1984 was the landmark year for me. With a new family and a career brimming with great expectations, I was about to embark on my next great acquisition – a brand new car.
The 4-door saloon version of the 2nd Gen Honda Civic had just been launched, and it had all the qualities that set my heart aflutter, and an affordable sticker price of RM20,500. That Honda salesman probably closed the easiest deal of his life, as I practically sold the car to me on his behalf !
A week later, I was offered a new job in Singapore, and after much heart-rending discussions within the extended families, wifey and I decided to uproot from Penang to settle on the Little Red Dot. The RM1,500 deposit had to be forfeited.
Inexplicably though, I never owned another Honda nor Civic after this brief engagement.
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?
This little Honda could have well been the grand-daddy of all micro-cars in Malaysia. Produced between the year 1967 to 1970, the N360 was tiny and tinny. Also known as “LIFE”, it was for all intents a motorcycle with 4 wheels — I called it a Motorcycar. Its 354cc air-cooled engine came from the CB450 motorbike !
I never had an opportunity to drive one (too young and too poor at that time), but a neighbour of mine had a ‘many-times-preloved’ specimen sometime in the mid 70s. To me, it looked pretty flimsy. Some folks said if you scratched the body panel, Milo powder would spill out. With some imagination, the noise from its engine as the car passed by did sound like someone stirring Milo drink in a “koleh”. LOL.
Notwithstanding, Honda powered on from strength to strength, to be a giant today in the auto world.
The “Sembra Una Vespa” scooter of course !
The most striking feature was its well-endowed posterior which would make Kim Kardashian green with envy. That bulbous rear housed a superlative two-stroke engine that was mounted off-centre (biased towards right side) and directly coupled to the rear wheel.
This off-balance design meant that riders had to slightly tilt the whole scooter to the left while on the move. The engine emitted a solid thud-thud sound, as opposed to the Milo-tin whine of prevailing Japanese two-strokers like Yamaha and Suzuki. Torque was plentiful and its acceleration was pure exhilaration. And, no visible smoke emission despite having to mix in a 2T lubricating oil with the fuel ! Amazing.
Over the years, a cult-like following has grown around this cutesy Italian Job.
It was a Moke and it was a Mini, in outdoor fun garb. And one that could go topless as well. Oh, “nanoo nanoo”, it also reminded me of Mork and Mindy (theirs was a Jeep).
When it first caught my attention — in the late 70s — I thought I saw a big-eye bug on wheels. It was very popular as a beach buggy in places like Australia. I wanted to get hold of one, but alas, poor me, even by the time it went out of production, I could not amass enough dollars to afford it.
BTW, the word Moke means Donkey in an old English dialect.
Has anyone noticed that lorries, and other goods vehicles in Peninsular Malaysia are marked with white letters A, B, or C on a black circular patch ? And does anyone know the significance or differences among them ? Perhaps few have noticed.
Long time ago, there were no such markings. Per my memory, some time in the late 1960s, the goods transportation industry was up for grabs and a ‘war’ was looming. So the JPJ came up with a system of ABCs.
- A = for goods vehicles owned by professional haulage companies
- C = for goods vehicles owned by private business, and allowed to carry only their own goods
- B = for goods vehicles that may do both
I hardly see any ‘B’ markings these days. Has this class been obsoleted ?
Up until about the early 1960s, George Town, Penang, had electric buses or trams serving many routes in the city. The photo above shows one example, at the junction of Hill Railway Road and Ayer Itam Road. Penang Lang called them “Dian Chia” (kereta eletrik).
The most salient feature of these buses was Silence – very little noise was heard except for the soft purring of the motors when moving off.
Each bus was powered by electricity drawn from a network of overhead cables, via a pair of “trolley” contact arms. These can be clearly seen from the photo.
One big problem was the contact arms often tripped and fell off, especially at junctions. When that happened, the bus conductor had to get down and use a specially made pole to restore the trolley arms back into position.
And the buses could not overtake one another, except at specially constructed “bypass” areas.