Me And My Car

Hooked on classics

Mr Kumar Balasingam bought the Lamborghini Urraco P250 in 2007 for just £17,500.
Mr Kumar Balasingam bought the Lamborghini Urraco P250 in 2007 for just £17,500.PHOTO: LIONEL SEAH
PHOTO: LIONEL SEAH

Of all the old cars in his garage, Kumar Balasingam loves his rare 1977 Lamborghini Urraco the best

To say that Mr Kumar Balasingam is mad about classic cars is perhaps a little of an understatement.

The chief executive of an aviation companyhas six cars registered under the Classic Car Scheme (for cars more than 35 years old): a 1963 Mercedes 220SE Cabriolet, a 1971 Mercedes 300SEL, a 1974 Alfa Montreal, a 1976 Ford Capri (3.0 V6 Ghia), a 1977 Fiat 128 3P and a 1977 Lamborghini Urraco P250.

Another classic ride is on the way: a 1960 Mercedes-Benz 300D Adenauer that is being fully restored in Poland. Mr Balasingam hopes it will be ready to be shipped here later next month.

The 60-year-old also has a rusty heap of a 1964 Mercedes-Benz 300SE Lang parked at a local petrol station. But he has not found time to work on it. And there are several other non-registered classics, which he has amassed over the years, tucked away in various garages.

  • What's in the boot?

  • • Car spare parts

    • Can of petrol

He says: "Unlike buying a new multi-million-dollar supercar, which depreciates the moment you take delivery, classic cars hold their own and even appreciate in value over time. I sniff out bargains from overseas - typically originals in an unloved and weathered state."

The first classic car he owned is the 1971 Mercedes 300SEL, which he bought secondhand from Mercedes agent Cycle & Carriage in 1978. He converted it to the Classic Car Scheme in 2006.

Over the years, he has worked with restorers from Germany, Italy, Latvia and Poland.

"You just need to have the patience to see the project through. It sometimes takes a year or more," he says.

The Lamborghini Urraco P250, which he bought in 2007, is his favourite. He is the third owner.

"I bought it from a UK owner who had migrated and had kept it in his mother's garden shed for the longest time," he recalls.

The previous owner had to sell it because the property had been sold and he did not have anywhere else to store it.

"I got it for just 17,500 quid (pounds)," he beams. "What I particularly like about it is its Bertone-Gandini (an Italian design house) styling, its bright orange paintwork and the sound of the (2.5-litre) V8 is simply amazing."

But he says the rear seats "are a joke" because they are tiny.

At the moment, the car looks worn and its rear seats have been removed. It has numerous rust spots, cracked paintwork, dents and missing badges.

"It's a work in progress," Mr Balasingam says. "I'm in the process of fully refurbishing it."

Fewer than 800 Urracos were built between 1973 and 1979 and there are even fewer in right-hand drive.

"There was an occasion when I was driving it at Dempsey and a young lady gave me the thumbs-up. But her husband with a baby in a stroller wasn't too happy," Mr Balasingam chuckles.

In Singapore, classic vehicles are allowed on the road for only up to 45 days a year as they are not meant to serve the day-to-day transport needs of their owners.

Mr Balasingam's daily ride is a Mercedes-Benz CL500, while his wife drives a Mercedes CLS350.

As for his bevy of classic beauties, he says: "I may start a classic car museum, together with a few fraternity friends."

• The writer contributes to Torque, a motoring monthly published by SPH Magazines.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 22, 2017, with the headline 'Hooked on classics'. Print Edition | Subscribe