Saturday, July 08, 2017

Triumph Spitfire

In 1972, as soon as I got the job with SSB as a trainee production wireline operator, I was sent to BSP in Brunei for two years’ training. I was staying at the SRC bachelor flats. I bought my very first car in Brunei. It was a twenty year old Triumph Spitfire! It cost only 2000 dollars. The special thing about this car was its twin Weber carburetor which was the fore runner of the turbo charger.

The car had very good pick-up in spite of its age, was therefore very fast off the mark! It was a real sports car, a convertible. The bonnet was hinged in front and opened the other way, forward. There was a lot of room for the mechanic to work on the car as it had only a small 1.2 litre engine. Wearne Brothers in Seria could not give it a proper tune-up because that car was just too old! It never performed 100%.

I learned to drive by driving this sports coupe to work every morning for a month. Then, I went to KB with a licensed driver for my driving test! The oral test was easy because I knew the highway code as I had a motor cycle driving license for many years. The practical test was harder because I had problems negotiating the S bends tests.

However, I surprised the vehicle tester and myself; because the Spitfire’s steering wheel could turn the front wheels beyond 80 degrees and I managed to just clear the last stick! Most saloon cars cannot over steer like that!

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Datsun 100A

Christine did not like this car, a Datsun 100A which I bought new for her in 1975. She complained a lot about the front suspension noise because it was a front wheel drive! The engine was only one litre and it had no air conditioner! The only plus point was the child proof door lock for the rear doors. The children were still very young and this small car was the ideal family car for us then.

I was driving an old Austin Healey Sprite. We became a two car family! I also kept my Honda 175 motor cycle which I used mainly for entertaining the kids on my days off from working as trainee driller on the oil rigs.

They also love rides in the convertible which I used mainly for going to the golf course in the early 80's. I was working on the oil rigs; doing a one week ON and one week OFF schedule. Plenty of time for me to play golf in the early 80's.

Later, after I retired in NZ, I went back to playing golf 4x a week in Hamilton. Life is great because this time all the golf courses are at temperatures in the low 20's; almost like air conditioned courses compared to those in Miri.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Fiat 125

My next car in 1973 was a 12 year old Fiat 125 bought for 2.5K in Brunei. Its engine was very smooth and quiet on the high way. It had an external rubber timing belt which was ok for the clean roads of Italy and Europe; but entirely unsuitable for the dusty sand roads and dirt tracks of Borneo!

Here is Sungei Lima on the Kuala Baram road which is flooded quite frequently during the wet Landas season.

Also very often, it refused to start in the morning. After sitting idle for a few days, the battery became dead. I knew nothing about cars then and could not cope with all the constant breakdowns. Quite often I had to go to work on the Yamaha motor cycle which I kept as a spare. Even today, I still keep a mobile phone in the glove box which I use for calling AA! It is seldom turn ON and I don't even know my own tel. number!

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Toyota GL

After five years, I inherited the Datsun 100A when my wife bought a new Toyota GL in 1980. It has air conditioning! The GL was one of the best models produced by Toyota and she was very pleased with it for a while. There were two drivers; but we then had 3 cars! When we got ready to move into our new house in Pujut I was required to sell one car.

The Austin Healey Sprite was sold reluctantly because all the kids loved riding in it! It was my trade mark, going to the golf course against the peak hour traffic with a pipe in my mouth and my golf set sticking out on purpose on the small back seat for all to see. It really killed them going in the opposite direction to work in Lutong. Ibrahim Ahmad had an MGB with spoke wheels but he doesn't play golf. I believe that he lived on a boat in Labuan after he retired from Shell.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Isuzu Trooper/ Subaru 1.6

Soon, I swapped the Datsun for an Isuzu Trooper, 2.3 litre, 4x4 diesel jeep. That cost me another 25K. However it had plenty of oomph for towing the boats across logs and all, on the beach. The only minus point was, this jeep was bright yellow in colour and the diesel engine was very noisy! I used it for 10 years until I bought an old Subaru 1.6 litre station wagon in 1993 for 7K. That was supposed to become my retirement car. Kevin used the jeep to drive Pearl and Eugene to school.

