Me & My Car: Motorsport man's Mercedes-Benz

Mr Lee Lung Nien and his Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMG. PHOTO: ELIOT PAN

SINGAPORE - Mr Lee Lung Nien's regular ride is a 16-year-old second-hand Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMG, which is a relatively unassuming choice given his station in life and association with the adrenaline-charged world of motorsport.

The 57-year-old is chairman of a major American private bank, a semi-professional drummer and an accomplished car and go-kart racer.

He is also vice-president for Asia of the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) - the governing body for many global motorsport series (including Formula One and the World Rally Championship) - and a member of the World Motor Sport Council, which is responsible for setting regulations for all types of motorsport worldwide.

He is the first Singaporean elected to the vice-presidency of the FIA.

Back home, he was president of Motor Sports Singapore from 2016 to 2020; and it was in this role that he became acquainted with Mr Mohammed Ben Sulayem, a former 14-time Middle East champion rally driver and then vice-president (Middle East) of the FIA.

Mr Ben Sulayem was keen to tap Mr Lee's knowledge and ideas to develop motorsport in the Asia-Pacific region and on how the FIA could improve.

When Mr Ben Sulayem subsequently chose to stand for the FIA presidency, he invited Mr Lee to join his slate as a vice-president. Mr Ben Sulayem, Mr Lee and their team were successfully elected in December 2021.

Mr Lee's interest in all things automotive was piqued when he accompanied his father to the Singapore Grand Prix in Old Upper Thomson Road in the early 1970s.

His first car was a 1973 Fiat 124 Sport, which he describes as "a rustbucket which spent more time in the workshop than on the road". He has owned many other cars since.

The father of two started racing fairly late in life, taking up karting only in his 40s. But he has more than made up for lost time. He has competed in several countries, including Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Italy, and has been crowned Singapore X30 champion in 2014, Rotax Asia Max champion in 2015 and 2019, and ROK Cup Singapore veterans' champion in 2017 and 2018.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, he used to do 18 to 20 kart races a year. This year, he will resume racing in the Malaysian Karting championships.

Mr Lee has also raced cars, having competed in events such as the Merdeka 12-hour endurance race at Sepang in 2014 in a Honda Civic Type R, and in the Malaysia Championship Series in a Suzuki Swift.

But back to his 2006 SL55 AMG. He bought the car from a friend's father in 2020 upon his return to Singapore after an eight-year work stint in Malaysia. The car has since undergone an extensive restoration, yet Mr Lee says the process is still ongoing.

He says: "It is in and out of workshops all the time because parts come in sporadically due to the pandemic. It's a constant work in progress and a labour of love."

Being an audiophile, he has also installed an enviable hi-fi system with Audiocircle Proline three-way speakers, a Focal 10-inch subwoofer and two Helix amplifiers.

Mr Lee loves the relaxed grand touring feel of the SL55, its everyday usability and the effortless power from its supercharged 5.4-litre V8 engine.

With his two children abroad in university, the two-seater Mercedes-Benz with a foldable hard top is perfect for him and his wife, 57, a housewife.

The SL55 is his first convertible, which he enjoys driving with the top down in the mornings to the market or for breakfast at a kopitiam - with his playlist favourites blasting from the sound system.

What's in the boot?


Packets of bak kwa for clients and friends during the Chinese New Year period. Otherwise, it is empty.

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