Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Formula? Painting Singapore Red With A Fiat 600

Fiat 600 doors open from front (illustration only)
1. Formula One Nite 2012:

It's buzzing again, the Formula One cars and hot shot drivers taking part in the Singapore Night Race 2012 this weekend. For me, I will never have the chance to drive even a sports car on our roads let alone a Formula.

2. COE Skyrocket:

I cannot afford one with prices skyrocketing so much because of COE prices. Can you imagine, an ordinary Japanese saloon costing about S$150,000 today. I will have to maintain my Cefiro 230 so it'll last for another five years before its junk-yard exit.

3. Two Thousand $ For A Car:

Of course cars were cheap after the war and I remember buying my first second-hand car in the mid 60s for about S$2,000? Or was it cheaper? It was a Fiat 600. And it was in post-box red. Couldn't afford a new one so I went to the Fiat showroom at the junction of Orchard and Scotts (where Wheelock stands today) and bought one from a cool slow talking Malay gentleman who convinced me it was the ideal buy.

4. A Longkang Besar Bloody Accident:

And he was right. I bought it when my dad had forbidden me to ride the Vespa to Teachers' College at Paterson. Too dangerous it was after I landed in a large monsoon drain (longkang besar) the year before.
Music Sheet (illustration only)
We didn't need to wear a crash helmet to ride a scooter so when I came out of the drain I thought I had a nasty gash on my forehead with blood all over. But it was actually a minor cut and the horror on my mum's face when she saw red was more her imagination than reality. But I was truly All Shook Up after the incident.

5. Suicide Doors,  Light Sabre and Transistor:

I was happy with my new toy, SK 8089. It had only *two doors which opened like a V from the front outwards (image) and a gear stick so long I could pull it out and swashbuckle light sabre with it. The engine was behind and I tricked this Chinese school teacher friend into thinking that the car had no motor.

And petrol was cheap then. Couldn't remember how much. With my SS$200 a month salary and a S$50 contribution for the folks at home, I still had enough bucks left for lunch and black gold (petrol was called this once).

One thing though, I couldn't install an air-conditioner. Either it was too expensive or the technology was still in its infancy. I couldn't remember but I had music on the go and it came from a little Sharp transistor radio I bought specially for the occasion and hung it on the mirror above the dash-board.
Sharp Transistor Radio (illustration only)

6. The Cascades, Crescendos, Platters, Rolling Stones and Teddy Bears:

The Cascades were singing Rhythm of the Rain day in and day out! Crescendos were belting out Mr. Twister and while The Platters were enjoying Twilight Time that was when I came home for dinner after painting the town red in my Little Red Rooster. And the music came from one of Radio Singapore's request programmes. No CDs, iPhone nor mp3 player? Never mind. Got car and music, enough. Go, baby go.

I remember the first drive I took was to head to North Bridge Road, popped into one of the record shops to buy To Know Him Is To Love Him by the Teddy Bears. Yes, to know a Fiat is to love a Fiat.

7. Tutti Frutti, Travelling Alone To Melaka:

I drove my Fiat all the way to Melaka alone in the 60s looking for a pen-pal I corresponded with. My friend said I was crazy. Lots of terrorists in the jungles they said. I arrived in Melaka safe and sound and came home with fresh durians in my small boot. "A-wop-bop-a-loo-mop-a-wop-bam-boom! Tutti Frutti, oh my Rudy..."

*called suicide doors - check comments.

Image 1:
Image 2:
Image 3: e-bay sharp pocket transistor
Original Article.


Andy Lim* said...

From Wikipedia (edited):

*A suicide door is a car door hinged on the trailing edge, the edge closer to the rear of the vehicle.

This was the cherished tradition of the (horse-drawn) carriage builders. Such doors are rarely used on vehicles in modern times because of their disadvantages.

Although the term is often used in the custom car trade, it is avoided by automobile manufacturers in favour of: "coach doors", "FlexDoors" "freestyle doors", "rear access doors" and "rear-hinged doors".

THE SONG said...

"To Know Him Is to Love Him" is a song written by Phil Spector, inspired by words on his father's tombstone, "To Know Me Is To Love Me."

It was first recorded by his first vocal group, the only one of which he was a member, the Teddy Bears.

Their recording went to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in 1958. The Beatles recorded it as "To Know Her Is to Love Her".

Gary Glitter, Peter and Gordon, and Bobby Vinton made versions called "To Know You Is to Love You".

In 1987, the song was resurrected by Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris, whose Trio recording topped the U.S. country singles charts.

(From Wikipedia - Edited)


A transistor radio is a small portable radio receiver that uses transistor-based circuitry.

Following their development in 1954they became the most popular electronic communication device in history, with billions manufactured during the 1960s and 1970s. Their pocket size sparked a change in popular music listening habits, allowing people to listen to music anywhere they went.

In the 1970s their popularity declined as other portable media players such as boom boxes and portable cassette players took over.
(From Wikipedia - Edited)

Andy Lim* said...

In Singapore transistor radios are like iPhones today except that it has only one function.

The sound coming from the teeny speakers is insignifcant but the portability won the hearts of many people the world over.

We bought them cheap, for about $30 a piece. Affordability! And to hear one's own name over the radio. That was something.


The Fiat 600 (Italian: Seicento, pronounced say-chento) is a city car produced by the Italian automaker Fiat from 1955 to 1969.

Measuring only 3.22 m (10 feet 7 inches) long, it was the first rear-engined Fiat and cost the equivalent of about € 6,700 or US$ 7300 in today's money (590,000 lire then).

The total number produced from 1955 to 1969 at the Mirafiori plant in Turin was 2,695,197.[4]

During 1960s, '70s and '80s, the car became very popular in countries such as Spain (as SEAT 600), where it became the icon, par excellence, of the Spanish miracle, Argentina, where it was nicknamed Fitito (a diminutive of Fiat) and former Yugoslavia where it was nicknamed Fićo (pronounced [fee-cho]).