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?

Leave a comment

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!
Leave a comment

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!

Leave a comment

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…

Leave a comment

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!

Leave a comment

Having spent three days in Bangkok during Songkran, we felt that it was time to venture a little further out for a quick “breakfast run”. Tollways linking from other provinces towards (and out of) Bangkok were free of charge from the first day of Songkran (Wednesday 13 April), at least till Monday the 18th of April – a nice touch given that these fees can be pretty hefty. *A drive from Bangkok to Pattaya costs around THB150 for toll fees alone, but you’ll benefit from roads that are of much better condition than those that run parallel to tollways.

Leaning tree almost gave me a concussion, phew…

This time round, instead of heading southeast (read about our trip to Rayong a week ago), we drove eastwards to Chachoengsao province, shooting past Suvarnabhumi Airport and went for a quick 2 hour drive (both ways) to grab some pastries. The journey was a mix of straight stretches from the elevated tollway, tapering off to narrow streets flanked by padi fields.

Headed Eastwards this time – a quick L-shaped route to stock up on pandan cakes

We reached our first destination – Pu Ka A Bakery. Apparently this place is famous for its triangular-shaped pandan cakes stuffed with generous coconut slices. The carpark was already half filled at 9 am, by those we reckon who want to return to Bangkok before the post-Songkran jam piles up.

Old-school satisfaction

Now that we’ve settled our tea breaks for the week, we made a quick dash back home. This time, Google Maps alerted us to a “megafactoy” just opposite the bakery. Toyota Motor Thailand’s Assembly Plant (Ban Pho) I believe is one of three factories in Thailand. This specialises in assembly, and after some Googling, my car could very well have rolled out from this factory three years ago!

Likely the birthplace of most Toyotas in Thailand – more investigation required

And I wouldn’t be surprised if Toyota cars bound for the local market have vehicles tested within this factory’s vicinity. At least from my experience with the Yaris, the suspension soaks up potholes the size of craters well. There’s still much to be desired when tollways make way for twisty roads though – the car does not tempt you to embark on corner carving activities. I had to take it slow, and signal to allow raging Ford Ranger / Isuzu D Max drivers overtake me on B roads.

Averaged 95km/h on the tollway, pretty glad with the result. On par with the VW Polo 1.2 TSI tested 8 years ago…

It was a short 2-hour drive in total, 120km clocked, but a fulfilling process nevertheless. I will be back for sure to grab more pandan cakes, while also telling myself that I will be driving the Yaris homewards, to where it all started…

Leave a comment

Hello everyone, my name is Jasper and I was invited by James to write and document my car journeys on lenspeed.com. 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.


1 Comment

From the time the introductory post of the 300SE went live, many of you have been checking in over the course of the past 1-and-a-bit week (now close to 2 weeks) on progress of her restoration work. I will share the same here – guess there isn’t much to complain about (perhaps some to celebrate over?) as work has been moving along at a decent/ satisfactory pace!

An old friend came to visit 🙂

We are now approaching the 1-month mark since I took ownership of this W126. To be honest, I initially expected this to be a relatively quick job – with minor rust/ welding, engine and undercarriage work to be completed. But the more components were removed, the more we discovered and the more we wanted to do for this old girl.

OCD-ness has almost taken over fully, with job upon job being dovetailed and stacked on top of each other. Do reach out if anyone of you manage to find a cure for this disease!

Let me explain;

Since our last update, the SE’s M103 engine had been extracted from her shell. Going by the sheer number of seals that had to be replaced + a leaky rear main seal, our partners at Tropical Success advised that it would be easier to work with the engine out.

Out and ready for a wash of the engine bay. The amount of room in here is surprising!

Feels odd to have this gaping hole

Now this released the floodgate of old and worn components to be changed and jobs to be undertaken – engine dampers + rebuild, timing chain, oil pump chain & guide replacement + rebuild, water jacket replacement, exhaust manifold gasket, water jackets (to not bore you I shall stop here)

Not too shabby I’d say – her engine has been looked after but can definitely do with some sprucing up

Being fettled with

Well since the engine was out, why not sand blast and repaint all these metallic components? I must say, the ensuing result speaks for itself.

Lovely – nice and shiny

Strewn across the workshop floor

M103 (almost) in all its glory – can’t wait for it to go back in!

Remember what I described as rather minor rust repair work? This turned out to be (in my terms) rather major. What happened here could only be explained by a leak that started from clogged drain channels below the front windscreen, that overflowed from the LHS drain pipe near the car’s A-pillar onto the wheel arch and into the front passenger footwell.

