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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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It has, admittedly, been quite some time since our last update – with time being such a precious commodity and the day job catching up, I am glad to (finally) share that the 300SE is on the road!

Shot on collection day! One of the last vehicles to leave Tropical Success at 8pm, just before the long May Day + Hari Raya Puasa weekend

M103 in all its glory

It has been about 10 days since she was brought home, and I must say I am still in the “new car honeymoon phase” – if I’m even making sense here. I can’t deny that the W126 looks extremely regal and stately. There’s something just very proper about its design. Not sure if all will agree with me, but I feel that the SE (standard wheelbase) has better proportions than its SEL long wheelbase cousin.

The petrol station – natural habitat of any M103-powered Mercedes Benz

I have to admit, she’s not perfect – with some interior bits niggling at our usual OCD-ness I can guarantee that they will be sorted real soon. Since collection, new buttons and a control unit for the front passenger and drivers’ seats have been source respectively. I was finally able to adjust my driving position for better economics after about a week of driving around! What’s left is a sagging rear headliner trim… being in full view from the rear view mirror, this eye sore really needs to be sorted soon.

In good company – shooting our Lenspeed live M103 test video some days ago

At first instance, there was something that didn’t feel so right about the 300SE’s drive. James might beg to differ, opining that its M103 feels rather powerful despite its heft. Her gearbox also took quite sometime to get into gear from a standing start, only engaging close to 3000rpm – all 722.3 transmissions start at gear 2 by the way, with the trouble spot occurring from 2nd to 3rd.

I also noticed that the 300SE started to have its temperature tick up every time she stood at the lights. A couple of hairy moments kept my heart rate high every time she met with a mild traffic jam or long queue for the lights, with temperatures approaching 100 degrees celsius!

A couple of days later, the 300SE was booked into Tropical Success for a quick adjustment of her bowden cable (that controls how soon the gearbox shifts up). And that overheating was found to be caused by a non-activating fan! Our trusty advisors discovered a faulty fan switch, AC electric fan resistor and engine fan clutch – these were swiftly replaced and in no time she was back on the road.

OCD strikes again! I could not bare to run around with a set of aftermarket centre caps on those lovely gullideckel rims – this was the opportunity to break out the NOS MB originals since the early days of classic MB ownership

Now this looks correct

After multiple trips to Sim Huat Tyre to dial in her steering alignment – we later found that the main cause for its inability to drive straight was poorly balanced wheels (phew) – I must say she drives (almost) perfectly. It was definitely the right choice to upgrade from the 4-cylinder M102 in the 200E to this 6 cylinder motor. Singapore highway cruising speeds are nothing but but a pleasure now – NVH is certainly next-level and when pushed/ with kickdown activated, the M103’s mechanical note actually sounds rather pleasing to the ear.

Not to mention, with those looks, motorists never fail to jump out of the way when they spot the W126’s prominent front grille adorned with the 3-pointed star hurtling towards them in their rear view mirror. As many have commented, there’s something very “yakuza-like” about the business end of the W126, especially in a darker tone.

Peering through

Not to say the W126 doesn’t enjoy the odd park up, she sure looks majestic from a distance as well.

Here’s to more drives and adventures!

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I must say – what a week it has been, and we’re just only getting through the middle of it!

Progress with our little restoration project has been moving steadily. We previously left off with the 300SE pretty much in pieces – her engine had been extracted, dash had been removed to give space for welding and was awaiting a supposed ‘windscreen expert’ to help lift both front and rear windscreens.

I must say. This new “glass” is really clear

Well, thankfully that day came and went rather swiftly, and most importantly with no mishaps. In no time, welding to her floorboard, front fire wall, front LHS wheel arch, battery tray and rear windscreen frame could finally take place. The results, to say the least are amazing.

From here, I will let the pictures do the talking:

Finally, a clean battery tray area! Awaiting a NOS battery tray – Merc aficionados will know this to be extremely hard to find!

