Saturday, May 05, 2007

My Uncle’s Favourite Car: The Toyota 700 Deluxe - Lam Chun Chew

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.

Corolla (6)

Corolla (1)

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.

18 comments:

Victor said...

So that explains why Chun See still sticks to this brand of car after so many decades.

As for me, my first 2 cars in the early 80s were "very-used" Minis - one a Clubman and another an Austin. They were continental cars. The next 4 cars were Japanese. In end 2005, I changed to a continental car again (because my wife liked its spaciousness).

One big advantage that you didn't mention about continental cars - they are very tough (and hence safer). My reverse bumper have hit several very hard things already but it still looks very good. If my car was Japanese, I am very sure that the bumper would have been badly dented by now.

Lam Chun See said...

Actually, I got 'addicted' to Toyota only after my training attachment at Aisin Seiki, one of the suppliers of Toyota 1n 1985. But only bought my 1st Toyota Corolla in 1990 after I scrapped my Subaru GLF1600 which I bought second hand in 1984 at a very good price.

aiyah nonya said...

Those pictures of the toyota cars, reminds me of one of my uncle's car too. When he first bought the car, I remembered my grandfather telling him that it was a bad investment.

He only got rid of it a few years back. It was still in good condition. Mainly because he takes real good care of it and seldom drive it out sation. Before he sold it away he used it mainly to ferry his grand kids to and fro from school and tuition classes. My cousin bought him a new toyota.
Another loyal customer....

zen said...

When we see car smash-ups either European or Japanese make, undoubtedly you would know which category are safer and have stronger body-works. Many would swearcthat many European cars are equally good and on top of that, classy, but then why Japanese cars are so dominant, particularly in Asia? I leave this question for car experts to debate it out.

Years back, my sister-in-law requested me to use her French-make car and if possible to sell it for her, as she was going to work abroad. The car was in peak condition, only minus a car-wheel rim-hub, which I found great difficulty to get a replacement from many local car-part shops. Finally I could only get one through the car agent at Sin Ming. My conclusion, using a local word of such cars - 'lechay'.

Lam Chun See said...

The trouble is, driving a so-called 'safe' car may lull us into a false sense of security.

The Volvo is supposed to be very 'safe' car. But I noticed that it tends to be driven in a very unsafe manner on the roads of Singapore. Just my personal view of course.

zen said...

While in Miwaukee, I was driven around by a young man. I noticed his car was a Mazda Rx, quite racy, with tough body work. I believe the American version of Japanese cars are made of stronger stuff, simply because the majority of the vehicles there belong to the heavy-weight category, especially the trucks, any accident would have serious consequences. While travelling on their highways, I was practically unnerved by the heavy-duty trucks zooming past us, making us looked like driving a 'match box' beside speeding giants. Just for information, this two year old Madza RX costed around US$3000/-, rather affordable to this college friend of mine.

Laokokok said...

I wonder why the top right hand side photo of that car keeps disappearing after going popular?

BTW, this post reminds me of the Datsun 100A used when I took my driving lessons in the early 80s. My first driving instructor used to pinch me at my waist whenever I made a mistake. So I sacked him after a couple of lessons!

zen said...

After Toyota made its presence, Datsun(now Nissan),which already had a few blue birds 'flying' around, decided to compete with their strongest rival head-on. Then came the famous Datsun 1100 in various colour hues, including orange. The first consignment practically flooded our section hardstand. I 'pakated' with my officer, to 'test-drive' an orange one. This car was light but the pick-up was considered very impressive at that time. The rivalry of these two Japanese giants continued up to this very day. My brother-in-law quickly bought a new Datsun 1100, olive green colour, and made a trip to Frazer Hill, and one of the passengers was Chun See who eagerly drove this car for a stretch of the journey, his verdict?

alex said...

ell, my Dad had one of the same but in ash color, number plate SL3361. Year 1965?

Anonymous said...

Your Uncle's car is a Toyota 700 2 door saloon(known as Publica in Japan),model code UP10,with model U Boxer 2 OHV air-cooled engine.There was a convertible,3 door wagon & pickup offered in Japan.

The red car parked in front of beige Toyota Corona ST/TT140 series(last RWD Corona) is a 2nd gneneration Corolla K/TE20 series(made from 1970 to 1974),behind the Corona is the 2nd generation Honda Accord facelift model(made from 1981 to 1985).

The white car is the 3rd generation Corolla K/TE30,50 series(made from 1974 to 1979).

Such cars are very very hard to find in Singapore.No chance to drive such cars for a car enthusiast like me,a pity.

Samantha said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Kaylee

http://www.craigslistposter.info

Mont D'or said...

The white car looks like a ToYota Corolla KE30. There was a classified selling this 2 years back. I have also spotted a 2-door version at IMM not too long ago.

The red car was really popular at one time.

Go! Go! Tomica said...

Corolla KE20, Corolla KE30

Old Cars said...

Old Honda's and old Toyota's are the best.

Foots said...

This is a very interesting site. Makes me think of my own memories.

Anonymous said...

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.Website

Kenneth Ong said...

In the 60s and early 70s, cars had no air-con. For relief from the heat, many cars and taxis had a small fan mounted on the dashboard.

Everyone drove with windows down except when it rained. The glass would fog up when the windows were up in the rain. Drivers always had a small cloth to wipe the windscreen with from the inside so that they could see the road.

It was only in the mid-70s that car air-con became popular. Even then it was an under dash unit fited after sales, not factory fitted like today. Air con brands like Tropicool and Mark IV did a roaring business fitting air-con to our cars.

Anonymous said...

Hello all,

Not sure if this thread is still active.. I'm looking to buy a toyota e70 or e82. I've seen one plying the roads of Singapore still. Not sure if any of you know the owner?