Posts from the ‘Opinion’ category

Text: Gerald Yuen / Photo credits: Google Street View

Driving in Bangkok can be a rather daunting task, especially for Singaporeans used to a certain style of city driving. Although Bangkok is also a city with its fair share of start stop traffic, there is more than meets the eye when we roam the challenging tarmac of this bustling metropolis  – we cannot underestimate the sheer scale of Bangkok-registered vehicles – almost 10 million and counting!

Left turns at junctions are possible when the lights are red, unless…

Have you encountered occasions where a constant stream of cars turn left at a busy junction even when the lights are still red? That’s because there is a sign which states (in Thai) that vehicles are allowed to make a left (or not). But do watch out for oncoming traffic, as delivery bikes might take advantage of this by cutting in from the fastest right lane to make a sudden left to beat traffic.

Blue sign: vehicles can turn left when the lights are red, but watch out for pedestrians (and oncoming motorbikes!)
White sign: drivers need to wait for lights to turn green to turn left. Sounds like common sense, but…

You can drive straight on the left most lane when the lights are red, unless…

Another scenario that’s similar to the above, but this time vehicles are allowed to drive straight on the left most lane at T junctions, even when the lights are red. It’s tempting if you’re stuck in the middle lane to swerve left to go straight, but it’s dangerous as locals familiar with the neighborhood can drive at speeds in excess of 50km/h on the left most lane, knowing that this lane will never be confronted by delays. If unsure, just stop, let someone behind give you a honk, and off you go. It’s better than scooting off without due diligence!

Makes you feel invincible, but please be careful!

It’s a number’s game in the parking spot

We pulled up at a local supper spot and were wondering why a lane usually packed with parallel-parked cars was totally empty. Something must be fishy and yes, there was a sign that stated “no parking on odd-numbered days” (in Thai). Which means you are able to park on the other side of the road, most likely reserved for parking on even-numbered days. Making a trip to Bangkok on Singapore’s National Day on the 9th of August? Remember to slot in at parallel lots meant for odd-numbered days! Or if you have a hard time finding the sign, monkey-see-monkey-do, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is!

No parking on odd-numbered days, which explains the empty lane.
“No parking on even-numbered days” – is this fella in trouble?

Tollway gantries are common sense, until…

Tollways are crucial when driving in Bangkok – it could save drivers hours during peak hour traffic, but there will also be instances where both tollways and regular roads are so jam packed that we might as well save the fees and crawl on Sukhumvit Road, soaking in the sights and sounds. If you happen to encounter a tollway, keep left as the right few gantries are often reserved for the automated “Easy Pass” (or Touch ‘n Go in Malaysian speak). When you enter one that requires cash payment, do not be tempted to drive pass the gantry if they are up. Some gantries are open but still require payment. And some gantries blend in so well with the background (some have poles so short, measuring one-third the width of your car) that we might find it tough to figure if they are in operation.

Green arrow, no gantry, but we’ll still need to stop and pay!
Gantry is up, lights are still red – will the truck make a dash?

Shoulder lanes are grey areas

Like in most countries, shoulder lanes on expressways are reserved only for emergencies – breakdowns and for ambulances to carve through peak hour traffic. It’s slightly tricky in Bangkok though. There is a rule that states vehicles are not allowed on shoulder lanes, but do not be surprised if the traffic police encourage you to take the shoulder lane to form an additional “left most” lane. Your blind spot becomes very important here as vehicles will attempt to squeeze through the left and take advantage of the shoulder lane.

Altis shouldering the responsibility – good luck to the driver!

Are you ready to tackle Bangkok tarmac?

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A weekend trip during the Vesak Day long weekend led us to a garden that we had been wanting to visit – Nong Nooch Tropical Garden. We’ve seen the pictures and videos. But to have the opportunity to experience it ourselves? It’s out of this world, with the owner’s motto somewhere along the lines of “go big or go home”. 