Post welding: The new metal that had been welded on also received a fresh cost of anti-rust paint – which is what gives off that matte, black finish

Top: Cutting out rusty bits of metal on the rear windshield frame
Bottom: the welded, final result

It was a huge sigh of relief to be able to close the chapter on the 300SE’s bodywork. It definitely feels reassuring to know that the spread of this “cancer” has now been stopped. Hopefully this is a sign of remission – I guess this will be the case as long as she is parked under shelter for most part of the day, and has her drain holes cleared regularly.

With her rust work sorted, our team at Tropical Success was able to commence piecing her back together, whilst awaiting the appointment with the ‘windscreen expert’ to secure her windshields back on.

Slowly working towards putting her dashboard back on – but first, fresh bulbs to illuminate the various gauges and buttons

Whilst that was happening, her engine too, was slowly being lifted back into her bay and had all her hoses and wires being connected back together. Her newly refreshed radiator and cooling hoses too, were reinstalled:

Moments before her radiator was lifted into place

Almost ready! A last minute run to grab a brand new alternator was made to ensure that no old and possibly worn out component would be left out of this round of work

Whilst all this was taking place, I took the opportunity to go about refreshing her interior. The folks at tropical noticed a small rip in the upholstery on the rear bench – we were lucky enough to be connected to an upholsterer who had a roll of NOS MB Tex material left in his stock to help us replace the ripped panels.

Since the 300SE also had a missing front passenger seat pocket, I took the chance to engage him to fashion one in the very same material.

Alright, this might not be concours spec and although there is a colour mismatch owing to new material vs faded plastic, I must say its close to the original! (and of course massively cheaper and easier than finding a W126 seatback from the scrapyard)

NOS MB Tex was an amazing find

One of our fellow W124/ W126 owner-friends (you may remember him from our introductory post), who turns out to be quite a skilful craftsman and hands-on restorer, very kindly agreed to help with the refurbishment of the 300SE’s cracked AC wood panel.

Its veneer hadn’t totally cracked off, which made it a prime candidate for light restoration and revarnishing.

Thanks Mr B!

Clockwise, from top left hand corner: Veneer that was cracking and lifting from the wood panel had to be glued back on (rather ingenious use of clothes pegs there) before it could be sanded down, had filler and walnut stained applied, and finally before the application of multiple layers of varnish. Although the last picture shows the panel only in near-completion stage, the result is nothing short of mesmerising

Stepping into the interior, it would be too easy for any of you to point out the many other niggling bits within the 300SE that requires replacement or rework. But the objective here was to focus on the larger chunks/ main touch points so that she would at least feel “good” to sit in (and not resurrect the OCD-monster within) when Day 1 comes.

Well, looks like we are inching closer to day 0. With more (re)assembly work to come, I’m sure we are all definitely looking forward to seeing her come back together in the next few days.

Look out, this old bruiser will be back on the road in no time!

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Hello everyone, my name is Jasper and I was invited by James to write and document my car journeys on To share a short introduction about myself, I currently drive a MK5 Toyota GR Supra 3.0 and have owned it for about 5 months now. The Supra replaced a Volkswagen Mk7 Golf R, which I had owned for 3 years previously.

Nov 2019 Traction Circle Club Time Attack Judgement Day Round 3

There was actually no intent to sell the Golf R, considering how fun a car it is, and the extent of which it had been modded to as well. Way back in 2019, the car was comfortably clocking 2:32 at Sepang in stock turbo form and relatively stock suspension components. It was a fantastic car all-around, with the potential of pushing upwards of 500hp comfortably yet reliably on a stock engine with just a couple of bolt-on parts such as upgraded fuel pumps, a hybrid turbo, an intake, exhaust and intercooler, whilst also still being able to comfortably ferry 5 adults and remaining under the radar whilst giving supercar owners a run for their money. The boredom that COVID-19 brought in the form of border closures soon tempted me to go all out with preparing the car for when borders reopen. This meant the install of the REVO stage 3 ECU tune and REVO ETR V2 hybrid turbo developed by Owen Developments, a second set of Bilstein B16 Damptronic coilovers (and MITIN coilovers with custom spring rates for Sepang), the full suite of Superpro polyurethane bushes, and an AMS carbon intake. However, a year after enjoying 500hp on tap, a deal almost too good to pass was offered on the table, and soon after I found myself searching for its replacement.

