A South African Car Enthusiast in Penang

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This post was written by Tony Cope

Tony Cope, a South African by birth and an Aussie by adoption, arrived in Penang recently for work, and meeting fellow classic car enthusiasts has been an important part of settling in to the country.

I have been a classic car enthusiast since an early age, having bought my fi rst old Land Rover when still at school in South Africa and, together with a friend, starting the first Rover car club in Southern Africa in 1977. In Australia, where I subsequently moved to, I was very active in a number of British classic car clubs so, after downsizing the Australian fleet (to a 1959 Rover 105, a 1970 Jensen Interceptor, and a 2003 Range Rover) in preparation for the move to Penang, I started to wonder what was the classic car scene was like in Malaysia.

Joining the Club

On my first weekend in Penang in June 2012 I searched the web to find out if there was a classic car club on the island.The Malaysia Singapore Vintage Car Register (MSVCR www.msvcr.com) had a northern branch based in Penang, and were meeting the very next day. After a forty minute drive I turned into street littered with classics including a Jaguar XK150, E-Type, MG TC, MGA, a TVR, a 1934 Lagonda, a 1955 Bentley, a Mercedes Ponton 220SE convertible, and, in the front porch of the house, a Rolls Royce Silver Shadow,Triumph TR4a, E-Type V12,Alfa Spider, BMW 2002tii, and a Lotus Elise. All these delectable cars on one small island!

I was made very welcome by the club members and I joined on the spot – the Club Secretary Col. Douglas Fox was a bit taken aback to have someone join at their fi rst meeting! The patron of the club is the Sultan of Kedah who, like the Sultan of Johor, has an extensive car collection.

I let it be known that I was looking for a classic car, spanning from the 50s to the mid70s, preferably of British manufacture and capable of cruising reasonable distances. Needless to say, the members of the MSVCR were very helpful and, while the number of classic cars for sale at any one time is relatively low, all sorts of doors were opened to private collections and other cars that were not for sale but for sale at the right price – most car enthusiasts have too many cars so a tempting offer is always welcome.

Cars in the Capital


As there were not many cars in Malaysia up until the 1970s, and the heat and humidity took their toll on the older cars, the existing stock in fairly limited.The keen classic car enthusiasts in Malaysia tend to import classic cars or migrate here with their classic cars and, as the cost of ownership is generally low, keep them rather than sell.

KL, with its larger population, has more classic cars than Penang, so my business trips to KL became extended to encompass getting lost in a hot and humid city looking at “very good condition, boss” cars that, in many cases, were anything but!

To cut a long story short my search for a classic MG,Triumph, Rover or Lotus was not progressing fast awhen a red 1994 Rover216i Cabriolet suddenly popped up onMudah.my (Malaysia’s version of eBay) at a dealer in KL.While not a classic car in the true sense, it was a very sensible alternative and a future classic. I automatically assumed it was a private UK import, probably rusty,and would not have air-conditioning, but a call to the dealer the next confirmed it was sold new in KL, did have air-conditioning, was “in really good condition boss”, and was still available.

On my next business trip I fl ew earlier to KL, inspected the car, agreed to buy it subject to certain repairs, and collected it ten days later. After checking all the work had been done to my satisfaction, I paid for the car, put the roof up, switched the air conditioning on, and drove it back to Penang.The dealer requested l let him know when I crossed the Penang Bridge which I did – he was pleased to get my call, and I am not sure whether he was pleased that the car had proven itself or that the car was well away from his dealership!

Club Happenings

Being involved in the MSVCR has been great, allowing me to make many news friends, experience so many aspects of life in Malaysia, and see new parts of the country on various runs. Most Sundays we have a breakfast run, meeting at the Penang Sports Club before we “exercise” our classics to a scenic spot on the island. Recently, the breakfast run was to Kedah state to have breakfast with members there, and we were afforded a police escort through Kulim – again, a new experience.

Last year the AGM was in Port Dickson, and it gave me a chance to see a different part of Malaysia and to meet a whole raft of members from Malaysia and Singapore and, of course, inspect a whole lot of well-loved classic cars.The gymkana the following day was a lot of fun!

In November last year the Penang MSVCR members hosted the “Penang Round the Island Rally” weekend in conjunction with the start of the Tiger Rally. Being part of the organising committee and having our weekly meetings on the front veranda of the Penang Club, with a view across the Straits of Melaka, was another new aspect of Penang life to me. Events held over the weekend included a concourse at Straits Quay, a grand dinner at the E&O Hotel, and the official start of the Tiger Rally, which saw a magnificent array of motoring exotica being flagged off en route to Thailand and Myanmar.


A few weekends ago the club had a weekend run to KL via the coastal road where we seemed to move from one feast to another – Saturday breakfast at Ipoh, an expansive lunch at Kuala Selangor, Sunday breakfast at the Royal Selangor Yacht Club.At each stop we met more and more MSVCR members and got to see their cars.

One thing is certain – being involved in the MSVCR has added another dimension the great time I am having living in the tropical paradise of Penang.


For more details on the MSVCR, visit www.msvcr.com.


Source: Penang International June 2013 – July 2013
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