Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Ramadan has come, and I'm a Hibernating Bear

The Fasting Month, Ramadhan, is here and as a Muslim, I’m doing what most Muslims do during the fasting month. No, not eat in some secluded area afraid I’ll be spotted eating. But I’ve been fasting. Yes, not eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset. If you think that I’m going to connect something about motoring to Fasting with an introduction like this you are wrong. I don’t have the energy, due to a lack of normal food and water intake, the processing power in my grey matter has slowed down to a crawl. The logic of move less and to think less equals to no calories but the bare minimum to be burnt. So I get to survive another fasting day. I’m like a hibernating bear, or a zombie depending on your point of view.

Actually it’s not as bad as it sounds this fasting. You actually get to lose some of those pounds from the waist that seems to stick like super glue no matter what you do once you hit a certain age. Usually I get to lose about 2 to 3 kilograms of what ever it is you lose every fasting month. It’s like a reward for the ‘suffering’ you have to go through; aside from the reward that Hari Raya Aidilfitri happens at the end of it.

Now the main problem of motoring in the city during Ramadhan is the traffic in the evenings. Somehow everyone has decided to reach home or wherever they intend to go by 7.00pm. They all want to leave their offices, drive to the nearest Ramadhan food market or pasar Ramadhan as we call it (this is where lots of individuals temporarily open shop and sell all sorts of pastries, fried food and so forth throughout the month), proceed to buy almost every sort of tart or fried chicken they can see and then fight their way back to their homes and families.

I’ve got a secret to share. I’ve stopped frequenting these Ramadan food thingies. It is plain to see that most who open up shop don’t bloody know how to actually cook. Almost nothing there tastes good as they’re mostly cooking for mega profit. Those who buy from a bad stall rarely frequent it again but there’s so many people everyday that they’ll make millions during their month of selling chicken feed food. Every one of the stalls will make millions. Furthermore, if you’d ever notice the prices, they are even more expensive than some ‘mamak’ restaurants, especially if you buy those nasi tomato, nasi minyak etc. They slaughter you silly. The main problem is when most people fast, they tend to be hungry and then when they see a large selection of rubbish, I mean food, they wish to buy everything. Let me give you a tip for Ramadan food market shopping. Go there only once every fasting month and then don’t bother.

The second issue I have with these food markets is that Muslims suddenly become very unIslamic in their parking. Why I say that is because they double park, triple park and obstruct all traffic just because their stomach is growling. This isn’t the purpose for fasting. Nothing about tolerance and good behaviour is said at a pasar Ramadan as it’s every man and his stomach for themselves. I suppose since they are fasting, they can’t walk 10 steps without collapsing, and so they block the whole road for a bag of ridiculously bad food. If the food were good in the first place, those people that you blocked wouldn’t have mind. It’s pathetic.

I seriously suggest those driving home to just go home straight or go to the nearest restaurant rather than frequent places like these. And if you do get home straight from work, I believe that when I travel from Ampang to Petaling Jaya everyday I won’t have to suffer so much as there may be less traffic on the road. And it looks like I have connected this article to something about motoring after all.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The evergreen piece of petrified wood - The Proton Saga