Aug 2019 HKS Garage R Sepang Track Day

Decision Making

As I figured there was no better time for myself to own a sports car, requirements for the Golf’s replacement was simple: 2 doors, 2 seats, 6-cylinder engine. Having had the privilege of experiencing multiple sports cars from Porsche, Ferrari, McLaren and Lamborghini through various generous friends gave me a very strong idea of what to expect from a sports car in terms of driving feel, experience and emotion. After much deliberation, I had narrowed down my options to various offerings from Porsche and BMW M such as the 991.1 Carrera S, the BMW M2 Competition and last but not least, the Toyota Supra.

Last few moments with the Mk7 Golf R

The 991.1 Carrera S was a beautiful car to drive and offered the biggest driving emotion and best steering feel amongst the 3. Along with Porsche’s rich history, racing heritage and timeless design, it was an extremely strong contender. However, with the model now approaching its 10-year mark, finding an unmolested, low miles unit in pristine condition wasn’t easy, and higher running costs stemming mostly from increased road tax and maintenance had me thinking twice about purchasing the car.

Porsche 991.1 911 Carrera S

The BMW M2 Competition, while not as enjoyable to drive as the 911 in terms of all-around experience, is an extremely quick car, comparatively speaking. But with the price of BMW M cars soaring in recent times, it did not make much sense from a financial standpoint. The car, with its legendary S55 engine, was also now coming close to being 8 years old. The exhaust note wasn’t much to speak of either in my opinion, and simply put, it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for as the car has 2 additional seats in the rear.

Now, the Supra. The Supra ticked all of the right boxes – creamy inline-6 exhaust note, check. 2 seats, check. New technology from both an engine and chassis development perspective, check. Tuning potential, check. Affordable running costs, check. I can go on and on, and simply cannot think about any flaws with the car. I was hooked as soon as I went to view one. The car has a very GT-style silhouette with its long bonnet and short rear, and sitting in the driver’s seat is akin to sitting in the cockpit of a fighter jet.

One of the units viewed

After viewing multiple units, I eventually pulled the trigger on an Absolute Zero White unit that came with a number of tasteful goodies such as the Xpel Stealth Paint Protection Film, Milltek axle-back exhaust, ProTuningFreaks Bootmod3 stage 1 tune as well as various chassis braces from Cusco. As the car was imported and modified by Maximus Racing, the 5-year warranty covered the mods too, which gave further peace of mind. The only so-called drawback was that the car came with the much-dreaded OPF filter, in place of a traditional resonator box that the Borneo units come with.

Car looking right at home at MTR during Pre-Purchase Inspection

Driving Dynamics & Performance

The result of a collaboration between Toyota and BMW is a very strong and capable platform with huge potential, outpacing the M2 Competition(stock to stock) at highly acclaimed race tracks across the globe such as Laguna Seca and Nurburgring Nordschleife.

At the same time, the car also provides a jekyll and hyde kind of personality thanks to having 2 driving modes to choose from: normal and sports. This allows the car to be comfortable enough to drive on a daily basis, whilst also allowing the driver to enjoy the car a bit more spiritedly by simply pushing the “sport” button, which increases the damper stiffness, steering weight and throttle responsiveness.

Right out of the factory, the car sounds very impressive on paper – its chassis stiffer than a Lexus LFA, body’s centre of gravity lower than a Toyota 86, 50:50 weight distribution and an ideal track width to wheelbase ratio of 1.55. And driving it, especially when near or on the limit, further amplifies all of the strengths highlighted above. However, there were still some shortfalls with the car that left me wanting more…

Mods & Future Plans

Seeing as how much potential Toyota had left on the table for tuners to tweak the car with, it was inevitable that the modding bug from the Golf would be carried over to the Supra, albeit in phases.

First off, power. The higher end of the power band in factory tune is lacklustre. Thankfully, a stage 1 tune from Bootmod3 can solve this issue in a matter of minutes, bumping power figures up to 440bhp with no hardware mods required. This significant bump in power resulted in a much stronger pull into the higher rpms, whilst still remaining extremely torquey in the lower end of the rev range. But since power had already been taken care of by the previous owner, no further action was required from my end, seeing that 440bhp is adequate to live with for now.

