Posts tagged ‘classic’

Text and photos by The Lenspeed Team


I don’t get to ride motorbikes that often. But when I do, it’s always a feast for the senses. Better than any caffeine hit in the morning, a bike ride will invigorate you, work some rusty muscles and have you break a sweat. It’s macho stuff, but I can almost swear it is almost like waking from the dreary routine of life.


So I can’t really say how well the R nineT rides compares to its peers, neither can I say either how quick it is benchmarked to the competition. What I do know is, I enjoy riding it, and it puts a smile on my face every time I start it up.


Like many things these days, retro is in, which is why the R nineT has a place in the BMW Motorrad lineup today. People want to re-live the good ol’ days, to hear the sounds and see how things were done before.


It sure looks the part. With its gold forks, lovely polished exhausts and brushed metal accents, it somehow manages to blend modernity with a nostalgic look to the past. It’s even marketed as a blank canvas for customisation, so you can literally change many parts on your bike to differentiate it from another R nineT. The bike we rode was especially spartan in spec though, maybe because it remained a blank canvas for future customisation. It did not even have a fuel gauge, only a warning light that comes on if the reserve tank comes to play.

The riding position is easy going, with no need to lumber down your back or hang your ankles uncomfortably. This could almost be the easiest bike I’ve ridden so far.


The engine helps, a generous 1,170cc flat-twin boxer engine with heaps of torque. You can move off easily in 2nd gear, maybe even 3rd. It’s always relaxed, preferring to surf on its torque curve rather than aim for the redline. But it suits the bike very well. It’s air-cooled though, so if you’re stuck in a jam, you might have quite a hot time. It also protrudes out from the sides quite obviously.


Because of its relaxed riding position, it’s also an easy bike to handle. The turning radius is reasonable, there is a lot of ground clearance and you have great visibility and a sense of how the bike is placed on the road. You tend not want to push it too hard though, as it’s just not that sort of bike.


As a cool addition to the garage, perfectly suited for the daily commute (sans panniers) and with heaps of style, the R nineT certainly fits the remit very well. A tourer it is not though – best to keep it within the urban setting, in which it unreservedly excels.

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By The Lenspeed Team


Competitors on the inaugural Road to Mandalay Rally, organised by the Endurance Rally Association, have crossed the border into Thailand and the half way mark, resulting in a tight battle for the top spot on the leaderboard.

Lenspeed was on-site on 31 January at Raffles Hotel to take a look at some of the cars participating in the race. Of interest to us were W113 SLs, a Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost and a gargantuan Itala with a 600-litre fuel tank.

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After leaving the iconic Raffles Hotel, Singapore, on 1st February, the 70 crews have already covered just shy of 4,000km over the past 12 days and are now in Kanchanaburi. Whilst all involved enjoy the amazing scenery, some drivers clearly have their eyes on the prize.

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In the Vintageant division, the big battle is between the three Chevys – Peking to Paris 2013 winners Phil Garrett and Kieron Brown are 20 seconds off first place in their 1937 Fangio Coupe with leaders Bill Shields and Scot Herbstman, from America, keeping their ’38 Coupe ahead of the field.

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But chomping at Phil and Keiron’s heels are fellow Yanks, Daniel Day and Ronald Doyle just three minutes behind in their ’37 Coupe, which may sound like quite a gap but give how the terrain changes on the roads ahead, it could be easy to take advantage.

The story is no different in the hotly contested Classics category, where there’s less than two minutes separating the top three cars – all with extremely experienced and competitive teams at the helm.

Keeping the others in his rear view is another Peking to Paris legend, octogenarian Gerry Crown from Australia in the 1974 Leyland P76 with navigator Matt Bryson. The Australian duo only has a 46 second edge on the British team of Peter and Zoe Lovett in their 1965 Porsche 911.

But furiously chasing the top two are the UK’s Grant Tromans and Simon Russell in the 1973 Datsun 240Z with a time of 00:42:32.

Notable mentions are American John Rich III who, along with his son and navigator John IV, is producing impressive times and a class lead in his huge ’57 Chevy Bel Air Convertible, and to those who have spent valuable rest days in the garage making necessary repairs and adjustments.

With around 4,400kms still to go and numerous time trials, regularity tests and like planned to cause further shake ups, it remains anyone’s for the taking.

Rally Director Philip Young said: “Cars and drivers are coping well and most are soaking up the amazing culture and stunning horizons, taking full advantage of the evening’s comfort in luxurious hotels. But for others, this isn’t a pleasure cruise!”

The next big milestone for the Road to Mandalay Rally will be the crossing of the border into Burma, the first time this has ever happened in this particular province, and the start of the final journey towards the finishline in Rangoon on 24th February.

