The cool breeze dips and rises, making it hard to light a cigarette. Leaning against my car, I shield my lighter’s flame from the wind as I light my cigarette. Deep drag, exhale. Through the smoke, I squint and look at the other groups of cars all parked along one side of the local drag strip we have affectionately named 20 Tiang(20 lamppost). The Conti guys, the turbo freaks, NA addicts, all in the usual places. We are the Car Siao, and this is our side of the story.
It’s past midnight of New Year’s Eve, and we’re all gathered at 20 Tiang, chatting amongst ourselves, celebrating the first day of 2015.
“You think today new year will got people qi chia?”
“Sure have one, you see, so many people here, siao on, NYE also come here see tiong chia”.
The bellow of a Nissan GTR approaching abruptly cuts the chatter as we look towards the entrance of 20Tiang. A baby blue GTR appears, followed closed by a brownish orange BMW 1M.
“Lai liao lor, see this two hero!”
“BMW play with GTR ah, eh sai bo?”
“Wah colour not bad leh”
“C***bye ugly sia”
“Diam diam la! You got money to do anot first?”
The crowd looks expectantly towards the end of the deserted road, waiting for the cars to make a U-turn to the start of the “drag strip”.
We hear the revving of engines, and the tyre squeals indicating the start of the race! The two cars flash by us in a blur of blue and brown. The GTR has won, as expected. They make a U turn and go at it once more. One again the GTR is victorious. One more, signals the 1M driver. Lining up, their cars scream down the long stretch of road for the third time. This time, it’s the BMW’s victory.
All of a sudden, blue and red flashing lights appear out of nowhere.
“KNN TP lai liao!”
“Relax la, we legal leh!”
Something’s different this time round. There’s media. And photographers. And alot more police officers than usual. This is a major operation, I realised.
A stout looking officer marches up to me, demanding for my licence and insurance papers? He eyes my car the way a tiger eyes his prey, before uttering the words we have come to anticipate and hate.
“Your modify this one, how you know is legal?”
“You put this exhaust, got cert? Take out let me see.”
“I need you to go inspection.”
He takes a slow walk around my car, his eyes roving all over, searching for something he can deem illegal. He stops at the rear of my car. He furrows his brows, and points to my aftermarket exhaust system.
“Got certify by LTA? Let me see the certificate.”
I immediately reach into my glovebox and pull out my exhaust papers, stating that my aftermarket exhaust is in fact, legal and LTA-approved. He gives them a once over, and passes them back to me without saying anything. He walks round to my passenger side door and kneels down, looking under my car. He remains in this position for a while, before standing up and dusting off his pants.
“I think your exhaust don’t have cat, I cannot seem to find it. I will need you to go to inspection centre to inspect your car.”
Ahh, these familiar words. Don’t they ring a bell to us all?
This long dramatic story did in fact, take place in real life. Which brings me to this question. Is being a car enthusiast illegal? Is it wrong in the eyes of the authorities to have a passion for, or interest in cars?
To be fair, there are times, or rather, certain groups of “car enthusiasts” that weave through traffic, speed excessively and generally just drive recklessly. This may be why enforcement agencies come down so hard on us, it shall be something we might discuss in the future. But it is unfair to generalize all car enthusiasts as such.
Spending money, time and effort to build up our beloved cars is a passion many of us have. We take extra care when considering modifications, to ensure a safe drive not only for us, but for the other road users as well. Extra effort goes into selecting legal and LTA-approved modifications, so as to avoid situations such as the one mentioned earlier on.
However, we seemed to be targeted solely based cars we drive, or for sporting certain modifications. Aftermarket exhausts seems to be a favourite amongst enforcement officers. Despite having certificates stating the legality of our exhaust systems, we are targeted because our cars produce a slightly louder exhaust note compared to others.
Just as an example. If noise is of concern to enforcement agencies, why is it supercar drivers, whose exhaust systems have a even louder exhaust note, not stopped or harassed by enforcement agencies? In fact, we frequently see supercar drivers speeding everywhere, without much consequence.
Being a car enthusiast in Singapore, is really not easy. Being stopped time and again for modifications, that they “think” are illegal, takes a toll on even the most passionate of us. The number of car enthusiasts in Singapore is dwindling, and the reasons are always the similar.
“Don’t want to play already la, nowadays they everything also catch, I no time keep going inspection.”
“Sua la bro, legal or not, they still aim you, no difference, give up liao.”
“Waste time and money, they everything also want to check.”
This is a long and gloomy article, and it seems like we’ll never be able to really pursue our passion. Bobian, let’s just be happy we all still have our cars to drive everyday!
Forget about them! Let’s go for a drive!
Update: Here’s their side of the story
– Image: Lianhe Zaobao