Moving on to the handling aspect of the car, this is where the real fun begins – as mentioned earlier, the car handles like a dream out of the factory, with a much quicker steering rack and much more responsive feedback compared to the Golf. However, I don’t really enjoy the slightly pushy and understeer-y characteristic and body roll that the car still entails compared to higher end and more track-focused sports cars. Thankfully, it is nothing a few simple mods can’t solve.

After countless hours reading through various forums and groups, phase 1 of modding the Supra involved procuring the following items as part of preparing the car for drives up north to Sepang International Circuit:

  • AP Racing Pro 5000R brake callipers paired with Project Mu 999 brake pads
  • SPL adjustable front lower control arms with spherical bushings to increase camber
  • SPL adjustable caster bushings to adjust caster and eliminate rubber bushing deflection
  • SPL adjustable front end links to dial out sway bar preload
  • Cusco sway bars front and back
  • HKS height adjustable springs to replace the huge, factory spring perch, thereby unlocking the ability to run up to 315 width tyres up front
  • APEX EC-7RS 18×11” forged rims
  • Bridgestone RE-71RS 295/35/18 tyres on all 4 corners

At time of writing, only the brakes and the HKS springs had been installed. I haven’t had the chance to test out and really stomp on the brakes as yet, but with great success running them on the Golf, and owners of various supercars swapping out their factory brake kits for the 5000R, that should be enough to sing high praises of how good they truly are.

AP Racing Pro 5000R Brake Kit

As for the HKS springs, they’re noticeably stiffer compared to the stock springs, and in my opinion feel better paired with the factory dampers than the stock springs do. Rims will be installed as soon as tyres arrive, which have been on backorder for close to 4 months now.

HKS Hipermax Height Adjustable Springs

Countless Supra enthusiasts overseas sing extremely high praises for the remainder of the mods that have yet to be installed, and I am excited to test them out at Sepang next month, and subsequently share my updates and feedback on Lenspeed as well, so watch this space!

Till then, take care and drive safe.


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Text and photos by James Wong 

Somehow, the CM1 in the #LenspeedOwned fleet hasn’t gotten much attention nor love.

A photo during one of the first few weeks of ownership!

I guess it’s because it was in my hands for a short while, before I decided that it was too slow for my hot-blooded veins. It then went to my sister, and now it runs as a family banger.

Tints made it look like a mafia wagon

So it never really received much care or concern. Yet, it ran pretty much flawlessly aside from the usual wear and tear items.

Interior has an exotic brown/black combination which is a nice touch

I purchased it in 2016, when it had about 133k on the odometer and PQP was a not inconsiderable $50kish. Having only 1 past owner and being in rather honest condition (read: crappy paint, but clean and unmodified exterior/interior), I renewed COE on it. It felt expensive back then (when you could get a MkV GTI on cheaper depre, which I did afterwards), but it seems reasonable now especially when JDM prices have climbed. It now has 213k on its clocks and still runs strong and true.

It performed several roles in the last 6 years, and its early life was a tough one, transporting heavy packs of F&B wares almost as a company van. It managed to graduate from that to do more palatable daily chores like the school run and the odd drive to Malaysia. It now has somewhat of a ‘retiree’ life being driven only when the other cars need to be serviced or break down. It’s been rather good at that.

In that span of time, wear was remarkably slow even though the car was put through harsh conditions. Many times, I felt pity for it, but also was not compelled to do anything as it isn’t mine, technically.

In early 2021 it got some love by having a much-needed paint job, and it looks so much better afterwards. It still deserves a nice set rims and twin exhausts, but I shall indulge on it a little if I have any additional funds. With the stock market looking this way, it’s looking to be a long way still.

More recently, it gave up the ghost after its years of hard labour due to overheating. I thought at first that an animal climbed into the engine bay and got stuck somehow, but I later found out that the noises were caused by a failed radiator. It’s now a chance to refresh the car and get other items done at the same. I’m looking forward to how the car will drive after!

Any rim ideas? Feel free to comment or DM us on social for suggestions!

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Text and photos by James Wong 

For the longest time I resisted putting reverse sensors into my rear bumper.

Silly, right? Well, it’s because the car never originally came with them. So if I wanted to go for the period correct look, it would look really off it I had put modern sensors on.