We became a 3 car family![3] After he went to New Zealand to do form 7 in 1994, Pearl became the driver and she sent Eugene to school. She, however, preferred to drive the Subaru mostly, because she discovered that it had more oomph than the jeep. I tried to make the jeep more attractive by respraying it blue and renovating the cushions and carpets; but it was no use. I ended up driving that old jeep once more until I left Miri, in January 1996! It was sold for 14K to Gregory Tan's brother in-law.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Honda, Mercedes, Volvo, Mitsubishi Challenger

So, on arrival in NZ, the first car I bought was a twelve year old, 1.6 litre Honda Accord(6.8K) followed soon by a Mercedes 280SE (7.8K)and then a Volvo 760GLE (9K)! These had been my dream cars for far too long. I cannot tahan any more. The only problem now is, what do I drive next?! (answer? my next car) Luxury cars tend to spoil their owner’s taste for ordinary cars like Toyota!

Recently, when I had some visitors from home, we drove 4000 Km around the north island in my Volvo. I was showing my in-laws: - Napier/Hastings, Wellington, Rotorua, Taupo, Tauranga, Bay of Islands and Auckland. All I could hear in the Volvo was just the wind on the outside mirrors! In my Isuzu jeep, I could not even hear myself thinking, not to mention the stereo!

The public transport system in New Zealand is rather poor. A car here is not a luxury at all. It is a necessity, for use to get to work and for going on weekend breaks away from the cities and on holidays. A few years ago, the NZ government decided to remove the 12.5% import tax on used cars. For 8 to 10K one can now buy quite a reasonable car, say a 6 year old Japanese import, 1.6 to 2 litres. Prices of used cars have dropped considerably since I came here in 1995.

However, one must be prepared to write off about 3K a year on a car's value due to depreciation, depending on the model and age. All repairs, running, maintenance and other associated costs are not recoverable! A top over-haul to replace the head gasket cost 1,200 dollars. I know, because I had to do that for both the Honda and the Mercedes! So far so good, the Volvo was less costly to maintain than the previous cars which were all around 12 years old when I first bought them. The old Honda was given away for 500 dollars, the Merc traded for 4K after maintenance cost of 12K over two years! It was a very expensive experience for me indeed!

The moral of this story is: Don’t pretend to be a timber tycoon when you are not! The Volvo was an excellent buy. Besides the usual small electrical problems with sunroof and windows, the engine runs very smoothly except in the morning, when it needed to be warmed up properly for 5 minutes! I was very satisfied with it and was quite reluctant to let it go. It looks like I am stuck with the 4x4 for a while yet. I need its oomph to tow my 22 foot yacht over the Kaimai ranges to Tauranga.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Four wheel drive

For practical reasons, I have decided early that my next purchase was going to be a 4x4. This was due to my Volvo being stuck on the wet lawn in front of the Ngaroto sailing club one weekend. Everyone has left and I was starting to panic because I could not get home! In the end, an old couple in an old Holden gave me a hand. I hitched the boat to the Holden and it was towed from the grass on to the gravel road for me and I was ok!

Now the question is: should I buy a 4x4 just in case?! The Musso made in Korea is very attractive indeed because it has a Mercedes engine and looks very striking and unusual. I could probably drive it for a while because it is diesel and cheap to run. Need to find out whether it is turbo charged or not. Then it is ok for motorway driving. I can live with that. Some boat ramps are extremely slippery for recovering boats from the water on to the trailer. At Miranda, near the firth of Thames, there is no boat ramp, only the river bank at low tide! Only a 4 x 4 would work properly there. However, the sea water would be a killer for the Volvo which has a low suspension. I must consider whether to stay on the fresh water lakes or go offshore.

Some of you may be wondering what type of car will I buy next. It will most likely be a Rolls Royce. Please click on this link (coloured letters) to see my next car! :)