Slow drive from Bangkok to Pattaya, happy with the FC

Yes, fuelling his passion for anything under the sun requires a pocket deeper than Mariana Trench, but for him to open up the park to the public makes us feel that he wants to share his happiness with the world. I mean, the funds at his disposal could be directed to less meaningful usage…

Nope this is not the automotive museum, yet. Sign of a very special collection to come…

We arrived at the first of two car museums – and were greeted with air conditioning that were god-sent given how hot the weather was. It took us a good ten minutes to cool down, catch our breath and get into the groove to absorb the scale of his collection. From tractors, amphibious vehicles, supercars, hot hatches to rally-bred machines, 3-wheelers and military-grade trucks, I have not seen an accumulation of vehicles as diverse as this.

Visit if you want to feel small, with a park that stretches as far as our eyes can see

The owner of this park, Mr. Kampon Tansacha, also owns Scala Theatre in Bangkok, which was torn down a couple of years ago due to financial reasons (no thanks to the internet age, and Netflix). It was an icon right in the heart of town just next to Siam BTS and a real pity to have it demolished, but to know that he has other hobbies makes us wonder how one can possibly have so many hobbies. But we were proved very wrong…

First steps in – open wheelers, and a …?

Nong Nooch Tropical Garden was named after Khun Kampon’s mum, who opened the park in 1980 and attracted 2,000 visitors in its heyday. It was understandable how Khun Kampon wanted to keep the legacy in tact, but it was not easy during the pandemic having to pay wages for thousands of staff without inflow from Chinese tourists. It was encouraging however during our visit that it was packed with local travellers last Saturday – partially due to a 1 for 1 promotion, and a Yokohama Thailand event at the dining hall. Tickets usually cost THB300 per pax.

Museum number 2 – worth the 300m walk from museum 1 in the sweltering heat

For now we’ll let more pictures from K Kampon’s car museums do the talking. It’s worth a visit for petrolheads whenever you’re in Pattaya!

Solution to a problem, or problem to a solution?
At least 40 cars have similar 4-digit numbers in K Kampon’s garage. Take nothing away from how angry this KTM looks…
Background: Miss Universe 2018 farm visit. Foreground: Harry Metcalfe farm approved
Believe it or not, the plate could be worth more than this Lotus…
Owner is a committee member of Lotus Club Thailand. That explains the Exige… or does it?
A personal favourite!
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Here we are again indulging in one of our hobbies – an intense session of car window shopping, this time focusing on “JDMs” in Thailand. The reason why JDM is in inverted commas is because most examples in Thailand are not JDM thoroughbreds, if their “skeletal structures” can be sourced locally. For example, a Mitsubishi Lancer can be sourced for cheap, then modified from ground up to look like a full-fat Evo with proper internals, just like the Evo 6 we test drove late last year. It took me a while to comprehend how all these could pan out…

Maximum focused required – a Lancer could be an Evo in disguise!

It was tough at first for one that was brought up in a Singapore-centric car culture / climate where full imports are the way to go, for now at least until Hyundai sets up shop. But it actually makes plenty of sense in Thailand especially for “JDMs” that are now more than two decades old. Just swap out bodykits and internals for JDM parts (which by the way are also taxed 300%, but still way cheaper than a full import when looked in its entirety), and there you have a fully restored, super desirable JDM.

We spent quite a bit of time poking around in Facebook Marketplace the past couple of months, and realised that it is a platform that Thais use pretty often, given the frequency of posts. Special thanks to the owner of the Evo 6 who also purchased his car via this method, I stayed clear of other online marketplaces / search engines like Cars24 (TH), which has a wide range of vehicles, but they lean towards the more mainstream offerings. Now let’s take a closer look at some examples we found via Facebook Marketplace…

Banana yellow unit with a proper wing

One of the more expensive Evos on sale in Thailand’s pre-owned marketplace today, regardless of generation. This Evo 8 ranks way up in terms of desirability. Looks as good as stock, and particularly digging the OEM Enkei-branded 17-inch rims. At S$65k, it’s big money. But given the JDM hype nowadays, is it worth it? There’s another yellow unit listed at a couple of grand dearer, and also comes with stock 10 spoke OEM rims.