But I relented. As I predicted it would eventually happen one day but chose to ignore the possibility, the better half relieved the rear bumper of its congruity. These early bumpers are pretty much NLA in Singapore any more, and most of the early W124s had been facelifted to newer bumpers and the older bumpers are presumably thrown away or exported. To be more geeky about it, it’s a MOPF0 bumper, and for W124s there are many other versions including MOPF1, MOPF1.5 and MOPF2…

Tropical Success (the workshop I go to) is finding it tricky to repair the plastic bumper, which is more delicate than usual (why, Mercedes, for such a presumably tough car?). But they will try and I can only hope. A backup plan would be to ship something from Malaysia, but honestly at this stage of my life, I neither have the time nor the bandwidth to be dealing with this. But that’s old car ownership, right? Make sure you have tons of reserve of time and money.

Since the car is at the shop I will be touching up the kerbed hubcaps as well. A weird thing I found while inspecting the car though is a very obvious patch of circular scratches on the left, just above the C-pillar. Very strange and my helper who usually cleans the car swore she did not do it. In any case, hopefully a simple polish would sort it out.

1989 W124 300E

Performance: 2960 cc inline six-cylinder, 188 hp, 8.4 secs 0-100 km/h (approx)
Efficiency as tested: 7.7 km/l
Odometer to-date: 125k

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It must have been a shock for me when my wife and I decided to take the plunge and buy a Toyota Yaris Ativ in Bangkok back in Jan 2020, just before the world turned upside down. A back to basics Yaris (aka Vios in most other markets) in the #LenspeedOwned fleet – what’s going on?

Day 1 – red plates belonging to the dealership indicating that it has not been registered, but we can still drive it within the registered province (Bangkok, in this case). Official white plates would normally arrive 1-2 months later.

The 25-year old me would have laughed at my 33-year old self. One that was exposed to the Airtrek Turbo with the bulletproof 4G63 motor in his early driving years, and then moved on to the MkV GTI, FD2R and MkV R32 (gosh, even our Citroen DS3 was fun when you’re in the mood for spirited driving). What is a CVT-equipped sub-100bhp Toyota doing in our garage?

First few kilometres, sweating in the Bangkok jam

I told myself to look at this ownership experience from another perspective. Why are there so many Toyotas in Thailand? What’s the pull factor? I didn’t have the answers just by observing the millions of Toyotas plying Thai roads – aided by the inauguration of Toyota Motor Thailand in 1962 capable of manufacturing 760,000 cars annually.

Pic taken on day 1, looks exactly the same 2 years later. 91bhp, 109Nm – hilarious figures

These figures are so difficult to comprehend, especially for a Singaporean exposed to the “unique” system of car ownership, with numbers that pale in comparison. Imagine: 10,000 Toyotas were sold in Singapore the entire 2021. 5,000 Toyotas were sold at Bangkok International Motor Show 2022 – an event that lasted only 12 days.

Heading towards Pattaya from Bangkok

You might be wondering why I didn’t focus on how it drives. That’s because it is nothing special, really. Yes, it can achieve 23km/l with 90% highway driving at 90km/l, and a ridiculous 27km/l with uninterrupted traffic at a constant 70km/h (holding steady at 1,400rpm).

Home advantage

Here comes the important bit – this car served as a catalyst for me to understand more about the car industry in Thailand. Without this car, I might not have dug so deep into fact-finding, driving past countless dealerships and always asking how in the world this brand can manage 150 dealerships and 400+ showrooms around the country. It’s a scale so massive that I still cannot fathom. An absolute eye opener for me, humbling even..

Not a flattering view – droopy tail pipe and non-existent stance. But a no nonsense soi-hunter

Do I feel that I need something more fun to accompany this in the garage? Absolutely. Do I have regrets purchasing this car? Absolutely not. There is certainly inertia to buy an imported car, given that taxes are tagged at 300%. Of course, prices still pale in comparison to those in Singapore. But I feel that the prices between a locally-made car and a full import here in Thailand is so drastic to a point that it makes imports less appealing, at least for those that want a reliable, sensible daily drive.

