32 years have rolled by since Dr M’s brainchild drove off the assembly line at Shah Alam — heralding the arrival of a new chapter in Malaysia’s industrial capability. A bold move indeed.
But right from the beginning, it was dismissed by Malaysians from all roads of life. They ridiculed it and invented names like “Potong Harga”, “Ben Dan Sha Gua” (笨蛋傻瓜), etc to mock it.
I drove a 1991 SAGA model, and later, an ISWARA model before. True, there were minor irritations here and there. Most infamously, the power windows never failed to malfunction after 2 months. There was not much by way of refinement, but on the whole they were quite reliable.
Nevertheless. after 3 decades, the saga continues, as Proton struggles to gain acceptance and trust from Malaysians. Will national disdain one day become national pride?
Not that Petrol was too mainstream; the radiator had an unfailing tendency to boil over.
This cute vintage Fiat 600D was my first-ever car, acquired by my dad sometime in 1979. At the time of purchase, it was 17 years of age and having pre-loved umpteen times already. Nonetheless, I drove it to work in my first job at Motorola (Bayan Lepas FTZ F3) and proudly parked it at a prominent spot at the car park.
It had some quirky — or endearing, depending on how one looked at them — features that took some conscious effort to live with.
Water @ 10 miles per quart
Petrol @ 40 miles per gallon
Engine Oil @ 100 miles per pint
ENGINES : none in front — but there was one at the back
TOP SPEED : 70mph (ever attempted)
Realizing that ability to drive was a key enabler, my dad got me into one of the Driving Schools as soon as I reached 18. To me, it was really a minor thing, because I had already observed a zillion times how people drove, eg., how the clutch-and-gear change synchronized, how gears were to be used, how reverse and parallel parking were done,etc.
Oh yes, I had also memorized all the traffic signs and hand signals too !
The venerable Morris Minor was the major workhorse of all the driving schools in those days. Very rugged and simple to maintain, it could take all kinds of stunts from rookie drivers, including kangaroo hops, gear-teeth gnashing, asbestos-burning (moving with handbrakes ON), and an occasional bumping into another’s bum.