Words & snaps by Ben
It's often said in our circles: you can tell a lot about someone by the car they drive. Sometimes more so than not, I may add. In Singapore, it is especially easy to tell a car lover when they are driving a COE car.
To limit the population of cars on our small island, the government set the COE (Certificate Of Entitlement) in place. Its value is set by an auction system, which varies according to the number of cars already on the road, the number of cars being taken off the road, and the number of cars waiting to be put on the road. As of today, the COE is valued at around SGD75,000.
To make things even worse, the COE is valid for 10 years; after which you will have to scrap your car or renew the COE to the rates of the moment.
Renewing the COE can thus be a bet. If it goes low enough, you can renew for a reasonable amount, but if the rate is high, such as these days, you will have to pay probably more of the value of your car just for the piece of paper that will allow you to drive it for another 10 years.
This makes older cars rare in Singapore, and it usually takes a highly passionate person to pay up for another decade.
The JDM Legends Meet had one rule: the cars present must be Japanese, and out of production. Read between the lines and you'll see the "COE cars unite!" rally call.
Motorheads heard the call, and brought along their loved rides, whatever their age. Not all cars were on an extended life cycle, but the passion was surely there.
The oldest among all, an 1980's Mitsubishi Lancer EX.
Every time I come upon classics like this, I can't help but being amazed at the passion that some people have for their car that makes them stand against all odds and spare the finances again and again to keep it on the roads.
The most often heard question at the meet was probably "how long more do you have?" followed by the answer, varying between months and years.
In good cases, the cars still have some years to go, which leaves hope for the COE to drop by the time the car's lifetime is up.
In bad cases, the car only has only a few months left, which, in the light of the current COE rates, shows a bleak future for the loved ride. This usually is followed by a curse toward the COE.
Singapore is, in my opinion, the most unlikely place to own a car, and especially to modify one. It is, in all honesty, stupid to have a passion for cars on our island, but we all know we don't choose the passion, we are born with petrol flowing in our veins and we have to live it, against all odds.
To the warriors of Singapore, I tip my hat. Never give up the passion - we're all stupid, but it's worth it!