Me and My Car: The Pagoda and Ghost of a Vintage Car Fan, Motoring News & Top Stories


SINGAPORE – A turn of the key in the ignition barrel brings the engine of a dark blue Mercedes-Benz SL250 from 1967 to life. The 2.5-liter inline-six engine clears its throat with a large expulsion and s’ settles into a baritone buzz.

In his Tuas factory where he stores his cars – there is not enough room at home – owner Tan Ah Ee, 66, positions the nearly 54-year-old car for this shoot with a practiced air. The SL250 is commonly referred to as the Pagoda because of the shape of its roof.

Closing the Merc door, Mr. Tan walks over to his other car – an enigmatic 1928 silver and red Rolls-Royce Phantom II – in position.

If pressing the “Engine Start” button in a modern car is like the ease of use of an iPhone, then starting the 93-year-old Phantom II is like watching inventor Alexander Graham Bell go first. phone call.

The levers and knobs on the steering wheel and dashboard for throttle position, carburetor mixture and ignition timing should be pulled at the right time and in the right position. Otherwise, the car stalls.

Mr. Tan’s hands dance coldly over them, and the leviathan comes alive with an exhaust sound reminiscent of a steam train.

Mr. Tan, president and general manager of a manufacturing company specializing in the production of foam packaging, drives the SL250 more often. Since the car is on a normal plate (the original set corresponding to the model number of the car), it can be driven as desired.

The classic car aficionado inherited the SL250 from his brother in May 2007 because it was causing him problems. Thanks to his close relationships with workshops specializing in the restoration of vintage cars, Mr. Tan quickly got it running smoothly.

He has since spent around $ 30,000 for repairs, most recently spending $ 3,000 to replace the old cracked canvas roof.

And that money has been well spent. The SL250 looks as fresh as a car almost six decades old can get. His eligibility certificate has been renewed for an additional 10 years until March 2030, and Mr. Tan intends to drive it until then.

The Merc has garnered a lot of attention from members of a golf club it frequents, and its regular mechanic has revealed that the car has attracted a few offers from other customers. Mr. Tan estimates the car is valued “between $ 200,000 and $ 300,000”.

Turning his attention to the Rolls-Royce, his eyes light up. The legendary Phantom II began life as a prototype codenamed 18EX in 1928. It underwent intensive testing in France and England, was withdrawn from development work in 1931 and finally overhauled before d ‘to be put on sale.

It’s powered by a gigantic 7.7-liter inline-six engine, mated to a four-speed manual transmission, and produces around 120 horsepower.

Mr Tan paid $ 250,000 for the car in August 1992, buying it in Perth, Australia, from the estate of Sir Michael Robert Hamilton Holmes a Court, an Australian billionaire who died of a heart attack two years earlier.

He shipped the car to Singapore shortly thereafter and registered it under the Vintage (Restricted) Vehicle Scheme. It is not modified, except for the repairs necessary for its operation.

He drove it for his daughter’s wedding, but admits that it is difficult to drive – “almost like a truck” due to the need to double the transmission. He also drove the car during the Chingay parades.

He has taken her to many vintage car rallies – the most memorable being the Louis Vuitton Classic China Run 1998, where 50 cars traveled 1,300 km from Dalian to the Forbidden City in Beijing.

“I still have two sleeping bags made by Louis Vuitton,” says Tan.

Along the way, the Phantom II’s drum brakes stuck. A mechanic who made the trip managed to release them, but had no spare parts on hand, so Mr. Tan had to stop on steep descents using only the handbrake. He acknowledges that the Phantom II needs some restoration work.

Mr. Tan is also a respected stamp collector in Singapore, owning several incredibly rare stamps worth millions of dollars.

But these days he enjoys golf more. “I used to play with cars, but now that I’m getting older, I prefer to play golf,” he laughs.

What’s in the trunk of the SL250?

The trunk of the SL250 contains a spare tire, a car cover and many other items. PHOTO: WONG KAI YI

– Spare tire

– Car cover

– Old headlights that were recently replaced

– Old chrome headlight trim parts

– Genuine Mercedes-Benz jack


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