Philip added: “This is the first ever crossing of the frontier by foreigners from Thailand into Burma, and the first rally to drive into Burma.”

Follow the daily rally reports on Road to Mandalay, as well as updates on forthcoming ERA events, at


By The Lenspeed Team

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With a big banner saying ‘Muzium Pengangkutan Melaka’, we weren’t sure if we understood what it meant when we passed by it, careening along the A-road leading into Melaka. However, quick glances at the building housing the banner stole glimpses of cars on display, one of which was a Bentley prominently placed on the centre-stage, plus a couple of other classics.  Just our good fortune to chance upon a motor museum – just when we were just planning to make the trip purely for food! We decided that after filling up our tummies, we had to give this one a proper look. Capturing the museum’s location, we traced back our steps again to look for probably what no one else in Singapore has ever seen (or bothered) to see: Melaka’s very own autocity.

There is scant information about this promisingly-named area, but from what we gather it is meant to be an agglomeration of workshops, dealerships, authorised servicing centres and auto suppliers in one central location. Unfortunately from our visit on a weekend it seems like 90% of the area is unoccupied, and Proton is pretty much the only major active tenant there. Its placing nearby to the Melaka International Trade Centre (MITC) seems to serve no purpose but for the fact that car park lots are aplenty.

While it may be somewhat of a ghost town, its Transportation Museum does offer some reason for a visit if, for one reason or another, other attractions in Melaka just don’t appeal to you. If, at this point, you would probably not visit this place again ever in your life, count on us to show you how it is like anyway!

The Transportation Museum was, reportedly, opened on 2 January 2010 “as an adjunct” to Malaysia’s (booming) car industry – HICOM (Heavy Industries Corporation of Malaysia), Proton, Perodua and MODENAS (National Motor-cycles and Engines, not the place in Italy, mind!). We like the idea, but we can’t help but be a bit curious when we were just about the only visitors when we dropped by. Fans had to be turned on and legs lifted off tables as we – alas! – paid the entry fees to visit the museum! Enjoy our photo tour.

Luxury cars were a dime a dozen in the museum, like this 1960s BMW saloon…


And this stretched W114 Merc. Best of all, most them were unlocked so if you wanted (and if you risked getting security onto you), you could get a seat in these which you probably can’t do in most other ‘proper’ museums.

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There were a couple of Mercs. Either the museum loved them a lot, or their donors did! Here’s another W114.

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There’s even a W220 S500, although we’re unsure why it’s held up by jack stands. We reckon it’s to prevent the AIRMATIC suspension from seizing up.

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There were beauties, like our personal favourite, the Volvo P1800…

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And the rear-engined Kharmann Ghia (related to the Beetle).

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There were also rarities, like this unidentified Volkswagen vehicle…

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Complete with Wolfsburg logos and Mk3/Mk4 Golf seats! We suspect it’s based on the Beetle, because of its central twin exhausts.

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But also oddities, like this crumbling horse-drawn cart.

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For our JDM fans, a Datsun! (Sorry we haven’t got a clue what model this is.) Oh, and yes that’s a jet plane you see at the back.

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We understand the museum is a ‘rare gem’, so the cars may not be in their best condition (yes that’s mould in the E32 7er’s interior)…

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But hey, at least the coach line on the Bentley remains well intact.

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Interestingly enough, this Bentley Eight’s interior reminds us of both the interiors of a modern Rolls-Royce (door design) and a modern Bentley (dashboard, especially the top one-piece leather).

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That’s all folks! If you want to find this place for yourself, here is the address:

Address: Melaka Autocity, Taman Tasik Utama, 75350 Melaka
GPS coordinates: N 2.283982, E 102.270656




By James Wong


Following the end of World War II, West Germany underwent an incredible economic expansion that brought it to the top leagues of industrialised countries. Unlike the United States which pursued a consumption-based growth model, Germany was always building, creating, inventing, and then exporting this great work to the world. Its automotive industry was no exception – previous relics of war, like the Volkswagen Beetle, went on to find massive commercial success worldwide.

Mercedes-Benz by then already had a rock-solid reputation, and looking back at the long lineage of the S-Class you will find the W108, although it was not officially called the Sonderklasse until much later.

W108s sold in good numbers in Singapore, although from what insiders can punt most of them were the later model 280S. Lenspeed had the immense privilege of driving the W108 recently in one of its earliest launch specifications, the 250S. This came with a 2.5-litre straight-six M108 engine with twin zenith carburettors (what fuel injection?), developing a leisurely 130bhp and a century acceleration performance of about 14 seconds. All this is purely academic, of course, because as I was about to find out, on-road performance is vastly different from what you read on the spec sheet.


