This was Malaysia’s first-and-only homegrown tiger, assembled at the Capital Motors plant in Johor state. Enter the Bedford Harimau BTV (basic transport vehicle) that was introduced in the early ‘70s.
I best remember the sales slogan in Chinese, “無所不適，無所不能” meaning “Nothing Is Unsuitable, Nothing Is Un-doable” – in short, everything can lah!
Ex-factory, the vehicle came stark naked, with bare chassis and a driver’s cab without doors. The buyer then could configure his pet cat to his liking and build up the superstructure to suit his particular or peculiar needs.
Unfortunately, due to the rapidly changing economy landscape in Malaysia (not anticipated by GM), the sales did not roar like tigers but eventually tailed off into muffled mews of a dying cat.
From the 60s to perhaps the early 90s, one make dominated the big-truck industry. Be it a plain 6-wheeler, an extended 10-wheeler or a prime mover of the somewhat intimidating “Treler Panjang”, the Mercedes-Benz 911 was the favorite workhorse of choice for the haulage business owners as well as the drivers. Per my reckoning, it probably carted off more than 50% of the market share.
My dad and two of my uncles were lorry drivers before, and they were huge fans of the big Merc. Whether it was negotiating tight hairpin turns or labouring the steep gradients of Bukit Berapit, no assignment was too tough for the 911.
As a mechanical engineer, I loved classic MB diesel engine sound which it emitted, and that of the triumphant release of excess air from the airbrakes (it sounded like “chhhh”). They were music to my ears.
The Chinese in Malaysia used to call them “San Tai Wong” (in Cantonese, which means King Of The Forest). Others called them Lori Hantu or Ghost Trucks. Now you see them, now you don’t ?
In the old days, I used to see a particular type of truck being used to haul huge logs (kayu balak, in Malay) to the sawmill near my house. They looked rough-and-tough but pretty beaten up and, they did not have license plates on them. My research seems to say that these were probably ex-WW2 surplus Chevrolet CMP trucks used by the British.
I believe some of these veterans are still running around and the remains of many others are scattered around the country.
Has anyone noticed lorries, and other goods vehicles in Peninsular Malaysia with white letter markings A, B, or C on a black circular patch ? And does anyone know their significance, or differences among them ? Perhaps few have noticed.
Long time ago, there were no such markings. Per my memory, some where in the late 1960s, the goods transportation industry was up for grabs and so the JPJ implemented a system of A-B-Cs, to defuse the looming “war” among the transport operators.
- A = goods vehicles owned by professional haulage companies
- C = goods vehicles owned by private business, and allowed to carry only their own goods
- B = goods vehicles that may do both
I have not seen a ‘B’ plate for a long time : has it been discontinued ?