Scene & Heard Issue 20

Here in the UK, we as owners of old, less eco-friendly (apparently) modes of transport, tend to feel persecuted by the powers that be. You think we’ve got it bad? Here’s the story from one teenage petrolhead – who wishes to remain anonymous – in Singapore, a country where being a petrolhead is a difficult road to take…

I’m a 17-year-old boy from Singapore, which is one of, if not the, worst places possible when it comes to cars. We pay six times more for any new car than anywhere else in the world; a certificate of entitlement that costs an average of $20,000 to 30,000 * to obtain and is only valid for 10 years, after which you must either scrap your car or renew the certificate and double your road tax in the process; the fact that all modifications and tuning are practically illegal; the prohibition of “project cars” and stringent emissions standards that, if you fail to meet them, would result in your car being immediately and irrevocably slated for scrap are just some of the cons I can list off the top of my head.

With that, it would come as a surprise that anyone would be interested in cars in the first place. Well, I am one of those few people that can call myself a car enthusiast, albeit a novice and an inexperienced one at that, when it comes to the physical work (I can’t physically work on cars here either). And I am not happy with my current situation. My solution would be to get an international driving license here and move away from this country to Canada, after school and active National Service (forced conscription for two years) are done in some five years from now, enter a college course that specialises in automotive repair, find a job as a mechanic after, and settle down in my new home. Not exactly a unique idea, I know.

Here’s the kicker, however; I can boldly state that I am the first and so far the only 17-year-old in Singapore that actually owns a car overseas. Thanks to the help of a friend in the US, I have saved up and bought myself a car without the knowledge of anyone in my family: a 1987 Mazda RX-7. Granted, it’s a shell without an engine and transmission, with an incomplete interior, but it is still my first car. And it’s not even in the country I’m in now! Well, the idea is to get this project car up and running within the next five years, so that when I finally leave Singapore I would have a car that I can call mine.

This would seem insane, maybe even to you, but it’s working well so far; I know I have the monetary capabilities to complete this car. I’m pretty sure nobody in this place would call me sane after hearing this; after all, to the vast majority here, cars are merely tools for transportation. There’s no real love for cars and there’s no real car culture here, and those that try only resort to putting ridiculous body kits on cars that are mostly mechanically stock in order to look fast. This, of course, doesn’t sit well with me, and that’s the reason why I’m sure to move out of here once all the loose ends are tied up.

I am sure that there are many young, aspiring enthusiasts around, but most of them do not dare or want to step up and embrace their interests in a life-changing way due to what they perceive as “what everyone else thinks”. I have once lost my interest in cars too, as a young boy, for those same reasons, and when I re-embraced it just three years ago and it came back with a vengeance (in a good way of course), I realised that this was something precious to me and I could never let it go again. So, I allowed my life to actually revolve around cars and took major steps to climb out of this facade that the dull public has created. But I don’t want to be the only one to step out; I want to help others too

So, what’s in store in my future? My FC, as the second generation RX-7 is commonly called, in its remarkable condition, is actually going to take a shorter time and budget than anticipated to complete, so I likely have space for a second car after the RX-7 is done. I am considering a MkIII Triumph Spitfire as a second project, a fun British roadster that I may build up as a car version of a cafe racer. All in all, am I crazy? I think not; I know this is something that is very much within my grasp. But if my bizarre plan can work, so can those that other young enthusiasts have.

* – 20-30,000 Singaporean dollars = £11,350-£17,000 at time of writing

Addenda. In February 2018, the Singaporean government stopped all new car imports to the island. There are no domestic manufacturers there, so by 2028, it seems that owning a private car in Singapore will be the preserve of the ultra-wealthy.