There is no such thing as a waste in modifying any old car. For example, there are lots of older cars being done up to ridiculously high specs in Australia, and also the UK. Note the cars you see in most Aussie tuner magazines, we get ancient Mazda RX3s with an obscene amount of power coming out of their rebuilt and transplanted 13b rotaries, the old Mitsubishi Lancer 1800gsr turbos from the early 1980s and old school Datsuns. They’re still around and have loyal fans.
And about the Malaysian older modified car scene? Does my opening statement hold true? Lets take the evergreen piece of petrified wood; the Proton Saga ( pic above). It has been around in various guises since 1985 when it was first launched. Based on the Mitsubishi Lancer Fiore it was, in 1985 fairly modern and brought in higher taxes for CKD and CBU vehicles. It was the death blow to those who wanted to buy Ford Escorts and Fiats as their family car. Those who wanted cheap European cars would never be able to do so anymore from that day onwards till the present. It was a decent way for a developing country to start car manufacturing. But the only problem was they didn’t know how to stop producing this car. It’s still around! I can also put the blame equally on the management of Proton and the general public as the general public are the ones still buying this car. Proton is just complying with market forces. But for Heaven's sake, its 2006!
Proton Saga as a modified ride to feel proud of? The problem with the Proton Saga is that it isn’t collectable.There are too many of them running around in various guises and facelifts. It does not have any ‘WOW’ factor at all. It is as close as any other car can be to the Nissan Sunny as it is possible (especially the pre-Iswara models). Cheap and cheerless. It has basically been around since the days of Princess Hang Li Po and was also present when Malaysia gained its independence from the British. It needs to be shot and killed. It needs a proper hanging. It needs Darth Vader to use the Force and hurl it into the Sun. It needs a viking burial. Burn them all and send them drifting on a burning pyre somewhere in the South China Sea.
However, there are lots of upgrade parts for this car as it’s been around for awhile and replacement parts are dirt cheap, from various sources. So is the Saga a worthy candidate for wasting your hard earned cash? No. The reason for this resounding ‘No’ comes out from the fact that is it isn’t a nice car to drive around. While you can throw in a 220bhp engine in this car, it won’t/ can’t be made to handle at all. It is safe to say that 125bhp is a good figure for the chassis and not an ounce more. The biggest problem of the Saga is the rear suspension.
The Saga rear suspension comes with trailing arms connected to a very short anti-roll bar. There is no actual lateral (sideways) support for these arms, hence under hard cornering; there is a tendency for all Sagas to really get out of shape during a corner. The Trailing arms have a benefit as they have some ‘give’ by adding a little passive rear steer, but the drawback is that at higher speeds the ‘give’ crosses over to the ‘give way’ point and all hell breaks loose. While it is front wheel drive, the rear suspension is extremely important in keeping the whole car planted. Note that this is the reason most manufacturers ended up using more complicated suspensions to control all of this. In a Saga, it is so possible to have lift off oversteer, highspeed oversteer (try about 150km/h doing a long sweeping corner in a Saga and feel the rear trying to beat its front). You will actually never learn proper car control in the Saga and this is the biggest drawback of owning this car.
Other problems include lack of suspension travel, bad standard geometry and a lack of refinement. You can try minimising all of this by using good tires (14in seems to be the best in terms of braking, handling and comfort), proper Coilover suspension system (changing to ‘Cap Ayam’ springs alone would not do for a Saga) and lots of chassis bracings and P.U. bushes to get the suspension to work properly. However, the downside to all of this is the ride....or lack of it. In short, you still get so little for so much money spent. If you have a Saga, and intend to start modding it seriously, don’t. Spend the money on a new paintjob, a set of rims and a set of coilovers. Not a Ringgit more.
All in all, it is a scary car to drive at its limits. I even remember being sideways in a track prepared Saga driven by a friend at the old Batu Tiga Track on the back straight, it suddenly decided to lose its tail at around 160km/h for nearly no apparent reason at all.
When I get around to it, I’ll write about older cars (circa late 1980, early1990) for those who want to try modding on a budget. These cars are altogether more sensible than doing up a Saga.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Proton WajaLUTION and WiraLUTIONs. Give their owners a big hand.....in their you know where!

Now lets be honest. 99% of Proton owners in Malaysia within the age group of 18 to 45 wish that their Protons were Mitsubishis. Those that bought the Wira realised that these were copies of the Lancer and promptly went to converting the exterior to Lancers with the exception of the rear end which they couldn’t as the cost and legal wrangles that would arise from this isn’t worth it. Those that bought the Waja were even more confused. There really isn’t a twin of this car in the Mitsubishi lineup. What these people were doing is basically their own thing.

The Waja is based on the chassis of the mid1990s Mitsubishi Charisma with a lengthened wheelbase to 2600mm making it on par with the ’00 onwards Lancer Cedia chassis. But we Malaysians, thinking that there is a similarity to the Lancer Evo VII series decided to graft on EVO VII bumpers and rear wing, fibreglassing over the boot area and mounting the plate number elsewhere, putting Mitsubishi emblems here and there, thinking that their Waja is a Lancer Evolution. They are seriously wrong.