GC6 registered in Krungthep Mahanakhon (Bangkok) – represent!

A 100k km unit GC6 registered in 1995, with 18-inch CE28 rims and PS4 rubbers. Sounds like it’s ready to tackle tricky B-roads of Northern Thailand. I’ll need to consult my co-founder (who had a S204 in Singapore) if I ever lay my hands on one in the future.

Capable engine let down by a slow 5-speed auto gearbox, but still plenty fun

Was quite excited to see the Airtrek Turbo listed in Thailand, even though by the time I post this it might have been taken down as there is only one available unit at time of writing. It brought back good old memories, as it was one of the first cars in the #LenspeedOwned fleet. This pre-facelift unit has done 180k km, pushes 500bhp, and has an interior that looks as good as new. Quite a steal at S$25k, in my opinion. I might be biased, but can I live with 5.5km/l again? Unlike the Evo and WRX, the Airtrek Turbo would have been a full import as the base-spec, non 4G63-equipped Airtreks were likely not made in Thailand. We reckon this unit might be snapped up, soon!

A bit too modified for our liking. Another round of BRZ searches coming right up…

We suspected that prices of the previous-gen Toyota 86 / Subaru BRZ would fall, given the launch of the second-gen Subaru BRZ at the Bangkok International Motor Show last month. But we were wrong! Prices maintained at the S$60k – S$65k for a 10-year old unit, which is good news if you own one. This BRZ is rare as it comes with a stick shift. Most units in Thailand are automatics – a trend that we will continue to see given that sales for automatic BRZs outsold the manual variant at a ratio of 4.4 to 1 at the Motor Show. We couldn’t locate a pre-owned manual 86 for sale! And like the Airtrek Turbo, these are full imports so we should not expect prices to dip any time in the near future…

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Haval Jolion

Treat Haval as the Huawei of the vehicle world. Tech-laden features not seen in this price bracket will keep driver and passengers entertained. China-backed Great Wall Motor (GWM) is not shy introducing as many gadgets as they could in this compact SUV – a 12.3-inch centre console, HUD, 14 sensors and 5 cameras – it’s a numerical arms race in the tech department. Pound for pound, it is priced 10 – 15% lower than the HR-V and Corolla Cross. We reckon that should Singapore entertain interest from Haval, most of them should roll off its Rayong factory – a 2-hour drive South-East from Bangkok.

Ora Good Cat

At first glance, this cute little hatch also from GWM looks like a combination of Nissan’s Figaro front and Honda EK9’s rear. We’re glad that this looks nothing like MINI as one could easily perceive this as a “knock off”, but we are confident of GWM’s intention to provide good value and quality. When viewed in its entirety, it does look pretty convincing, with smooth lines from A to C pillars supplying a very modern and striking silhouette. Base-spec packs a 47.8kWh battery, which charges to 80% in 30 minutes. With a range of 400km, it should be a fuss free compact hatch for quick market runs. It is priced similarly to the Corolla Cross / HR-V in Thailand, making it a sensible financial decision if you want a full EV that doesn’t break the bank.

Honda HR-V

It’s only a matter of time Kah Motor brings this new HR-V in. Our IG story poll suggests that more prefer the previous gen’s looks over this – could it be due to the increasingly common rear light strips also present in Ora’s Good Cat (and Lexus’ IS / NX range)? Lenspeed feels that it’s about time for the new HR-V to ply local roads to spice up the hybrid segment – keen to see how e:HEV with Lithium-ion battery stacks up against Toyota’s Nickel-metal Hydride hybrid. We reckon this tech should have no issues achieving more than 20km/l on expressways even with the fairly small battery pack.

