Recently, there was some attention drawn to Chun See’s photo posted at the top right corner of this blog. It wasn’t Chun See or the dog, but the car; especially its number plate, that attracted some readers.
Anyway, I take the opportunity to tell you a bit about that car, which belonged to our Seventh Uncle uncle (the one who was a badminton champion) who lived next door to us in our kampong at Lorong Chuan/Lorong Kinchir.
After resettling down in Singapore, my uncle bought a brand new Toyota 700 Deluxe. This was sometime in the late sixties. To a certain extent, my uncle was a person ahead of his time, full of faith in Japanese goods, when most of us had an aversion to them, especially cars. At that time there were few Japanese-made cars on our roads. If I remember correctly, only Datsun cars, namely the few Datsun Bluebird could be seen cruising around the island. At this time, Toyota made its entry by introducing two models, the 700 standard (air-cool) and the deluxe (water-cool). My uncle quickly bought a deluxe model. I could not remember the price, maybe a few thousand dollars, definitely much cheaper than its European counterparts. His purchase brought in many critics, all expounding ideas that it was a wrong decision to buy Japanese goods. Some even said that if you were to scrap the under-carriage of a Japanese car, you could see the word ‘Ovaltine’ imprinted on it.
One day my mum and I hitched a ride on my uncle’s Toyota to KL (Kuala Lumpur) to attend my cousin’s wedding. Another uncle drove a Volkswagon competing against the Toyota all the way up to KL. I would like to give my verdict: European vs Japanese. Undoubtedly the Volks had the edge in stability, air-cool, excellent cornering, slope-climbing and comfort. The Toyota had some virtues also, namely: better fuel consumption, fuel warning light, fast pick-up and excellent paint-work. However, it was not fair to compare the two, one being a branded car of many years, and the other the Toyota being just a new-comer in the international car market. But my uncle was ahead of his time, Toyota is now fast going to be No.1 car maker of the world.
In Malaysia, you can still find many old cars that are no longer seen on Singapore roads. Above are 2 of the oldest models of Toyota Corolla I have come across – Lam Chun See
To side-track a bit, being obsessed with Japanese goods, my uncle used a Japanese hair lotion to groom his hair making it look good. Even my sister Pat commented favourably on my uncle’s good grooming, so much so my uncle felt elated, and bought her a bottle, but she was afraid to use, what irony! Likewise my cousin Richard (staying with us) and I were also afraid to use it. Indeed there was great prejudice against Japanese goods at that time. The said hair lotion is still available now in most shops, big or small, selling around $20 per bottle. It is the famous SANKYO hair lotion (I am not doing a commercial for this product). This story carries a message – do not under-estimate the ability of your rivals. We Singaporeans were once labelled in Asia as: naive and incapable. Today the word Singapore is an icon of honesty and integrity. That is why when Capital-land develops houses in China, they are being snapped up like hot-cakes - three cheers Singapore.
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