When the W108 first approached the small lay-by where I waited, my ears immediately caught the exhaust note of something old – not old in the sense of being broken, but chugging along with character, panache and attitude. I’m not sure if the later fuel-injected 250SE would sound any different, but this one definitely evoked an atmosphere that brought me back to at least 30 years ago, in a good way.

Parking up, what was immediately apparent is the length of the car. Even by modern standards the W108 had a wheelbase and body of an elegant cruise liner, one which surely drew many respectful glances on the road especially at a time in Singapore where most people were still riding around in rickshaws, bicycles and motorbikes.

Even so, the friendly ride height hinted that it was supremely easy to get in and out of the car, as well as to look out of. That, perhaps, could explain why the side rear view mirrors were almost apologetic compared to the size of the rest of the car. They simply weren’t needed. “The beauty of the car is that you can just swing your head back if you’re reversing, and you can see everything,” says the owner of the car who demonstrated it expertly when manoeuvring in the lay-by.


I could well have forgotten to mention how beautiful this car is. Although much have been written about the elegance of classic Mercedes-Benz cars, nothing could prepare you when you first set your eyes upon one cruising down the road. The lines are so correct, free of safety and pedestrian regulations, free of the economics of mass production (which, to be fair, kept these companies viable and making good money). It is simply a stunner, especially with the white-walled rims that are blissfully small in size, just 14-inches, which hint at a serene ride inside.


I was fully satisfied at my little encounter with the W108, but it was an offer I couldn’t refuse when the owner said “Go on, have a go.” I said yes without thinking too much into it, but my mind wandered to managing the car’s length and lack of modern aids which make driving so easy nowadays. However with the owner beside me I could manoeuvre the car at ease, as he always chipped “Go ahead, make the turn. I know this car very well.” Reassuring indeed, especially when I didn’t want to lay even a tiny mark to symbolise my priceless opportunity to drive this beauty.


The massive diameter of the steering wheel greets me as I landed on the traditionally bouncy Mercedes seats. Exquisitely detailed with thin chrome metal and literally a ‘cooking hob’ design, the steering wheel dominated the throne from which you can easily look over to the beautiful gauges. Although borne from an era where night interior lighting wasn’t a huge priority, the controls were easy enough to operate once found, without having to fumble through dozens of buttons like you do in modern cars. Curiously, the speedometer read in MPH, which reminded me a little of my ex-cars in England.

Laid over with MB Tex, the seats feel very new and robust, signalling they could probably last for many more decades to come.  Best of all, the cabin is so airy that rear passengers feel like they are sitting in a living room of sorts, with none of the stand-offish atmosphere between front and rear rows like you get in cars nowadays with their huge front seats. And it really is true – visibility is all-round excellent and you can drive naturally without your side mirrors. Best thing about older cars, I think.


Setting off, what is really impressive is the responsive of the gearbox, which can shame some of the 5-speed gearboxes you find in modern MBs like the W212 four-cylinder models before they got the 7-speeder. Equally astounding is the eagerness of the engine to haul, which it does with enthusiasm and good nature, not feeling strained in the least and lending the car a laid-back persona which then extends to the driver’s temperament. Sure, you will not be going fast as 40MPH already feels plenty fast, but that is quite the point – sit back, relax and enjoy your journey in class.

Through junctions the car turns with surprising body control, demonstrating that as early as the 1960s Mercedes has already got their damping spot on between a mix of comfort and stability. Surely the 14-inch rims helped as their thickly-profiled tyres soaked up many of the bumps along the ravaged Bukit Timah Road. Braking was a big surprise too. Equipped with all-round disc brakes with modern stainless steel brake hoses, brake feel was decidedly confidence-inspiring and strong – a laughable contrast to the wet tissue brakes in my Mk2 Golf GTI…


Returning back to the lay-by, I was equally enamoured as I was warmed by the W108. I won’t deny that I love the Mercedes-Benz brand. The three-pointed star has been a significant part of my life as I spent a great deal of time in the W126, W140 and W220. What’s heartening to know is that there is a definite thread running through all of them, and that is the stalwart S-Class feeling that you simply don’t get riding in a BMW 7-Series or Audi A8. In the W108, I discovered where it came from and as I’ve learnt, good provenance is telling.

Is this a perfect steer? Considering that classic cars in Singapore attract only 10% of COE and that they are relatively more affordable nowadays, I’d love to have a W108 in my garage. Actually, I’d definitely have a classic Mercedes in mine at some point in my life, whether it is the W108 or something else. You don’t need a fast car to enjoy motoring. You just need a car that does what it is supposed to do well. And the W108, well, it is a classic Lenspeed machine.

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