ME AND MY CAR

In love with Snow White

"Strangers come up to me to chat and take photos all the time." - VIDEO EDITOR CHARLES YEE (above), with his 25-year-old Mazda MX5 roadster
"Strangers come up to me to chat and take photos all the time." - VIDEO EDITOR CHARLES YEE (above), with his 25-year-old Mazda MX5 roadsterPHOTOS: TIFFANY GOH FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

It was love at first sight for video editor Charles Yee when he first laid eyes on an 18-year-old Mazda MX5 roadster in 2007

Video editor Charles Yee is not a big fan of fairy tales, but he is madly in love with Snow White.

Snow White is what the 45-year-old bachelor calls the Mazda MX5 roadster that he has driven for the past eight years.

"It is the longest I have owned any car," says Mr Yee, who previously owned an Austin Mini and a BMW 3-series for less than four years each. "I like classic cars. They do not go out of style."

He first set his eyes on the MX5 in the early 1990s when he was visiting the United States. "I loved it as soon as I saw it," he recalls.

Originally registered in September 1989, Snow White was black when he bought it in 2007 for $27,000 from an expatriate.

  • WHAT’S IN THE BOOT

    • Backpack
    • Camera bag
    • Umbrella

He had it re-sprayed white, his favourite shade, and added personal touches such as fixing a new set of rims, spray painting the engine compartment and designing a "JDMX5" sticker for the doors and windscreen.

"Japan domestic model - MX5," says Mr Yee, explaining his logo.

"Snow White is easy to maintain and she drives like a dream. The regular maintenance work that I have to do includes replacing wear-and-tear parts such as brake pads and maintaining the canvas roof.

"It is a sports car, but it is very easy to handle and not as intimidating to people as, say, a Ferarri or Lamborghini," he adds. "Strangers come up to me to chat and take photos all the time."

Besides the signature pop-up headlights, Mr Yee says that the mechanical canvas roof is another unique feature.

"About five years ago, I was driving on Ulu Pandan Road towards Clementi when I saw that it was raining ahead. I slowed down, stretched my left arm backwards to pull up the roof and clip it onto the windscreen.

"I took less than three seconds. A driver and her passenger in a Mercedes-Benz convertible driving next to me got wet because they had to find the button to operate the electronically operated roof and it was slower in coming up," he recalls with a chuckle.

Asked what he did not like about the car, he shoots back without hesitation: "The COE."

The car's certificate of entitlement was to have expired in 2012, but he got worried as COE prices for small cars - on which the rate of renewing COEs was pegged - started climbing in 2010.

It would have cost him only about $18,000 to extend the COE in February 2010, but that doubled to nearly $39,000 in January 2011.

When it reached $42,292 in May 2011, he decided to take the plunge and extend the COE, even though it had not expired.

"It turned out to be the right move because it shot past $50,000 in 2012.

"High COE prices will kill old cars and that will make the car scene here less vibrant," he laments.

On weekdays, Mr Yee drives the MX5 between his flat in Bishan and his office in Anson Road.

"The boot is not as small as you might think and it is still practical as a roadster," he says, opening his boot to show Life his backpack, camera bag and umbrella.

"It is not like some roadsters where the boot in front of the car can hold only a pair of shoes.

"My boot can hold a Sunday golf bag, including a driver, irons and other clubs," boasts the weekend golfer.

He plans to drive Snow White for as long as he can. "The other first- generation MX5 drivers whom I know - there are not many of us left in Singapore - got depressed and some even cried when they had to scrap their cars," he says.

"I hope that it will not come to that for me."

• This is a fortnightly column on car-lovers and their wheels.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 04, 2015, with the headline 'MeAndMyCar In love with Snow White'. Print Edition | Subscribe