedly more powerful descendants.

Originally conceived as a joint project between Volkswagen and Porsche, 'Project 425' was intended to be VW's flagship coupe sports car and Porsche's replacement for the 914. VW had no experience in developing sporty cars and Porsche had been doing this all the while: per a deal that went back to the 1940s, Porsche was contracted to develop a new sporty vehicle with the condition that the vehicle must work with an existing VW / Audi inline-4 engine. 

The 1973 oil crisis and various automobile-related regulatory changes led to the scrapping of the project by VW, but Porsche made a deal to buy it back. It already had a rear-wheel drive layout and a rear-mounted transaxle to help provide 48/52 front/rear weight distribution. Under the aforementioned deal, the car was to be made at the ex-NSU factory at Neckarsulm: Porsche would own the design while VW employees would do the actual production line work. The car was mated to VW's EA831 2-litre engine, variants of which were used in the VW Transporter van; many other parts such as the gearbox and strut arms came from the VW / Audi parts bin, leading to lower costs of production.

Designed by Harm Lagaay, it was fundamentally different from previous Porsche models since the engine was now installed at the front. It was described as designed by someone 'who dreamed of a Ferrari all his life but never got one'. The front end was long and sloped steeply with pop-up headlights, contributing to its relatively low Cd of 0.34. As a 2+2 coupe, the rear seats was only suitable for children or small people due to limited space (which was partly taken up by the large trunk capacity of 370 litres). It adopted various styling elements from other cars, such as its rear window from the Jensen Interceptor and the rear quarter windows from the Honda Civic.

Porsche recognised a need for a higher-performance version of the 924 as the base model was noted to be underpowered. This led to the introduction of the 924 Turbo in 1978, which had a turbocharged engine, a NACA duct and 4 slotted air vents on the badge panel. Just one year later, a concept 924 was submitted at the Frankfurt Motor Show to introduce ideas for the upcoming 944. In 1980, the 924 Carrera GT was released: visual differences included a polyurethane plastic front and rear flared guards, a polyurethane front spoiler, a large top-mounted air scoop for the intercooler and a flush mounted front windscreen. There was also more aggressive versions known as the GTS and the GTR, which had further weight-saving features.

The Carrera GT was powered by a 1984 cc turbocharged VW EA831 inline-4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 240 km/h with an acceleration of 6.9 seconds [0-100 km/h]. Its power output of 210 bhp due to the additional intercooler was the critical difference that set it apart from its regular siblings. With dimensions of 4200 x 1685 x 1270 mm and weighing in at 1180 kg, it was small yet potent in performance. Its fuel consumption of 9.1 litres / 100 km is representative of its high performance.

Production of the 924 ended in 1988 with more than 150,000 made. Just 406 of them were the Carrera GT, of which 75 were in RHD. It is estimated that only about 42 still remain worldwide and this unit is believed to be 1 of 2 that still exists here: it has been here since 1981 (when it was sold by Ngo Hock Auto Spares Co Pte Ltd, the local Porsche dealer back then) and still carries normal registration! 

924s are increasingly finding favour among enthusiasts and some have been imported recently. However, Carrera GTs remain ultra-exclusive and finding one on the market at a reasonable price is a tall order. Its continued existence is a testament to the past owners' undying passion (and funds spent) to keep this ultimate driving machine on the roads today. With its splendid Guards Red exterior paint, it is an eye-turner despite its age. From my understanding, this unit has been put up for sale: if you are looking for something powerful yet extraordinary, this could be the one for you!

6 May 2022

Miscellaneous classics #9: Daihatsu Delta

It has been a while since I wrote about non-car vehicles. Being enamoured with all things angular/squarish, I had always wanted to write about this 1985 Daihatsu Delta V78 ever since I saw it!

The Daihatsu Delta was a rebodied version of the U10 Toyota Dyna and was first introduced in 1970. Daihatsu had previously entered into a business alliance with Toyota Motor Corporation in 1967 and naturally, the Delta shared many parts with its brother car Dyna. The 3rd generation Delta appeared in 1984: it differed from the Y50 Dynas by its 4 rectangular headlights compared to round headlights, although the Dynas received quad rectangular headlights in 1989. Interestingly, there was also a van version of the Delta: it was essentially a truck chassis fused with a typical van.

Various versions with different cab sizes and functions were released. This unit, known as the V78 Delta was powered by a 3431 cc Toyota 3B i4 engine. It had dimensions of 4695 x 1695 x 1995 mm with a weight of 2360 kg.

Production of the 3rd-generation Delta ended in 1995, though it was continued to be made exclusively for export markets with a facelift to the grille. It was only in 2010 that production stopped entirely. A small handful of Deltas still remain here, with some still seeing usage as tow trucks. This particular unit has an interesting history: it was previously owned by a Hindu temple services company specifically to tow a silver chariot during certain Hindu festivals. Despite sporting an early 90s number plate, it is noted that the original registration was in 1986: it is likely that it could have towed cars before being converted.

While old trucks do not get the same amount of love and affection from many others, I have tried to bring a spotlight on them all this while. I hope that next time, you might be able to recognise them for their role in our motoring heritage!