Front end components removed to expose the sheet metal

Like limestone dripping from stalactites, how her floorboard got to this “crispy” state was not so much due to pooling rain water, but dampness that was not able to totally dry out in our humid weather.

Measuring up the pieces needed for welding

And same goes for that small patch at the bottom of the rear windscreen, which I also noticed that it had been around since the time of publishing of that ST article we quoted in our last post. For these, both front and rear windscreens are waiting to be lifted before the grinding and welding work can commence.

A rusty battery tray area – could be much worse, and can definitely be resolved

As for that battery tray area… remember how our folks had to keep a spare bottle of “battery water”? More often that not, having to top up one’s battery water into a small hole would inadvertently result in some spillage of that corrosive liquid onto the battery tray. Guess it is not very reasonable to expect every owner to lift up a heavy battery to ensure the area is dry before closing up their bonnet.

Full view of her front LHS wheel arch

Because of the extent of the rust, the W126’s dashboard had to be removed to further expose the condition of the sheet metal underneath it, just to be sure we weren’t missing out on any other areas. Now thankfully, for the front end, rust was only limited to the floorboard, battery tray and minor spots on the front wheel arch. Now since the dash was out…. why not replace the old air-conditioning system components? New temperature switches (we actually found that an AC switch belonging to a Toyota Dyna single cab pick up truck had been installed by a previous owner!), an evaporator and a cooling coil were swiftly ordered.

Goodness, the list sure doesn’t end!

New evaporator! This will last for some time (and of course keep us cool in our tropical heat)

Now, our undercarriage work will seem minor compared to the aforementioned. With our front brake assemblies out for replacement of those notorious 90’s Mercedes Benz ball joints and for easy access to those large caster bushings, a rebuild and refurbishment of the front brake callipers followed. Again, another surprise as I had not asked for these to be done for the car. What great service from the folks at Tropical!

New discs, rebuilt & resprayed callipers and refreshed rubber bushings replaced!

And of course, being no stranger to Benz’s from the 90s, typical wear components of the cooling and fuel system are being replaced. After having been stranded with a broken fuel pipe and experiencing massive coolant loss due to a cracked radiator pipe with the previous W124, no chances will be taken with this old girl.

Critical in managing water flow through its drainage system, sun damage to this front windshield cowling will have to be rectified in-house as it is out-of-production. One of the few workarounds that had to be taken in restoring what is a 30 year old car

As we speak, the 300SE is waiting on a supposed windshield expert to aid Tropical Success in the removal of her front and rear windshields so that welding to her front, and that minor rust spot on the rear can take place safely. Fingers crossed that no mishaps occur!

With company like this, I guess the W126 is in good hands

Leave a comment

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!

Leave a comment

By Gerald Yuen

A week before Thailand’s new year (Songkran) – not a wise move to make a short 2D 1N trip out of Bangkok. But we went ahead with it anyway, as traffic would most likely pile up on roads leading northwards. Given that we were heading south to a quiet seaside town of Rayong, we gave it a shot! And we got lucky…

Jap-inspired coffeehouse next to a rubber plantation

I refer to Rayong as a “sleeper city” – very quiet, just a few roads linking up the city centre, and nothing else, really. But for petrolheads, this city might interest you. BMW Group assembles cars in Rayong. Great Wall Motors (GWM), one of the top three vehicle manufacturers in China, has set up shop in Rayong too.

Lost a tyre valve cap. Big C to the rescue. It’s the least fancy design of the lot. The other one? Rocket-shaped…

And because of this you will likely be driving alongside trailers filled with brand new cars en route to Bangkok, stickered up with protective film, ready for delivery. We saw three trailers filled with Volvo XC40s, and one filled with Toyota Hiluxes. Of course, trucks still form a substantial chunk of vehicle sales here in Thailand – 44% of annual sales come from trucks, with Isuzu the preferred brand!

Not a bad figure, but EVs are spoiling the market!

Ok I digress, but it is often the journey leading up to a destination that makes these trips memorable. I am sure petrolheads can relate! The route tempts you to embark on a fuel consumption challenge. 100km of straight roads, 3 lanes wide, so you can keep in the middle lane and hold steady at 80km/h. The Yaris did well this trip – 22+km/l with 80% highway. Half a tank used and with RON95 now at around THB39 per litre (ouch), it cost us around S$30 for the entire trip.

Bangkok looks small compared to neighbouring provinces

We’ll be back for more drives to Rayong. Will likely explore further East (towards Chantaburi the next trip) once the infamous Songkran traffic subsides!

Leave a comment