This field was totally submerged a week later due to the rainy season. Pasak Chonsalit dam – highly recommended

If there is one attribute that I find most fascinating, it is that the car was made from scratch 100 kilometres from where I stay. And in between the factory facility there are countless dealerships I can fall back on if something goes wrong – at least I can try my luck with my broken Thai to replace a faulty alternator. And we need not camp on USPS to track shipment timelines. Parts for a Thai-made Toyota might even be transported in a Thai-made Altis taxi! Toyota in Thailand has an ecosystem so deeply rooted in the country that I am still trying my best to unravel – I am only scratching the surface of it all.

15 inch, 185 section rubbers telling me to be very, very careful

I now have a newfound appreciation for Toyotas in Thailand. Unpretentious in its nature, delivering uninterrupted journeys in a manner that even made me forget that I am even driving. I will turn up the volume to mask the CVT drone, and just enjoy it for what it is, a point A to B companion – not good from an enthusiast-led point of view. But we need cars like these to allow us to dream. An Evo V project car in the works next? Perhaps. I just know that I have a Thai-made Toyota to fall back on, to fetch me from the Samut Prakan-based workshop that has worked on that cranky project car’s build for months!

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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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Lenspeed went on a regular stroll to shrug off the pandemic blues, and was pleasantly surprised to chance upon quite a special vehicle in electric blue hue.

This is not an Evo 6 from the factory – it is a Lancer, stripped down to bare bones and transformed to a road machine with a single-minded focus of having fun legally on Bangkok roads. Treat this as a CKD Lancer, assembled in Thailand to give it the Evo 6 treatment. Come to think of it, it does not matter if it is a CKD or CBU. It probably would have undergone a couple of overhauls at least given its age.. 20+ years and counting.

*Import taxes are more than 300% in Thailand, putting it on par on the ridiculous scale as taxes in Singapore.

We might be wondering – how can a Lancer be transformed to an Evo? What about the engine and drivetrain? How can this be legal? Are there workshops skilled enough to pull off such a project? It hit us for a moment, until the owner popped open the boot to reveal a clean 4G63 motor with no signs of it having been through 180,000km of harshness. It is only then when I realised that this is serious stuff – no LTA-related obstruction (!!) and we now had to reframe our mindset. Components that could actually be left untouched were not spared – cosmetic upgrades like rear seats were replaced, and crucial bits like the entire drivetrain underwent an overhaul. This is Thailand and, to say the least, pretty much anything is possible. They do have very skilled labour to perform these swaps with surgical precision. We are still very far from investigating the inner workings of workshop culture here but we’ll be sure to keep you updated once we dig deeper.

We were fortunate to bring it for a 20-minute spin. Jumping into the driver’s seat brought back great memories especially in the form of the 5-speed manual and analog instrument cluster. Scratches and smudges adorn the clusters, but it really didn’t matter much so long as they functioned – you would be focusing on its driving ability right from the get-go.

We were expecting some hesitation when shifting through the gears, but they were neat and precise despite its age – short gearing from 1 to 3 keeps you very occupied from standstill to 30km/h. The engine is silky smooth – probably due to a tune that prioritises linear revs over old school turbo lag. A part of me wanted to relive the moment where you had to anticipate the boost once the TD05 turbo (we have to verify the exact spec) kicks in – but honestly it is not that practical given the road and traffic condition in Bangkok. But if the owner decides to have a go in it in Northern Thailand (imagine 50km of B-roads in 15-degree fog), possibilities are endless and I bet there are not too many cars that can put a smile on Lenspeed’s face as much as a stick shift and a well tuned motor (linear yet punchy throughout the rev range).

*Special mention goes to the suspension that is well judged at high speeds, but understandably jiggly at low speeds. Not stock FD2R harsh, but 70% there!

The owner might be exploring swapping all-weather rubbers for full slicks, undergoing a couple more cosmetic repairs and perhaps a tune to understand more of its current potential. But in typical Lenspeed fashion, we will do our part and encourage him to focus more on drivability than chase numerical figures.

Stay tuned as we document more of its progress. After all, the owner is my neighbour!

*Thank you for the ride and driving opportunity, neighbour!