It bothers me (only very slightly) when I think of how silly they are. How can they drive around in their Wajas thinking they have an Evolution VII? Where do these people live? How come none of my relatives or friends drive funny Wajas like this? Are they from another dimension suddenly popping up on Malaysian roads to give people like me a good laugh? I suppose they could be living in some cave somewhere and no one actually knows them. They may not have any friends in the first place. Maybe that’s why my friends and I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting a Wajalution owner in person. Maybe I have friends who in fact knows a few of these people but are embarrassed to admit knwing people like them. In fact, recently a friend forwarded me some pictures of a Waja complete with Evo arches and fenders, lights front and rear and it completely amazed me that someone was willing to commit his bank account into an act of atrocity like that. If I met the owner, I’d ask him “why?” and then proceed to lecture him about taste and good sense. Wajas are Wajas, they do not make Lancer Evolutions even if you went to the nearest bodykit specialist and paid him a bomb. If I was a Waja owner, I’d covert my Waja to a BTCC lookalike Waja. That has better pedigree.

Now, at the time of writing, I happened to open up my email to find; a Waja using a Version 9 Impreza nose. It looks like soon no brand will be spared from the ever-innovative Malaysian Waja owners. We may see a B.M.Waja M3 soon at this rate. Or would a Waja Levin Trueno tickle your fancy? I suppose it wouldn’t be hard to graft on some pop up lights, seal the rear doors and bolt on a rear hatch to achieve your Drift King dreams.

On another note, there is another trend to hit owners of Proton Wiras. I am supportive if they just change the whole front end to look like a Lancer Evo I-III. But we now have this stupid trend of using big balloon tires, rally mudflaps and raised ride heights on their strictly ROAD DRIVEN WIRA. What are you guys trying to do eh? You’re trying to make a rally replica? Note that balloon tires, increased suspension height and mudflaps are common in gravel/dirt specification rally cars. Haven’t you heard of tarmac specification? You should have big 17-18in rims with a lowered ride suspension. Why do you want to drive around on stilts? The Wira on its stock ride height is already rolling around and will have lift off oversteer at high speeds on the 1.5l and below ( due to a lack of a rear anti roll bar) and you guys want to raise it up higher than usual. What is wrong with you people? You want off road clearance you buy a 4x4 jeep thingy. If you want a rally look to your car, understand that there is such a thing as tarmac spec. In short, I hope this stupid trend goes away soon.

Now if any of you readers want a solution or two to the above mentioned problems aside from taking out a mallet and trashing these cars, you would know that it actually is very simple. Educate thyself before coming out with funny trends that make your car silly. Why don’t you make the car corner better, be more refined, and be faster rather than waste time making your Proton into something its not? (Especially to those with Wajas as, I REPEAT – THERE IS NOTHING SIMILAR BETWEEN YOUR CAR AND A MITSUBISHI LANCER EVO VII-IX AT ALL) It’ll be a more rewarding thing to do to your Proton.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Subaru Impreza TS, Weekend bliss, Car Clubs and MPV nonsense

Last Sunday I had the opportunity to stretch the legs of my Impreza TS as I had a ‘kenduri’ to attend in Muar. The car performed well, on the highway I managed to push its puny 1.6liter engine to 205km/h, which translate to a mean maximum of 200km/h as it always is around 5km/h slower than the speedometer reading when I look at the speedtrap notice board when you hit the first and second bends on the Kerinci Link from the Federal Highway. Quite amazing when you have a heavy, power sapping All Wheel Drive train and passengers. It felt solid as a rock at high speeds and only the engine turns pretty high at 5500rpm partly due to the gearing. That’s why big cc’s are very important and 1.6liters are limited to cruising at slower speeds (Unless you happen to have a couple of thousand Ringgit to do it up). Aside from that, it was pretty good and was even better after the Tangkak Toll, where the highway exits to a trunk road. This is where the Impreza shines. It’s not about the grip, but also the handling. The Impreza TS is one of those cars that let the average family man enjoy things abit. Note that there are not many of these kinds of vehicles in Malaysia. But let’s go back to Sundays.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Joys of Not Hiking Up Mount Kinabalu

It has been a slow start to this current week in a life of a petrolhead. The need to just stay at home comes to mind with lots of bread and hot tea to wash it all down in between long stretches of GT4 on the PS2 and an overdose of Top Gear reruns in stead of being at the office and doing lots of paperwork and endless office banter. Actually, I happen to be at an office where I can actually have bread and hot tea, but no PS2. So I am now deciding on whether to write about the joys of hiking aimlessly up Mount Kinabalu or driving a car through the windy roads around Genting Highlands.

