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In the passenger seat: Founder of SGretroCAR on his passion for classic cars

In the passenger seat: Founder of SGretroCAR on his passion for classic cars
PHOTO: Facebook/SGRetroCar

In this episode of "In The Passenger Seat", we have Fabian, the founder of SGRetroCar, who's a proud owner of a TA22 Celica and Mini Cooper Clubman! He lives and breathes classic cars!

If you had attended classic car events during pre-Covid times, you would probably have seen the SGRetroCar banners as they're usually one of the organisers for these events.

Recommended by @greyturd, our last "In The Passenger Seat" guest, Fabian is a proud owner of a Fiat X1/9 that won awards, and he even recently purchased a TA22 Celica.

We decided to reach out to him to find out more about his passion for classic cars, how he obtained his Celica and the running of SGRetroCar!

First of all, what’s your name, age and what do you do?

Hi, my name is Fabian Ng. I'm 30 at heart, but my actual age will be a secret. I'm also the founder of SGretroCAR.

I deal with organising classic and retro car events, media coverage for overseas retro car events, classic car sourcing, import, registration, discounted vehicle loans and COE renewal loans.

For the people who don’t know, what car(s) are you driving now, how did you manage to get them?

At the moment I own and drive two cars. A classic Mini Clubman and a TA22 Celica GT.

In 2008, I purchased my current Mini Clubman along with another short front Mini. I bought both cars at the same time as I could not decide which one I liked better. Back then, it was a cheap entry-level classic runabout. Both were on daily plates too!

The TA22 Celica GT was a car I have always wished to own since my younger days due to its muscular lines and timeless design. Coupled with a twin-carb DOHC 1.6L, which puts 125hp to the rear wheels via the five-speed box, it was a Japanese performance car of the 70s era.

When I had the opportunity to buy it, I bought it without hesitation, even without even physically viewing the car or testing it.

When you finally got the keys to your Toyota Celica and Mini and took them out for their initial spin, what thoughts were running through your mind?

Mini Clubman

The sensation of driving a Mini is incredible, even when travelling long distances is exhausting. However, now I love my Mini even more than I did when I first bought it.

The sensation of driving a Mini is incredible, even when travelling long distances is exhausting. However, now I love my Mini even more than I did when I first bought it.

Over the past 13 years of ownership, I redid the whole car from inside and out. I went about restoring and doing up the Mini to suit my style preferences. Slowly, the customising went from mild to wild, but of course, within legal guidelines.

TA22 Celica GT

Because the Celica was from overseas and due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, I bought it based solely on pictures sent by the owner. I was unconcerned about some of the rust spots and missing parts because I knew the car needed some work and restoration.

However, when the car finally arrived, I was disappointed, dissatisfied, and unhappy in various ways. I started planning again, making a list of everything I needed to do to get the car in working order. Within two months, I spent another 300 hours on the car alone doing DIY repairs.

The car is currently 95 per cent restored and customised, following my vision. It runs smoothly and efficiently while I smile and receive thumbs up from people everywhere I go.

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What was your earliest memory of cars, how did you get into it?

My earliest memory of cars was when I was two or three years old. I began taking notice of cars and sketching them on paper, officially cementing the feeling at the age of six. While other kids read fairytales or comics, I read car magazines.

My life is all about cars and music; nothing much excites me, except maybe cats and dogs!

How many cars have you owned across the years?

Over the past 19 years, I have owned 45 different cars.

I came from a humble family, and I signed on to the RSAF while still in Polytechnic to fund both my driving license and car. At 18, I managed to get my first car. It was a 1989 ZC CRX that brought good memories.

From then on, I went on to change to a Charade GTti which I drove to participate in my first Kallang car park race. To be competitive, I switched to a Suzuki Cultus GTi.

I continued racing for another three years before retiring the car. The cost of racing was too much for a junior ranked military personnel like myself.

However, the passion for cars didn't stop there, leading to many different experiences with various cars.

I heard that you used to have a Fiat x1/9 that won many awards, could you tell us more about it?

The car was made as a show car to participate in overseas and local automotive shows. It managed to bag a few awards for its uniqueness and individuality.

For five years, the car was a "work in progress". Finally, when the Fiat was completed and ready for Retrohavoc 2020, Covid-19 happened.

I sold it off when I bought the TA22 Celica. I also sold it at a loss despite customising and restoring the car.

ALSO READ: In the passenger seat: This man drives a 30-year-old car

You run SGRetroCAR; why and how did you start that?

The SGRetroCAR group started in 2016 when I wanted to create more awareness, passion, and appreciation towards older cars and their respective owners.

All of us take meticulous measures to upkeep our vehicles. The effort, time, and commitment spent towards these older cars are worthy of respect.

To me, it's a whole new level of car enthusiasm, and SGRetroCAR wishes to share this passion amongst existing owners and would-be owners. It acts as a platform for sharing leads, views, ideas and even lending a helping hand to car problems.

How's the journey with SGRetrocar?

When I decided to organise static and driving events in 2017, I formed SGretroCAR Pte Ltd while providing media coverage for other local and international retro car events.

Some of our group members were looking for help in finding and importing classic cars at reasonable prices. So, SGRetroCAR expanded its services to include classic car sourcing, importing and registering them for clients a year later.

By 2019, we offered group discounted loan packages for COE renewal and used car loans. This was because I, myself, needed a COE loan for the X1/9 and many banks and loan companies turned me down. The only available ones had ridiculous high interest rates.

So I went about seeking fair and competitive no admin fee loans for our SGRetroCAR group. From there, it has helped many people renew their COEs at affordable loan interest rates.

How would you say SGRetroCAR stands out from other classic car importers in Singapore?

SGRetroCAR is driven by passion and not by profit. As a founder of the company, I take pride in self-handling everything from start to end. I ensure customer satisfaction comes first before sales.

I assist in DIY works for my customers' cars and on my own to save time, money, and even headaches. I believe that every single old classic car is a "work in progress". Thus any vehicles that come through me, I would put work into it as well.

We can't compare ourselves with larger import companies, as I can't match up to their scale and volume. However, I can promise to all my customers that I get things done efficiently and adequately.

I am also giving clients valuable advice, such as websites to buy specific parts at reasonable prices or DIY advice on certain things that otherwise require the owner to engage in a workshop to do it.

Thus with SGRetroCAR, it is a personalised experience.

Finally, what are your thoughts on the car scene in Singapore?

Owning a classic car is undoubtedly a rewarding experience for cultivating a passion for automobiles without breaking the bank.


Even among the younger generation, the strong presence of classic cars has piqued their interest.

Perhaps it's the allure of the classic design or the engaging driving experience that few modern cars can match.

On the other hand, the local car scene is gradually evolving into a showboating and no substance type culture due to a lack of motorsports.

Those with more money can invest in a higher-end supercar. Bespoke components installed, blow exhaust wherever they go, make noise, and annoy the public.

We also cultivated a large group of snitches as a result of the bad sheep. It's a sad state of affairs, but it's a culture we've created since motorsports left us.

If you need help with classic cars, do check out SGRetroCars today!

*This interview has been edited and condensed.

This article was first published in Motorist.

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