A quick drum of a motor pierces the silence of a Sunday afternoon before retreating as soon as it came. Soon, the bright red 52-year-old Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GT whines, coughs and roars into life as her 72-year-old owner David Chan starts her up.
The Alfa Romeo is one of the many classic cars in Mr Chan’s collection. He handles her well even without power steering. “The power steering is in my arms,” he said.
Mr Chan was born into a car-centric family. It was back in 1921 when his grandfather opened Eastern Auto, one of the first auto agencies in Singapore. It was located opposite the Istana.
According to Mr Chan, his grandfather was among the pioneers who imported brand new cars into Singapore. He started with Citroen cars before bringing in sporty brands like Aston Martin, Lotus and Lancia.
“Growing up, all my toys and books were about cars. The love for cars was thrust upon me,” he said.
When he was 12, he and his cousins would spend their afternoons learning from the Cantonese-speaking mechanics of the workshop.
When he was 18, he had an accident on his father’s scooter. He had abrasions all over the left side of his body, yet he got back on the scooter and rode all the way home bleeding.
“My father took me to the GP and told me ‘son, I think I’ll buy you a car.’
So I was a college student, and I was driving a sports car to school. An Austin-Healey Sprite.
I still have it to this day, I never sold it for over 50 years,” he said.
After his Senior Cambridge exams (now “O” Levels), Mr Chan aspired to study engineering abroad to become a mechanic. However, after his father’s agency folded, an overseas education was out of the question, so he put his dreams on hold and went to the Teachers’ Training College.
While Mr Chan likes teaching, he’s never quite fancy having to stick to a timetable. He left teaching eventually and opened a workshop so that he could immerse himself in motorsports.
His son, Brian Chan, also took a liking to cars. “We both enjoyed ourselves (in the garage). We bought cars, we modified them and we raced them,” said the younger Chan, 45, who runs the workshop for his father now.
Mr Chan has taken part in and won many races, from the 1971 time attack Gap Hill Climb at South Buona Vista Road (when he was still a bachelor) to the 1993 Louis Vuitton Rally (when he’s already a father).
Every race has since been a family affair for Mr Chan, said his wife, Mrs Veronica Chan. “In his races the whole family would go and support him.”
Collecting cars and racing in them are indeed more than a lifelong passion for Mr Chan. They are an intergenerational pursuit for his family.
This entry is repurposed by Amirah Amrin