Category Archives: vehicles

Press Here, There and Anywhere

In public buses of the old days, there were a number of “Push Once” buttons placed along the length of the interiors.

Apparently, passengers were “warned” to push or press any of these buttons only once, to tell the driver that they wanted to disembark.  And “dire consequences” awaited those who disregarded the warning.

But as these buttons were spaced out at quite big intervals, sometimes it was hard to reach anyone of them, especially when the buses were jam-packed with passengers.

Thus at a later time, newer buses with fitted with a kind of continuous “bell strip” that ran the whole length of the interior, on both sides.  These were usually mounted above the window frames.  With these strips, it meant that the bell could be activated by pressing anywhere along the central rubberized zone.

But the high placement was a problem.

Terminal Recall

This photo was probably a scene from the early 60s, after the Pengkalan Sultan Abdul Halim was opened in 1959.  Oh, so peaceful and serene, as compared to today’s bedlam.

I was barely 10 years old then.  But I can still remember the 5 beautiful ferries that plied between this terminal and the one on the Island.

Four main bus companies made their “bases” there – they were the UTC, the Central Province Wellesley, the Sam Lian Omnibus, and one other which plied between Baling/Kulim and Butterworth.

The voices of those ‘bus ushers’ with umbrellas, hollering “Bukit Mertajam, Parit Buntar, Nibong Tebal, Kuala Muda, Kepala Batas, Titi Timbol, Padang Serai, Alor Star, Sungai Petani” etc., still ring in my ears.

Oh yea, we had Mercedes-Benz  taxis parked nearby too. And the sea waters came almost right to the bus/car park.

Stripping To Look Good

Disclaimer : This is not about flaunting of private assets in public.

In the late 70s through to the late 80s, it was fashionable to affix a thick strip of rubber, called “side molding” to both sides of one’s car doors.  These supposedly protected the sides of the vehicle against accidental knocks by the doors of other cars parked adjacent to one’s mobility pride.

More importantly, I suspect that these side moldings endowed the stripped cars with a perception of added strength and a touch of machismo. 

Thus, when I got my first ‘proper’ car in the form of a second-hand, first-gen Mazda 323, the first thing I did was to drive it to an accessories shop for a stripping job.  It looked great afterwards.

I think these days such side moldings are no longer cool or chic.

When ‘W’ Was Not ‘Wilayah Persekutuan’

This may surprise many, especially those who are below 45 years of age (a/o 2018).  

I remember seeing, when I was still a kid, motor vehicles that had registration plates beginning with “W”.  The W stood for the “Wellesley” in Province Wellesley.  Whereas vehicles from the island itself had “P” plates.   This practice was discontinued in 1957. 

Oh, by the way, does anybody still remember where Province Wellesley is or was ?

17 years later, in 1974, the “W” series was resurrected, but then it was given to the newly-demarcated “Wilayah Persekutuan” or Federal Territory.  Sources said the new W never started alone; it began with WA, then WB,…… I think today the W series had run out.  I have seen plates with “V” series :  are these the successors?

Oh! No VD for me, please!

Angels’ Chaly

Back in 1977, my sister was sent to a school in rural Kedah, a few miles from Alor Star, after finishing her teachers’ training college course.

The “road” to her school was really an unpaved sandy earth path, with paddy fields on both sides.  The only way to go through was on foot, or with a bicycle or a motorbike.  My dad bought her a cutesy little Honda, which went by the name of “Chaly”.  It was really a bike designed for girls.

It must have been quite a sight for the villagers and farmers to see two Chinese girls (she and her colleague) making their way to the local school on these bikes. 

In fact I was told that her colleague was stopped one day and asked for her hand in marriage by an admirer from the village.

A Thing Of Beauty Is A Joy Forever

The Citroën DS was unlike any other 4-wheel beast that roamed the highways and byways.  A paradigm of French chic, it was at once beautifully aerodynamic, romantically elegant and technologically ahead of its time.

My first encounter with a DS (I think it was a DS23) was sometime in 1980 – a rich colleague of mine owned one.  Its ride was superb, thanks to the hydro-pneumatic suspension. The inner pair of headlamps would turn in sync with the single-spoke (more like a fat bar) steering wheel. 

However, there were a couple of quirky features, like a rear-view mirror that was mounted on top of the dashboard, and a spare wheel that was housed under the bonnet.

It is a pity that auto manufacturers do not make distinctively beautiful cars like the DS anymore.  Contemporary offerings all look alike, with character sorely lacking.

Sipper Versus Guzzler

Towards the end of the ’70s, Nissan Motors introduced two models into the Malaysian market, which I clearly remember — the Datsun 120Y, and the bigger brother Datsun 160J.

The 120Y gained fame as a miserly sipper of precious gasoline, and found widespread adoption by taxi drivers all over KL (especially).  On one occasion, I borrowed my cousin’s prized possession for a drive from Butterworth to Sungei Petani — guess what, the fuel indicator hardly moved from the “Full” position for the entire two-way journey.

On the other hand, on a second run of the same drive using a friend’s Datsun 160J, it gulped down half a tankful before arrival at SP, requiring a top-up for the return leg (just to be safe).   Of course, the 160J had a 1600cc twin-carb engine versus the 120Y’s 1170cc single-carb one. 

Sipper or Guzzler? One had to decide.