The 37th Vintage Car Concours was held this weekend at the Future Park Mall in Pathum Thani, a suburb directly north of Bangkok and not too far from Don Mueang, Bangkok’s second airport. I have had a busy couple of weeks, so an hour or two looking at classic cars seemed like a pleasant way to spend part of the day. I arrived at this mall (point B on map below) just after noon yesterday, watched the new Superman movie, and then wandered down to the car show where over 100 vehicles worth nearly $15 million were on exhibit.
The theme of the show was “First Car, First Love” and this is something to which I can easily relate. I may not recall all the cars that I have ever owned or leased, but the first one — a royal blue 1969 Ford Mustang fastback — is forever embedded in my memory. While this car had few creature comforts — power steering and power brakes with a simple black vinyl interior, but no air conditioning, no power windows, no fancy wheels, not even an FM radio (although I did have an aftermarket eight-track tape player installed!) — it nevertheless provided me with tremendous freedom and independence. This car was a significant step on my pathway to adulthood.
In retrospect, I am glad that I reached driving age before the 1973 OPEC oil embargo that forever changed the dynamics of the oil and automotive industries. I fondly recall the pony and muscle cars that my friends and I drove including a Pontiac GTO, a Chevy 396 SS, an AMX, a Mercury Cougar, and an Oldsmobile 442. With the end of cheap and abundant gasoline supplies, the auto industry responded by manufacturing some truly horrible and uninspired vehicles throughout the 1970s and 1980s. I was horrified to see one of these specimens, an orange 1972 Ford Pinto two-door wagon with faux wood paneling, at this weekend’s vintage car show. While over 40 years-old, it nevertheless boggles the mind to think of this as a classic. Perhaps it is just me, but I also have a hard time even imagining that anyone could ascribe “First Car, First Love” to this car.
Other vehicles, however, were unequivocally in line with this theme. Although there were only a handful of U.S. made cars in the show, two of my all-time favorites — the 1955 Thunderbird and the 1965 Mustang — were prominently displayed.
New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) has six automobiles in its permanent collection and examples of two of them were on exhibit: a red 1964 Jaguar E-type roadster (the XK-E in the U.S.) and several Volkswagen Beetles. With its long, sleek, powerful but graceful lines, the Jaguar is arguably the most beautiful automobile ever made. The original Beetle, designed by Ferdinand Porsche, is not a classic beauty but it is an affirmation of the fun, economy, youth, and independence that a car can deliver.
Three beautifully restored Austin 7s, one of the U.K.’s most popular pre-war vehicles, were shown. The Austin 7 was smaller than Ford’s Model T — it weighed 800 pounds vs. 1,200 pounds for the Model T and had a wheelbase of 75 inches vs. 100 inches for the Model T. The Austin was powered by a 747 cc engine that could produce 10.5 horsepower, half that of the Ford.
Beginning in the Depression years, auto makers began integrating fenders into auto bodies and fully closed sedans slowly took over the market. The industry began to consolidate and many manufacturers were bought our by their competitors or simply went out of business. Among the vehicles displayed from now defunct brands were a 1929 Singer, a 1936 Morris 8, a 1948 Wolseley 4/50 sedan, and a 1949 Armstrong Siddeley Hurricane with its rear hinged, suicide doors. The pre-war German DKW F5 and the post-war Citroën Traction Avant were early front-wheel drive cars.
Although MG did produce coupés and sedans, it was most well-known for its sporty and affordable roadsters. A 1937 MG VA, a 1947 MG TC, a 1948 Triumph roadster, a 1949 Jaguar XK120, two 1955 MG TFs, a 1960 MG A, and a 1969 MG B were all on display at the show. As I looked at these vehicles, it was so easy to understand why a roadster, particularly a red one, is a man’s quintessential mid-life crisis purchase.
A classic car show would not be complete without a large contingent of old Mercedes, and there were indeed many beautiful Benz sedans, coupés and convertibles in Pathum Thani. The earliest model was a convertible from 1950. When you see how the convertible tops on these old models stack high above the trunk when open, it is easy to appreciate the modern engineering that allows the top to fold upon itself into the body of the vehicle. On the 1950s vintage Mercedes convertibles, the rear-view mirrors actually swiveled above the windshield so that the driver could see over the large rear stack.
A scattering of models from other brands were also on exhibit. My favorites are pictured below.
On Thursday evening, our friends at Manheim Thailand hosted a reception at the Renaissance Bangkok Ratchaprasong hotel to celebrate their 10th year anniversary of business in Thailand. Several hundred people attended this event and Thirty Plus, semi-finalists in last year’s Thailand’s Got Talent competition, provided live entertainment. Manheim raised 100,000 baht for a local charity through a live auction at this event.
Kop Khun Krab.
© 2013 Kurt Brown. All rights reserved.