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SG Retro car meet 2023

The SG Retro Car Meet 2023 in Singapore made a triumphant return this year after a three-year hiatus. This one-afternoon gathering of vintage automobiles took place at the multi-story carpark nestled within the Kranji Turf Club. Let’s check out this automotive extravaganza and observations from the event.

MG MGB and Jaguar Mark 2
MG MGB and Jaguar Mark 2 at the meet. Let’s check out some classics here in Singapore, Japanese and European.

Singapore Vintage Cars 101

The majority of cars on display at the SG Retro Car Meet transports you back to an era when automobiles from the late 80s and early 90s now qualify for classic car status. These vehicles serve as a nostalgic time capsule, reminding us of the design and engineering marvels of their respective eras.

SG Retro meet grounds
SG Retro meet grounds at the 4th floor of the largely deserted turfclub carpark.

Furthermore, the event is held on the sheltered 4th floor of the 5-floored multi-storey carpark, with parking on the 3rd. The top floor of the multi-story carpark offered an expansive private and open space perfect for private gatherings and photoshoots. Notably, the carpark’s proximity to a go-kart track added an extra layer of excitement to the event.

International Harvester Scout
Yellow livery engine bay
Crown longitudinal engine

The atmosphere at the SG Retro Car Meet was refreshingly laid-back. Most car owners had their prized possessions parked by 3 pm. Attendees included old friends from various car clubs, individual car enthusiasts, photographers eager to capture automotive beauty, curious members of the public, and dedicated car aficionados. As the evening descended, the event gradually wound down, with many participants heading home around 6 pm.

Japanese (JDM) Picks

1994 Nissan 240SX
1994 Nissan 240SX convertible decked with gold rims.

In Singapore, Japanese cars reigned supreme and are extremely popular during the 80s and 90s before the rise of Korean mass-produced vehicles. The era also saw peak Japanese car icons of which some you can find here. The SG Retro Car Meet boasted an impressive array of cult Japanese classics, drawing enthusiasts and admirers alike.

Gang of MX-5
Gang of MX-5, a first generation with the iconic pop-up headlamps which we won’t see anymore due to new pedestrian safety regulations.
Gang of civics
Mx-5 Clean engine
Nissan 300ZX

Among the JDM (Japan Direct Manufacturer) stars were a selection of Supras, Nissan Silvias, and Honda Civics, S2000s and even an NSX. Surprisingly, there was a noticeable absence of Subaru and Mitsubishi Lancer owners at this year’s event.

Classic NSX, a model many anticipating for classic car status in Singapore.
Classic NSX, a model many anticipating for classic car status in Singapore.

One standout was a classic Mazda MX-5, renowned for its iconic pop-up headlamps, which graced production lines from 1989 to 1997. R34 Nissan Skylines, both two-door and four-door variants, also turned heads at the meet.

AE86 Trueno
AE86 Trueno, an otherwise mainstream people mover popularized in the Initial-D anime giving it a cult-status.

Of course, no Japanese car gathering is complete without the obligatory Toyota AE86, immortalized in the “Initial-D” Japanese manga and anime series. Other relics from the past, like the gallant and starlet, were once commonplace on Singaporean roads but are now cherished rarities. There is also a gang of Supras, both new and the old classic.

Classic 80s supras
Classic 80s supras, part of the Japanese selections here.

A quirky addition to the Japanese lineup was a 90s Hijet goods van with a striking Scooby-Doo Mystery machine livery. The van is even registered with a private car plate, a rarity indeed. Also, there were also a coupe of Itasha art cars, reminiscent of those seen at Cosfest event earlier in the year, added an artistic flair to the event.

Mystery machine Hijet van
Scooby Doo

Owning a Classic Car in Singapore

Owning a vintage or classic car in Singapore is no walk in the park. Unlike buying a regular car, classic car ownership comes with unique challenges, especially considering Singapore’s Certificate of Entitlement (COE) system. Moreover, the cost of classic car ownership in Singapore can be daunting. To drive a car legally (classic or not) for a decade, you’ll need to secure a Certificate of Entitlement, which can set you back up to a whopping 126,000 Singapore dollars as of today’s rates.

