Me And My Car

Colourful tale behind tow truck driver's Toyota Corolla

Mr Jasni Arsat drives his 1989 Toyota Corolla Wagon to collect bruised fruit and vegetables from vendors for restocking community fridges.
Mr Jasni Arsat drives his 1989 Toyota Corolla Wagon to collect bruised fruit and vegetables from vendors for restocking community fridges.PHOTOS: YUSRI SALIIM

It is hard to miss tow truck driver Jasni Arsat's car, even from afar.

His 1989 Toyota Corolla Wagon is a rarity and its multi-coloured paintwork makes it even more unique.

The 45-year-old chanced upon the 1.3-litre five-speed manual car in a scrapyard in March 2019.

"It must be fate because I was towing a Toyota Corolla Altis at that time," he recalls.

"I saw a green Corolla Wagon there and knew I had to have it. I was looking for a nice, classic car and wanted one with more space, so it was perfect."

He paid the scrapyard operator $1,000 for the car and took out a $25,500 loan to extend its certificate of entitlement by 10 years.

How it ended up so colourful is another story. A close friend had the same ride and his six-year-old daughter asked for it to be painted in rainbow colours.

"My friend did not dare to do so," Mr Jasni says. "I thought it was a brilliant idea."

But he had to first convince his wife, a 43-year-old housewife. The couple have two sons and three daughters aged 14 to 23.

"She thought I had gone mad when I broached the idea," he says, but adds that it did not take long for her to agree.

Three months after he found the car in the scrapyard, the couple and their daughters embarked on the respraying job. Their sons were in national service then.


What’s in the boot? • Boxes and bags of fruit and vegetables for charity distribution PHOTOS: YUSRI SALIIM

"My wife and I chose the colours for every panel," Mr Jasni says.

They completed the job in five days at a workshop he rented from a friend.

"We did everything on our own - covering the rubber trim and glass areas with newspaper and tape, applying the primer, spraying the colours and clearcoat, and polishing the surfaces to get a nice glossy shine," Mr Jasni says.

They used up 55 cans of RJ London spray paint in five colours. The cost of the project came up to about $500.

"While the result was truly satisfying, what was more important was the time we spent bonding. It was tiring, but extremely fun," says Mr Jasni, who also installed used accessories including a roof rack and 14-inch alloy wheels.

The family also bonds by volunteering with charity group Fridge Restock Community SG. The group strives to reduce food waste by collecting "ugly" (bruised, odd-shaped) fruit and vegetables from vendors and restocking community fridges.

"I started last November and volunteer twice weekly," Mr Jasni says, adding that his family often joins him.

He drives from his home in Choa Chu Kang to Serangoon Road, where he gathers boxes and bags of fruit and vegetables from shop owners.

Then, he heads to neighbourhoods such as Toa Payoh, Teck Whye and Yishun, where the community fridges are located. He starts at 9pm and ends close to midnight.

Mr Jasni is a familiar face in the local retro-car scene, where he is known as Botak Kang - a nickname he has had since he was young because of his preference to stay bald.

His first car was a 1999 Mitsubishi Lancer, which he bought in 2011. It was followed by a 2007 Hyundai Matrix in 2016, then another Lancer, an older 1991 model which he bought in 2018.

"As I have a tight budget, I look for those that are older," he says.

The oldest so far is his current ride, which he loves "because of the amount of work my family and I put into it".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 12, 2021, with the headline 'Colourful tale behind tow truck driver's Toyota Corolla '. Subscribe