My dad owned a few motor vehicles of British origin, from his first motorcycle (a Birmingham-made Norton) to his first car, which was a convertible Triumph Herald. In those days, most motor vehicles in Malaya were from Britain, for obvious reasons. My grand-dad, Tok Kam (as he was fondly known by many), owned a few cars in his time from his earlier days in the Malay Civil Service to the point of him being the Raja di-Hilir Perak (RDHPk). In those days, owning a car (any car!) was a luxury, but with the current European marque prices one sees these days in Malaysia, I guess things haven’t really changed.

[May I take this opportunity to say that I am no expert in vintage marques and any further information on the following cars are courtesy of Google and Wiki. Heh.]

As i’ve alluded in an earlier entry, I was busy scanning some old photos from dad’s collection and I came across a few photos of Tok Kam’s cars. The earliest photo was from about 1937 which had my grandma, Pah Bedah, and her “right-hand (wo)man”, Che An aka mak ulong, posing in Tok’s Triumph Gloria. This was an upmarket model that was made in Coventry, and Tok owned a convertible version.

From the photo above, as Tok’s Gloria was a four-seater (as opposed to the two-seater Gloria Southern Cross) this may well be a 1936 Gloria Vitesse Foursome coupe.

Tok Kam had different cars when he was RDHPk, most of which were used in an official capacity. The official cars used in the royal household had different standards for Tuanku Sultan, Tuanku Raja Muda and Tuanku Raja di-Hilir, which was black with a yellow/white in the canton (that’s a flag’s upper hoist quarter. Heh.). Surprisingly, one of the cars Tok had then was American. This was his black Buick, with the RDH Pk plate and standard.

his was likely a late 1940s (?1948) roadmaster sedan, which was less flashier than the 1950s american graffiti-types. note the black finish on the pre-50’s cars. daphne blue? dream on. the buick was a real gas-guzzler – 8 miles per gallon. one of my distant grand-uncles, raja razman aka tok nick, owned an american car too. he had a packard, and dad once described how tok nick would exclaim, “packard! america’s number one!”. and why does the planet have the climate crisis now, you ask?

this next one was british. and black. again. it was a humber hawk mark III (the marks III-V were produced between 1948 and 1954), another west midlands marque made in coventry. my uncle, ayah kassim, later inherited the car and used it in the late 50’s when he was made inspector in the police force.

this was tok kam’s vauxhall cresta E series. you can see it parked in the background of this photo of him with a british army general and the larut & matang district officer on remembrance day in 1955.

the cresta E series (produced 1954-7) had an american look to it, probably due to the fact vauxhall was bought over by general motors in the 1920’s, despite being made in ellesmere port. check out the short wiki description for the E series here.

not all tok kam’s cars were top marques. he also owned several morrisses (which included a 7, a 10 and a 12), a hudson (which was one of the cars used when lari masa perang jepun), a standard 10, a hillman minx (which dad curi bawak and drove enough times before passing his driving test the first go – when dad was asked by the tester who taught him to drive, he said, “my father” -_- ) and an austin 10, seen below in the porch of tok kam’s official residence (istana bendahara) in ipoh.

after tok kam’s passing, dad owned a triumph herald convertible (in british racing green) during which he was once made chairman of the perak triumph owner’s club (for anyone from ku nick’s clan reading this, ayah din was in the club too), and later, a more common-or-garden vauxhall viva.

in this current day and age, i admire anyone with the tenacity (and the finances) to own and run a vintage classic, especially in malaysia (where do they find the spare parts?). i guess, it’s the same with people who lovingly own and maintain vintage guitars. i’d buy reissues (guitar, bukan mentekar) and even then, it’ll burn more holes in the pocket faster than you can say pisang. reissue vintage marques (they don’t exist)? tak vintage la itu macam.