Triumph Spitfire
Triumph Spitfire, well taken care of by it’s owner.

Also, a COE grants the owner the privilege of driving their car legally on Singaporean roads only for ten years. For a car that is 30 years old, this means renewing (and purhcasing) the COE at least three times.

Clean AE86 engine bay
Late 70s Toyota Celica
Jensen Interceptor Mk III

Also, the Singapore’s government has developed car ownership policies to discourage private vehicle ownership, promoting the use of its world-class public transportation system. As a result, the country has a relatively small motorsport and classic car scene.

It is an expensive hobby

Sadly, you do need rather deep pockets to own a car here and afford the spurge on hefty COE fees- approximately over 100,000 dollars every ten years, let be collect classic cars as a hobby.

Toyota Starlet
Classic JDMs
Initial-D WRX and AE86

There is an option for a five-year COE renewal at half the price, but after that period, there’s no option to renew further. The car ownership policy creates a unique situation where only new cars can be registered for driving in Singapore. Importing a used second-hand vehicle for road use is out of the question, leaving classic car enthusiasts with limited choices.

Hence, the classic car scene in Singapore thrives on the willingness of car owners to either keep their cars over the years or import 35 year old foreign cars. Some do de-register their cars to save on costs, keeping their cars in storage to “age” past 35 years from its original registration date, so they can qualify for the classic car scheme and be re-registered to be driven on Singapore roads again. Classic cars under this scheme are easily identified by their red and yellow plates, which come with lower COE and taxes, but with a restricted number of days they can be driven each year (45 days).

American and European Classics

Corvette stingray
Corvette stingray, one of the impressive American classics in the show. (VW dune buggy in the background).

While Japanese cars dominated the SG Retro Car Meet, American and European classics also had their place in the spotlight. Although they represented a smaller portion of the event, they showcased a rich automotive heritage.

90s 3-series
90s 3-series, a Bavarian staple with an E36 sedan and E30 convertible .

Other notable models includes a gang of BMW 3-series. It is amazing how much cars had grown in size when compared to the current generation 3-series.

Dodge Demon
Dodge Demon decked out in SG Retro car livery decals.

Among the British classics were MG Rovers and vehicles from the Triumph Motor Company, a British car and motor manufacturing company from the 19th and 20th centuries. Notable American classics included a Dodge Demon, a red Corvette Stingray and a Pontiac Firebird with a “Knight Rider” vibe. These right-hand drive conversions were typically restored in factories in Britain or Australia before making their way to Singapore as road-worthy cars.

Pontiac Fire bird inspired by the Knight Rider American drama series
Pontiac Fire bird inspired by the Knight Rider American drama series.
Lotus Seven
Lancia Beta
VW camper van

In addition to the classics, there were off-road enthusiasts displaying their passion. The event featured two Land Cruisers, one decked out in matte black and another in a shiny baby blue, as well as a VW Beetle dune buggy.

Land cruiser matte black
Land cruiser in intimidating matte black.
Land cruiser
Mini Moke
Mini Rally edition

Interestingly, some owners took the opportunity to sell their cars on-site. Notable offerings included a classic plate VW Camper Van and a black-plate COE Volkswagen Beetle in need of some TLC. These offerings added an element of excitement for those on the lookout for their dream classic ride.

Classic VW duo
Classic VW duo at the SG Retro car meet 2023.

Wrapping up

All in all, the SG Retro Car Meet 2023, albeit a small one is nicely run, offering a glimpse into the world of vintage and classic cars. It showcased the passion and dedication of car enthusiasts in a challenging environment. Despite the obstacles of owning a classic car in Singapore, the event continues to draw crowds and celebrate automotive nostalgia from the 80s and 90s, making it a must-visit for Singapore car aficionados alike.


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