Me And My Car

A car-lite passion

Mr Lal Wijesuriya likes his 1970 MGB GT for its timeless styling and sporty engine beat.
Mr Lal Wijesuriya likes his 1970 MGB GT for its timeless styling and sporty engine beat.PHOTO: LIONEL SEAH
Mr Lal Wijesuriya likes his 1970 MGB GT for its timeless styling and sporty engine beat.
Mr Lal Wijesuriya likes his 1970 MGB GT for its timeless styling and sporty engine beat.PHOTO: LIONEL SEAH

Owning two classic cars allows retiree Lal Wijesuriya to mix personal pleasure with national goals

Recently, there has been much buzz about making Singapore a "car-lite" society. While this remains a work in progress, will it sound the death knell of the private motorcar for middle-income families?

Mr Lal Wijesuriya, a retired civil engineer, appears to have found a happy compromise to this seeming conflict between government goal and personal aspiration.

He relies largely on public transport for shorter commutes, especially to town, "where parking is expensive".

But the sprightly 70-year-old also owns two cars - a 1970 MGB GT (bought in 2010) and a 1973 Volkswagen Beetle (bought in 2008). Both are registered under the Classic Vehicle Scheme, for vehicles at least 35 years old.

He likes the Beetle for its inimitable design as well as its "simplicity and reliability". But it is the MGB GT that he waxes lyrical about.

"This is my favourite sports car," he says. "I admire its timeless styling and its sporty engine beat. I had one when I was living in the United Kingdom in the 1960s. And I knew it to be a good and comfortable car."

  • What's in the boot:

  • •Car polish

    •Washing hose

    •Umbrella

MG (Morris Garages) is a British sports car manufacturer with an illustrious history dating back to the 1920s. Over the years, the brand has changed hands several times and it is currently owned by Shanghai-based SAIC Motor.

Mr Lal, who was born in Sri Lanka and moved to Singapore in the 1970s, recalls "it was love at first sight" when he spotted the MGB GT in The Straits Times Classified section about 16 years ago.

"It was in a very attractive silver colour, well maintained and in above average condition," he says, adding that his wife, Sarjit, also approved of the car.

He proudly declares that the car has remained trouble-free to date. "All it requires is routine servicing," he adds.

The MG is the family's ride of choice on outings to Johor Baru for meals and grocery shopping. Occasionally, they go on longer drives to Kota Tinggi or Desaru in Johor. The couple have no children, but often, a nephew tags along.

On average, he clocks around 5,400km on both cars a year - or less than one-third clocked by the average car here.

"At times, I take part in classic car events, where I meet like-minded enthusiasts," Mr Lal says.

Although his retro ride is for his own appreciation, he also derives pleasure from receiving compliments from onlookers - including younger admirers who may not even be familiar with the marque.

He says he would like to add a classic Alfa Romeo Spider or a Mini Cooper to his collection. But "being an HDB dweller has its constraints", he says.

He intends to keep both his cars for as long as possible. He declines to disclose how much he paid for them, merely saying "it is really not that prohibitive".

"I am just thankful to the authorities for the Classic Car Scheme," he says.

Under the scheme, he gets to drive each car 45 days a year. With two cars, he gets 90 days a year, "which is all I need", he says.

"What's more, I can embrace the car-lite mantra, while still indulging in my classic car passion," he says with a beam.

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

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 07, 2016, with the headline 'A car-lite passion'. Print Edition | Subscribe