Chun See’s blog on his daughter passing the driving test – and that picture of the Morris Minor - got me thinking about cars in Singapore when I lived there 1960-62 (but first just to tell you that my first car here in the UK in 1965 was a Morris 1000 van, and I later had a light blue saloon just like in the picture).
Our family had never owned a car in the UK – not so unusual in the 1950s and we lived in London where public transport was plentiful. So I was pretty excited not just by going to Singapore but being told we were certainly going to be car owners when we were there! I guess the normal practice for a Royal Air Force officer was to buy one second hand from someone whose tour of duty had ended and sure enough we were soon the proud owners of a rather old, but grand, Humber Hawk - a huge tank of a car, leather seats and all.
This was OK but I pretty soon saw a number of my friends whose families had large American cars, one family had a huge Nash (there were about six kids) and across the road from our house sat another US monster with huge fins. Our Humber Hawk looked pretty out of date and tame in comparison.
We did not have the Hawk long but worse was to come. Our next car was a tiny grey little Standard. Our family of five hardly fitted into it and not only did we travel around Singapore in it but we also travelled across the Causeway to KL and a hill camp beyond (incidentally this was not too long after the ‘Emergency’ and I still recall the gates and fences, unused but still present, around villages on the road up through Malaya).
Eventually before our return to the UK my father decided to get a new car and ship it back to the UK - prices being much lower in Singapore. So we began a tour of the car showrooms, including visiting the Jaguar one for the unveiling of the ‘E type’ (in your dreams were we going to end up with that one!) but at the first sight of a Volvo I knew my father had seen the car he wanted, it was duly bought and arrived back at Liverpool docks in the UK some months later.
Now I guess the Japanese cars dominate Singapore as so many other places but I always associate my time there with those wonderful old American gas guzzlers even if we never actually owned one!
I happen to have a photo of my father and uncle with a car that looked like Brian’s Humber. I have always wondered if that car was a Hillman. But even Brian could not be sure if it was the same ‘Humber Hawk’ he talked about. Hope some of you can throw some light. But the car next to it is definitely a Morris Minor.
As for the place, Brian thinks it’s an airport. In that case, most likely it’s Kallang Airport. However, I have a few other similar photos which would suggest that this photo was taken at place called Port Swettenham in 1957. Now I leave the younger readers to figure out for themselves where is Port Swettenham.