But honestly, I don’t think I can write about anything pertaining to Mount Kinabalu due to the fact that I haven’t been there, much less climb it. The highest peak that I have manually climbed was the Maxwell Hill in Perak. This hilltop resort is Malaysia’s oldest and smallest hill resort. It is 1,035m above sea level and accessible only by government-owned four-wheel-drive vehicles, the road up twists and turns through tropical virgin jungle with the fresh green fragrance and cool air greeting you as you ascend. Now amazingly, I have hiked up this hill and all that I can remember is that it was not that tiring, as I was only 15 years of age. However, I’m now 34, overweight and had discovered the joys of motoring at 18. So, if anyone asked me to climb that hill again I’d take the Land Rover. If you haven’t experienced extremely tight turns and ridiculous inclines while being driven up, you’ve got to experience this. The drivers are bloody marvellous at negotiating the bends at speeds that’ll scare most average drivers.

I might enjoy walking through a forest trail in Cameron Highlands as much as I’d enjoy driving up to the Highlands in the first place; but if anyone asks me to hike up Mount Kinabalu right now I’d pass. They say that it’s a challenge, but I’d ask what are my benefits? Pain and suffering. A certificate showing me that I’ve done so? Since the certificate won’t get me a career raise, its worthless and you must remember, you’re not the first person on that peak, so what’s the point? Because its there? KLCC has stairs and I am not using it to get to the 88th floor. It has lifts to get us there quickly. Because your friend can do it and you can’t? I can’t be bothered. Maybe I’ll walk the first 1km and then decide to hire a helicopter to take me to the peak. I’ll have tea and cupcakes up there before you even make it to the middle. Hiking on an incline for more than a day does not do wonders to happy fat men. Which brings me back to Maxwell Hill. It’s a much better climb because you can use Land Rovers to do so. Of course, Then again, you’d have fun going up Genting, Cameron Highlands, Fraser’s, etc in your finely tuned automobile. If you get my drift. This is what technology is there for. For God’s sake, if you want exercise, that’s what the neighbourhood gym, is there for my good man.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Certain Events in the World of Motoring

The Malaysian Transport Minister is a spoilsport.

There. I've Said it. That's all that has to be said about his decision to bring up to the cabinet the Royal Malaysian Police's decision to give a discount on traffic summonses sometime last week and get them to decide otherwise.

Schumacher Quits Formula 1

Sigh. It's bound to happen. Reason was that he partly didn't want to have equal standing with Kimmi Raikonnen. Whatever. We shall all miss his performances, antics etc. When I say "we" means all of us. If you don't fancy Schumi, you're still gonna miss his performances.

I.T.I.S.

Integrated Traffic Information System -ITIS or whatever its called always goes on a holiday every Monday morning in Kuala Lumpur. I wonder how much we as taxpayers pay for a system that's hardly useful when we need it to be. Not to mention it tells me something I already know. The signboards aren't a real help, as they are usually situated where the jam is, and not before the jam. The problem with Kuala Lumpur traffic is, you may as well have that signboard at your office car park as most roads are jammed packed at rush hour. This means that its usefullness is limited. We need a better system, or better roads. We actually need the Transport Minister to push through projects pertaining to public transport faster instead of him complaining about the Police giving discounts.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The real reason Datuk K managed to bag Siti Nurhaliza

He drives a Mercedes Benz CLS. Enuff said.

Which brings me to my list of 5 cool cars to own in Malaysia under a few years of age aside from owning any Ferrari or Bentley that is.

5. Gemballa Porsche Turbo 996.

Just happened to see one while walking pass Damansara Uptown. Normal 911 Turbos are like soft toys compared to this one when it comes to looks. Massive double winged whale tail spoiler, massive rims, massive front splitter, massive turbo arches, leather everything, recaro seats, and a name that your auntie in the kampung would think “why would someone name a car after a cow or goat herder in Bahasa Malaysia?”

4. Subaru Impreza (any version)–

Not because I own one, but because everyday I drive from Petaling Jaya to Ampang and I seldom see another one. It is cool to have a car that not many people have and it’s Japanese and therefore pretty reliable. Not to mention that its a car designed by a 7year old, it has scoops, arches, spoilers everywhere! Which is good.

But, that said, do not go and buy a Skoda Fabia (European of not, you DON’T want to tell people you own a car that Starts with an ‘S’ and has a ‘K’ following it – try saying SKUBARU, or SKUZUKI), a Made in China Alado A160 or a Chery QQ because it’s rare. Those Made in China cars aren’t different, they’re just silly putty. Driving or owning them would mean that you have the taste of tap water.

3. Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 9

Same reason as above, but much much faster due to electronics. But if you do want a Lancer 1.6 instead, make sure you buy one with a bodykit as standard. If you get the stock one, remind yourself that you are only allowed to live once, then you die and you need to tell yourself that you deserve one better than a stock Lancer 1.6. The difference between buying a 1.6 Lancer and a Lancer EVO is a whole lot. That is why it isn’t cool buying a stock Lancer compared to a 1.6 Impreza which is basically the same car minus rims and a bonnet scoop. On the Lancer, you need new body panels and painting and cutting etc. You’d do that to your brand new car with 7 years left on the loan wouldn’t you?

2. Mercedes Benz CLS –

Any version will do as all versions look swoopy and out of this world. You may be able to bag something better than Siti Nurhaliza if you’re younger than Datuk K. If you’re 35 and below, you may get to bag a Hannah Tan Look-a-like (or if you’re plain lucky, Hannah Tan), which is better than any Siti Nurhaliza by a mile.

1. Maserati Quattroporte –

Its simply beautiful to look at. Recently saw the Sultan Of Kelantan’s entourage driving by along Bukit Bintang. His official car was a Quattroporte. It was beautiful, elegant yet if you push the right buttons, goes all brutal. Somehow Italians make the word ‘4-doors’ so glamorous. I think it has something to do with the language having rhythm when you speak it in an italian accent. Q-U-A-T-T-R-O-P-O-R-T-E. Try saying E-M-P-A-T-P-I-N-T-U using an italian accent, you will see my point, although it does not sound as nice as quattroporte. Empat pintu to those who aren’t versed in Malay is Four Doors. However, if you say Four Doors in English, even in an Italian accent, it sounds like what it sounds. FOURDOORS.

Now this list isn’t comprehensive and if I’ve left out any other cool cars, too bad, and this blog isn’t a democracy, furthermore I may decide otherwise tomorrow.

Friday, September 01, 2006

RM10,000.00 FOR A '95 REG SATRIA...CAR PRICES ARE DROPPING FAST!

It is possible to buy a decent car for RM10,000.00 these days. Two days ago a close friend of mine, who also happens to be my mechanic, mentioned to me that he was purchasing a car from a mutual acquaintance for RM10,000.00. It was a 1995 reg Proton Satria 1.6xli automatic with a sound body and chassis. Now, going by normal Malaysian standards, a satria is a decent ride. You get Power steering, power windows, 16-valve fuel injected engine, a 4 speed slushbox, multi link suspension and something that is more comfortable than a Honda EX-5 motorcycle.

This is a relevation for Malaysians. Cheap motoring for everyone. Mat-rempits will be throwing away their kapcais for cars like these. Just imagine Proton Sagas going for RM5,000.00, which actually they are! However, it again shows you that the local automotive industry is bleeding like crazy. But we’ll see realistic second hand prices from now on. We may soon see RM2,500.00 Sagas on the second hand market.

Also feel that it is a good thing to buy if you are interested in modifying cars cheaply. You spend 10k on a car, and you have another 5k to mod it.

Full Coilover shocks and springs – RM2,500.00
Exhaust system and a performance air filter – RM1,000.00
Port and Polishing/some skimming to the head –RM1,000.00
Strut bars front and rear –RM350.00
Good engine oil –RM125.00
And you have change for a meal. RM25.00.

Let me see, if you buy a Saga, you’d can have all this for RM10,000.00 for the car and parts. But a Saga actually sucks to drive. You will never learn proper car control because it never actually does what its supposed to do in corners. It’ll understeer or oversteer anytime it feels like it and drives like a dog that has an itch on its butt. So buy a car with a more sophisticated suspension, like the Proton Satria/Wira series. That extra 5K makes a whole world of difference. But, if you are a person who just needs a car to take him to the dentist and back, buy the Saga.

You would think this package would be better to promote to Mat Rempits that it is better than riding a kapcai. But why are they still riding kapcais? Or would we want the Mat Rempits to start trying to wheelie proton satrias and sagas? Maybe we should just let them die and keep all this to ourselves. I think that would be a better option. After all, a dead Rempit is a good Rempit.

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