Thrilling experience of breathing new life into classic cars

Restoring retro items is the craze these days that TV stations have jumped on with programmes featuring collectors and hobbyists spending their hard-earned money and time to restore obsolete items such as refrigerators, telephone booths, gramophones and even locomotives!

Classic car restoration is widespread in the US and across Europe and this hobby is catching on in Malaysia.

Dream cars

Owning the latest performance car is a status symbol. As a result of exorbitant import duties, owning a classic car offers an opportunity to experience an iconic car without burning a hole in the pocket.

Two years ago, I had the choice of a brand new Porsche Cayman S or a classic Porsche 993 Turbo. I chose the latter. It has a six-speed manual transmission and the last of the Metzger air-cooled engines in the 911 series. The car belonged to a renowned architect who finally decided let it go after 10 years of coaxing.

This iconic car was made to order by the Porsche Exclusive Department where owners select their own unique interior trim.

Being one of the very few of this model in this region and even fewer that survived, naturally the previous owner was very attached to the car. So he wanted to pass on the experience and ownership to someone who truly values the Porsche heritage as well as this car.

Many friends thought I was silly and even crazy to choose an “old” car over a brand new one but there are others who share my passion. Owning the latest model is exhilarating and exciting but for some of us, our dream cars are from the past which we longed for when we were young but could not afford then.

It was a chance for me to own a rare and iconic car. And a classic car may be a better proposition compared to a mass-produced car.


Cars are not built to last forever, but restoration can breathe new life into older cars and make them look and run like new. Some will attain collectible status and become valuable.

Restoration is never easy. But with proper planning and excellent workmanship, an old junker can be returned to its former glory. And it is thrilling to drive a vintage car that has been fully restored.

It took seven months to restore my car to ideal condition. It was stripped apart completely and attention was paid to every detail, to the extent that I sourced every single nut and bolt from Germany.

It was a painstaking endevour but the entire process was exciting and an opportunity for me to learn new things.

The cost of restoring a classic car may range from RM30,000 to over RM120,000 while it is much less for a mass-produced car.

Four areas

To restore a classic car, the four main areas are the chassis, body, drive train and interior.

Depending on the body of the car, restoring it may cost a lot. The process of galvanising in the early days was lacking and so rust is a common problem. If the car was left idle under the sun and in the rain for a number of years, the rust is even worse.

I was very fortunate that my car was in a good condition. We started by removing the old paint — all 5kg of it! And when the time came, my “baby” was spray-painted in white with Glasurit, a high-quality German paint, the same that is used in the Porsche factory today.

I decided to retain the original leather in the interior because it has aged with just the right level of patina and the creases and aging of leather adds character to the car.

Restoring the drive train is most expensive. As it is a high performance car, the brakes and suspension must be at tip-top condition. Since the engine was well-maintained, only the engine seals and gaskets were replaced due to age.

Restoring a car is no easy feat, so I sought the help of my good friend and workshop owner, Jonathan Lim.

He jumped on the bandwagon and sourced for the same model and restored it in the similar fashion. It didn’t stop there. The excitement was contagious and it attracted yet another Porsche enthusiast.

Having experienced restoring three 993 Turbos, we had successfully restored them to their original factory condition and ensured that all aspects of the car would perform as it should while maintaining the iconic design.


Many enthusiasts restore cars to drive around while others aim for award-winning cars.

Although I did not originally plan to compete, I decided to enter my classic dream car in the classic car competition at the Asia Klasika Motor Festival 2014 since it is in such an excellent condition. It will be held from Oct 31 to Nov 2, at the Pullman Putrajaya Lakeside Hotel.

This festival, catering to connoisseurs of fine classic and modern luxury automobiles in this region, is modelled after renowned motoring meets like the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegancein the US, Concorso d’ Elegance Villa D’ Este in Italy and Salon Prive the UK.

Its royal patron, the Sultan of Johor Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Iskandar has generously consented to present a fine selection of exotic cars from his internationally acclaimed Royal Johor Automobile Collection.

My car will be under the 40-year old Porsche 911 Turbo category among the many beautiful cars in other categories such as the 110-year old Rolls-Royce, 100-year oldMaserati, 90-yearold MG and 50-year-old Ford Mustang.

There will also be a competition for a wide variety of classic and contemporary makes and models from private car collections across Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.

Being the first female participant in the Porsche 911 Turbo category, I hope my car will win an award. Jonathan and the other Porsche enthusiasts who are entering the competition with me are also vying a spot!

I will be available at the Porsche Canopy to share useful tips on car restoration with interested participants.

Chermaine Poo is a chartered accountant turned actress, TV host and emcee. Join her on social media at

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