In a country with such drastic laws to control the growth of vehicle numbers, it’s amazing to find such a dedicated following of JDM enthusiasts. We may complain about high car prices and increasing fuel costs. But this is nothing compared to what a hardcore JDM enthusiast in Singapore has to go through. Whilst in other countries we merely have to contend with rising fuel costs, draconian road laws and mounting public pressure (whilst not having a super efficient public transportation system); Singapore’s potential car buyers have to deal with so much more. After buying a piece of paper which entitles you to own a car, for anywhere from 40,000 to 60,000 SGD (2.63- 3.95 million Japanese yen), the driver then has to pay for import duty at 41% of the car’s cost. Following which an additional tax of 150% of the car’s market value is to be paid. Finally a registration fee of 1,000 SGD (65,857 yen) is paid.
This quickly adds up to astronomical sums and deter any potential enthusiasts. Furthermore, after 10 years the car must be scrapped or an additional tax of the same 40,000 to 60,000 SGD has to be paid! This incredible piece of legislation has made Singapore (a country of 700 km2 and 4 million people) to be the second largest exporter of used cars after Japan.
This leaves only dedicated and slightly insane enthusiasts keeping the older cars in working order and prepared to pay the additional money to keep their treasured possessions on the road. So the cars you see here are owned by not just ordinary enthusiasts, but diehard enthusiasts. Willing to go through huge financial hurdles just to own that one ride. A track car with a daily driver is a far and distant dream for many. Whilst owning these cars you could be slapped with many an infringement notice, continually heckled by other drivers who consider you to be a hoon, tax after tax, soaring fuel prices and no track days within the country. If you consider yourself a enthusiast one might ask this, if all these conditions were thrown at you would you still own one of these?
When you think about it, it’s amazing that there are so many older JDM cars still on the road in Singapore. And with such wallet imploding costs involved it’s even more startling to find that cars are modified to such a beautiful degree. Even in the yellow sodium filled streetlights in the hot festering damp, the cars were something to behold. No ratty tatty here, no bumpers falling off, no paint fade or even unpainted putty. All were kept in fantastic shape. Being here tonight has taught me to cherish what we are given.
But the guys i met tonight, they don’t seem perturbed. Eager to chat about parts ordered, plans for the future of their car and general scene culture. Relaxing by railings, watching cars drive by they hardly seem to have a care in the world.
The car enthusiasts of Singapore, i salute you.
Words – Benson Lau
Photos – Benson Lau