Toyota Corolla Cross

Pictured is Toyota Corolla Cross’ GR Sport variant – top spec with suspension work tuned by Gazoo Racing alongside other cosmetic mods. We’re more keen on regular models for this compact SUV. 1.8 NA hybrid should be perfect for Singapore roads, with the battery doing most of the work from standstill, and petrol motor kicking in when roads open up. At least for now, hybrid sounds more relevant to quell range anxiety of full EVs. Ideal for families who need a step up from the Yaris Cross (not available in Thailand) in terms of storage. We might not need to wait long though – Borneo Motors might bring it in by June 2022.

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By Team Lenspeed

It shouts class on paper, and Lenspeed can’t wait to get our hands on one

Embargo_23_00_01_3_February_2015_Cayman_GT4_rear_three_quarter_track

Take a 3.8-litre 911 Carrera S engine, plonk it into a mid-engine, RWD layout of the Cayman. Who would have thought that Porsche’s management would give this lethal combination the green light? It was “supposed” to be an open secret, that Stuttgart engineers did not want to beef up the potential of the Cayman’s impressive dynamics for fear of overlaps with the 911’s customer base. We’re wrong. And we’re not complaining.
We’re huge fans of the Cayman. Even with a base-spec 2.7-litre engine punching not more than modern day, 300bhp+ turbocharged hot hatches, it manages to show the world that big numbers does not always equate to big fun. Now, it seems that we can enjoy the Cayman’s dynamic ability in a more potent, urgent package.
We’re not expecting the GT4 to generate smiles per mile like our former 997.1 GT3 staff car, but bringing it into context at launch date reveals plenty of promises as far as Porsche’s direction is concerned. The stick-shift only (no news on the PDK version, yet) GT4 was revealed alongside the PDK-only 991 GT3 RS, and it seems that the keen drivers over at Porsche has managed to convince their business-minded colleagues to carve out a niche product for an obsessed bunch of enthusiasts – Lenspeed included.
380bhp sounds like proper performance for a driver’s car, and with only 1340kg to shift, it should also be one that dances through switchbacks effortlessly just like its “lesser” siblings, albeit in a faster, more vigourous manner.
How close of an experience will it be to the GT3? We can only fathom a guess that it might come pretty close. Components are developed by Porsche Motorsport, the same minds behind the unrivaled line of GT3s and RSR race cars.
Right now, we can finally marvel at the prospect of getting behind the wheel of a proper modern driving machine. Let’s hope that the GT4 won’t disappoint. And by the looks of it, we’re pretty certain it won’t.
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By Team Lenspeed

IMG_8032

Hopping into the MkV R32 certainly brought back good memories. We had the MkV GTI for three years before swapping it for the FD2R. This unit comes with a Bastuck exhaust, a massive Forge intake and Sparco rims. Although we prefer to keep it bone stock, the addictive VR6 grunt aided by the catback exhaust definitely elevates the overall appeal of a Golf. It’s a left-field choice, we admit, but that’s precisely why we fell in love with it.

On the move, nose heavy tendencies can be felt the moment you chuck it hard into a corner – not unexpected considering that the VR6 takes up the entire space of the engine bay (even the battery needs to be relocated to the rear boot!)

At 1500kg, this is one heavy hatchback. You could definitely feel the heft while ploughing it through the corners. I prefer to let it waft on the freeway rather than keep it on the boil, as it can’t match the urgency of the FD2R’s K20A. What’s pleasantly surprising is the low end torque that instantly reacts to my input, a very different feeling compared to the MkV GTI where the turbo takes time to spool for it to gather serious pace. It’s not as reactive as a K20A of course, but still receptive enough to derive direct response and pleasure only NA motors can muster.

Technological progress have indeed helped turbocharged units to identify gaps in the torque curve and throttle response, but in our opinion, purists will still crave for the combination of an authentic engine note and accessible throttle response. The R32 will not be a petrolhead’s first choice primarily due to its heft, but old school ingredients are well in place for an enjoyable time behind the wheel, which is why Lenspeed is always on the hunt in the classifieds for rare finds. And in our opinion, the R32 fits our list and will be part of our staff fleet for the long haul. In-depth updates soon!

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