I have promised that I will write an eulogy in remembrance of my old faithful, my green Iswara ADP 7466. Affectionately known as “The Green Monster”, this car really brought back many years of memories. This is going to be a long write-up, one that took me months since I bought the replacement car, the Toyota Altis in March 2008. So here goes.
24th February 1998. That is the date that this car was registered. I still remember the weeks leading up to that fateful day. It was going to be my second year in Universiti Sains Malaysia, Tronoh Branch Campus. I badly needed a transport in Tronoh. I was going to stay off campus, in Tronoh town, starting from the second year, which is about 6 km away. I have been following Jean’s car back and forth from Kampar all these while and it’s not really that good to depend on him all the time like that. Not having my own motorcycle license grants me only one alternative; a car!
My mum and I had been searching high and low for a suitable car. There were a lot of old Nissan Datsuns and Toyota Corollas around, mostly in the RM10,000 to RM15,000 range. These were dependable cars, but I was not knowledgeable in cars enough to know that. Kampar is not exactly a used-car heaven like Cheras Autocity is nowadays. So there was not a lot of good choices.
We saw in the papers an advertisement for a completely knocked down basic feature car, RM36,000 plus plus. The Proton Iswara 1.3, the car that were to serve me for the next 10 years. It was mostly her decision to buy it. Thinking back, she must be thinking, “For another RM20,000, I get a better car, brand new!”. In the duration of driving the car, I found this to be exactly the opposite!
The car comes with virtually nothing! No boot release lever, no clock on the dashboard, the colour was only available in drab matte green. I was lucky to have central alarm, air-cond and a cassette player; half-a-year later two of my friends bought the aeroback version without central alarm and cassette player!
The most impressive things that I did are the bad things about the car, not the good things. Here goes the list:
I remember a splendid “stunt” that I did with the car in Tronoh. It was a wet day, and I was taking on a corner from USM towards Tronoh at about 80 km/h. Bad move. The car slipped, and swerved to the right. I slammed on the brakes and pulled the steering to the left. The entire car landed on a patch of grass on the left side of the road. I felt as if I had just completed a stunt scene for a Jackie Chan movie! I was shaking from head to toe after that, but miraculously the car and I escaped unharmed. Not even a scratch on the car! On the contrary, the steering felt a little lighter from then on, as if I have just accidentally activated a hidden power steering capability on this car!
Towards the end of my university days, I remember driving it alone back home to Kampar on a rainy day. When I arrived in Tanjong Tualang, the road was heavily flooded! The naive me decided to give it a shot and drove it across the flood water. I was nearly towards the end when suddenly I miscalculated the road. There was more of the water but I did not know it and I had let go of the pedal. As a result, water seeped into the exhaust pipe and choked the engine. Water began seeping into the cabin! What to do? I saw some kids and I waved to them, asking them to push my car out of the water. And they did so with enthusiasm. When my car was out of the water, I tried to start the car. Dead. Not a sound came from the dead engine. Maybe I can get some more help from the kids. I told them to push the car again. At first they hesitated. But then when I waved a RM10 note to them, they immediately complied and in no time at all, the car engine roared back to life! I can go off and speed off like that without paying the kids, but I thought, what the heck. It would cost me more to call a tow truck!
Another close shave happened on my way back from Penang. It was 2001, I have started work in my second job, Motorola. With me was Au and his then girlfriend. We were descending the slope from Taiping back to Ipoh. Again, it was drizzling slightly. As I was nearing the dreaded Jelapang toll, a stretch of red lights from other car’s tail lights greeted me barely 200 metres away from me, while I was rolling downhill at 80km/h! Again, I slammed on the brakes; another bad move. Immediately I aquaplaned. I lost control of the car and its direction. Au who was sitting beside me only managed a shout, we were both sure that we would be injured gravely in this. As the car in front of me got nearer and nearer, there was only one thing that crossed my mind. To knock myself against the railing on the right is better than knocking myself on the car in front right? Better me than me AND the car in front, lesser of the two evils! So I twisted the steering slightly to the right, aiming at the railings. Again, lady luck shone on me again. The car in front must have witnessed my fast approaching headlights and decided to change to the next lane, as if to avoid me. It had barely moved away when my car stopped right where the car was! Again, no scratch, no injuries, no nothing! Later Au scolded me for not letting go of the brakes!
How about the close shave in Federal Highway? I was tailing this Volvo on the fast lane, at the MidValley area, when the Volvo in front of me suddenly stopped! It was not raining, else I would not have escaped unscathed like that. I applied the brakes, but at the same time I pulled the steering to the left lane, clear of the car. I tell you, if I did not do that, it would have been a direct hit. The car was fully loaded (with Seow Kok Hooi, Wong Kim Khee and Au sitting with me), the lousy brake would not have stopped the car in time. The tough Volvo in front of me would only mean that I will be in the losing end of the encounter. Lucky there was no car in the left lane.
My latest accident with this car was at the accident in Kinrara last November. My car flew over the divider as a result of bad (but new) tyres, over-enthusiastic driving and sheer plain stupidity of the other driver. The result of the accident was just a dented wheel rim and a very dirty tyre. We still drove all the way to Port Dickson after that!
Well, not all are a lucky encounter. My most major accident was on the final semester of 1998 or 1999, can’t remember. We bunch of Mechanical students went to Ipoh to celebrate Christmas, I think. We were heading towards Ipoh Kinta City along Jalan Tasek. The car in front of me suddenly banged the car in front, and I banged into his rear. I was in turn banged by another car. I was involved in a pile-up. Not only did I had to go through all the hassle of fixing the car, going to the insurance company and all that, I was also summoned by the police for hitting the car in front! It was an eye-opening experience, both for me and those in the car with me. We learnt a lot about the adult world and how we should face it.
All other fender-benders are minor compared to this one. Scratches here and there, a broken light, a hind bumper that came off, a dent with another car on the left passenger door that left the plastic door guard missing, those are all that makes up the history between the car and I. Throughout the years, it has developed holes on the roof and door. Waxing it only once a year is already enough, it does not make any difference anyway! The cheap plastics used made for a very noisy internal cabin, both moving and stationery.
I have driven from Kuala Lumpur to Perlis using the old trunk road with this. This car has been through a lot with me. The more than 200,000 km mileage is proof to that. Through driving this car I learn to appreciate what a good car should be. At this very moment, the car must be sitting under a hot sun, waiting for a new owner somewhere in a second hand car dealer shop, or may already be sold off. Or it may well end up in a metal scrap yard. The car will always remain in my heart as the first car I ever had, who has been with me through thick and thin. I’ll miss you old friend. Goodbye!