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Text and photos by The Lenspeed Team

From carving corners down a B-road, to shuttling the family off for firefly viewing, the ‘7.5’ iteration of the Golf GTI sharpens a familiar formula further

Forgive us for being quite critical of the Golf GTI. We are hardest on those we love the most, and with the GTI, at least three of Lenspeed’s staff have at least owned one at some point. Two still soldier on with Mk5 GTIs, festooned now with freshly renewed COEs. You could consider us fairly passionate about this hot hatch.

You would have known the old story by now, about how the Mk5 changed the game for the GTI, and thereafter the formula stuck. It literally reads off a textbook: TFSI/TSI + DSG = the hot (insert car variant here) of today. Everything from Nissan GTRs to Porsche 911s to BMW M5s now have some form of a turbocharged engine paired with a dual clutch gearbox, so needless to say it was quite a watershed car, the Mk5 (yes, it may not have been the first, but it certainly was the most popular). The latest imitator is the Hyundai i30, which is maybe proof that there is still life to the now age-old concoction yet.

So it is with great familiarity that we swoop up the keys to the Mk7.5 Golf GTI. Yes it’s all very mature and polished, so much so that the facelift – for enthusiasts – is hardly noticeable in terms of drivability. The Mk7 already set the standard so high that the extra 10 PS in the 7.5 is more for the paper chase than anything else. In fact, it does lag a fair bit so when boost kicks in it overwhelms the front tyres more than expected (but it could have also been due to worn tyres).

The most major change for us is the gearing of the steering, which feels almost as meaty as in the Mk5, but far sharper and accurate. The pre-facelift Mk7 felt a tad light and lacking feel, but they dialed it back in here. Otherwise, everything else is business as usual. Perhaps there is a tad more finesse to the gearbox shifts, but we’d be none the wiser. It’s going to be a moot point anyway as Mk7.5 GTIs will soon come with a brand new DQ381 7-speed gearbox that currently does service in the Mk7.5 Golf Rs.

Perhaps what’s more noticeable is that the signature red stripe now creeps its way into the headlights more definitively and there are snazzy dynamic turn signals for the rear lights. The interior received a strong touch, with the newest toy in the car world – a screen replacing the instrument panel – that Volkswagen calls Active Info Display (AID). The 9.2-inch infotainment system is also redesigned, as if the last one was bad at all, and features gesture control now. All very fancy, but we would be just as happy do without the technology as well.

What’s very cool for a Mk5 owner though coming to a Mk7.5, is discovering how much better the interior is packaged in the newer car. There is so much more space around the footwell, with smarter and neater design. Now that’s an improvement!

On a whim, we decided on a slightly extended test drive by driving into Johor to catch some fireflies at Kota Tinggi. Thus, the GTI was subjected to a gamut of stress tests – from the dead slow traffic on the Second Link, to the maddening crowds in Johor Bahru and the winding B-roads towards Kota Tinggi.

It didn’t surprise us, and neither would it you, that the GTI excelled in all of these situations. With Auto Hold, a small footprint and a cool Dynaudio sound system, sitting through the traffic was no sweat at all. On the B-roads, the GTI was pure entertainment. With tyres a little worn, we could get the chassis to work a little more with the road, and discovered roadholding is infinitely secure; if one could nitpick, maybe a little dull. But you can really go faster than you think without feeling at all worried you’ve overestimated yourself. Body rigidity is up there with the best of the lot, and the MQB chassis doesn’t feel aged at all next to competitors.

If there was anything surprising, it was that the Mk7.5 rode a bit harsher than the Mk5, more sports car like, even with its larger rims factored in. Brakes are also direct and some may say even a bit too grabby, but it all contributes to a more committed experience. It is by no means unpleasant, but combined with an exhaust note that can sound a bit synthetic at times, it could feel a tad contrived. All things considered though, we are picking on minor grievances.

We finished off the weekend with fuel consumption logged at 11.1km/l, so we could have easily achieved a range of above 550km even when pushing hard. That is a GTI all right – a car for everything and everyone. It still remains the swiss army knife of hot hatches, but we think we’re ready for the next revolution in the Mk8 GTI. The formula is already close to perfection, so something new is due. Perhaps a hybrid GTI is in the cards?       



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