RE­MEM­BER­ING MY FIRST CLASSIC

New Straits Times - - Cars Bikes & Trucks - BY SHAMSUL YUNOS cbt@nst.com.my

BEAUTY is ev­ery­where and it is what we make of it. When I first no­ticed that I liked classic cars as a teenager in the 1980s, I had to keep it to my­self. As other boys drew pic­tures of Lam­borgh­ini Coun­tach, I hid my pic­tures of the Miura. When my friends were go­ing on and on about how nice the new, slim and ath­letic Mercedes Benz W-124 was, I qui­etly glanced at the Pon­ton and wished I could ca­ress her thin rimmed steer­ing wheel and volup­tuous wheel arches.

I had to keep it quiet be­cause my friends wouldn’t un­der­stand my choices. As a teenager, it is never easy to stand out or to be dif­fer­ent. I just wanted to be­long, so I pre­tended to en­joy look­ing at new cars.

As I grew older into my 20s, more friends be­gan show­ing in­ter­ests in classic cars; they were find­ing some­thing in­side them that they never thought ex­isted. And as they found pure love for cars as ob­jects of beauty and art, the older mod­els sud­denly be­came far more en­tic­ing.

Un­like most sen­si­ble 24-year-old join­ing the work­force for the first time in the 1990s, I didn’t put down pay­ment on a new Pro­ton or Pero­dua; in­stead I looked around for an old car to buy.

It could be the ex­treme cheap­skate in me kick­ing in, but I would like to think that it was more be­cause I wanted a car so sim­ple that if any­thing went wrong, I could fix it my­self.

Volk­swa­gen Bee­tles were start­ing to get pop­u­lar again; even the cheap­est were go­ing for around RM4,500 to RM5,000. I thought that was a bit too much to pay for my first classic car, so I dug deeper for some­thing the classic car fans would say “has a bit more char­ac­ter”.

Even­tu­ally, I set­tled for an Austin 1100, or lesser known as the ADO16, which stood for the Amal­ga­mated De­sign Of­fice Pro­ject Num­ber 16. It was BMC-Ley­land’s cor­po­rate speak for a shared plat­form car.

I would have pre­ferred the Al­le­gro, but there wasn’t one to be had for sen­si­ble money (which to me is be­low RM2,000).

In the end, af­ter much hag­gling and hand wring­ing, my se­nior at the New Straits Times, Farush Khan, agreed to part with “KG2436” for the sum of RM1,600.

It came stan­dard with a slight dent on the driver’s door, hy­dro­las­tic sus­pen­sion with crack­ing rub­ber bits and weather worn door seals.

The first drive home to my rented bach­e­lor pad in Ban­dar Utama was re­ally some­thing that I re­mem­bered well. I must have left the of­fice at around 7pm and drove down to Lucky Gar­den for a spot of lone­some to­myam at Yu­sof To­myam. I kept steal­ing glances at her from afar.

Then, it was a quiet drive home, back when the road to Ban­dar Utama wasn’t all high­way and there were still a bit of twisty tar­mac to en­joy. With the win­dows rolled down, I had the chance to en­joy the BMC A-se­ries en­gine and four-speed trans­mis­sion whin­ing away in the back­ground.

The hy­dro­las­tic sus­pen­sion made easy meal of the bumpy roads, keep­ing the ride comfortable, if a bit bouncy. The steer­ing was light and had de­cent feel, the han­dling was safe but a lit­tle skit­tish on bumpy cor­ners.

I spent more than a year with that car and it ran with­out any prob­lems, ex­cept when there was pro­longed traf­fic con­ges­tion, which saw the tem­per­a­ture creep­ing up slightly.

I never got around to in­stalling an ad­di­tional cool­ing fan be­cause it never re­ally over­heated on me.

One day, while driv­ing home af­ter a mid­night shift, the ra­di­a­tor hose burst in front of the Ta­man Tun Dr Is­mail Petronas sta­tion and steam swished from un­der the bon­net and clouded the front screen.

I let it drift to a gen­tle stop. Luck­ily I was head­ing in the op­po­site di­rec­tion of Kuala Lumpur-bound may­hem, so there was no one to get an­gry at me for block­ing the emer­gency lane.

Once the prob­lem had been as­sessed and con­firmed, I took out a small mul­ti­tool and loos­ened the ra­di­a­tor hose clips. Put the burst hose in my back­pack, crossed the road, took a Kuala Lumpur-bound bus and went to Jalan Raja Laut to look for spare parts. I found the cor­rect rub­ber hose for RM6 or some­thing like that and went back to the car.

Once the hose was in­stalled, I filled the ra­di­a­tor with wa­ter, drove it to the Petronas slowly and made sure that there was no air in the sys­tem. I was home be­fore lunch time.

The ADO16 was easy to look af­ter, al­though the hy­dro­las­tic bits were not cheap, I found a set of front bot­tles for RM400 a piece.

Soon af­ter, I got my­self some­thing with a bit more com­fort, a Peu­geot 504, which re­mains as one of my favourite fam­ily sedans of all time.

Soon af­ter the Peu­geot ar­rived, I gave the Austin to a friend who needed a car but then my mem­ory got blurry and I could not re­ally re­mem­ber where it went.

It is also kind of odd that I do not have a sin­gle pic­ture of that car. Maybe it was just so re­li­able as a daily driver that I never thought of it as some­thing spe­cial.

If any­one spots KG2436, say hi to her for me.

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