The five vehicles that defined Malaysia

The local automotive landscape is like a hearty plate of Nasi Lemak – made up of diverse ingredients that culminate into something that is unmistakably Malaysian.

On the eve of our long-awaited Malaysia Day holiday, we have compiled a list of vehicles that define us. While they may not be of local origins or manufacture, they’ve been every bit as Malaysian as the Nasi Lemak.

 1. Land Rovers of Cameron Highlands

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There is a large concentration of Series 1 and 2 Land Rovers at Cameron Highlands. Beaten up by rust, dirt and the elements, these 7,000 Land Rovers have soldiered on to serve the local agricultural industry despite being way past their prime.

According to this amazing piece from Road and Track, owners pay only 10 percent of road tax, with the caveat that these Land Rovers never leave the Cameron Highlands. Safe to say they are fated to deliver fresh produce and supplies until their demise, if that day ever comes. Calling these trusty workhorses resilient would be an understatement.

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As Land Rover does not have an official workshop at Cameron Highlands, it’s the owner’s ingenuity that keeps those Landies working. Salvaging engines and parts from Japanese makes are common, and sometimes, a hammer is all it takes to fix them.

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Simply put, there could be no better testament to the hardiness of Land Rovers than those found in Cameron Highland.

2. Nissan Sentra Genting Taxis

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The roads that lead to the country’s sole (hillside) casino is known to put a smile on keen drivers. However, if there was a group of drivers who can zip up and down the winding roads up the hilly resort, with finesse that would shame the boy racers, it would be the Genting taxi drivers in their Nissan Sentra B13.

These Sentras of the early 90’s were family sedans with no sporting credentials – its 1.6-litre engine produced a modest 110 hp. The combination of their lightweight construction and the driver’s experience through the winding section have made them some of the slickest vehicles up the hill. Some have gone as far as to say that the downhill rides in those taxis have been no less exhilarating than a game of Baccarat.

Sadly, these taxis are no longer around. So the urban legend about a Sentra taxi outgunning cars worth 10 times its value will never be verified…

3. Mercedes 911 Lorry

In the 80s, a robust German workhorse helped build the country. Known as “Kurzhauber” (short-bonnet), this truck can be seen in rural areas hauling timber, oil palm and construction materials.

The truck’s cab is sheltered only with a wooden roof as some even had their doors removed. These things are so basic that some put in makeshift chairs to make it more comfortable with a simple dash mounted fan being the only luxury. Whatever you make of it, drivers swore by it because it just slogs faithfully without a complain, and it has helped put food on their tables, with credit to the 3 pointed star.

4. Bas Mini Wilayah

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The Thais have tuk-tuks and the Filipinos have the Jeepneys; KL-ites relied on a certain pink mini bus to get around back in the day. These compact buses were pretty basic – air conditioning was unheard of, and the recommended capacity of 25 was merely a suggestion.

Manned by a two-person driver and conductor crew, the latter used to squeeze in as many passengers as possible, while the former made sure that you’d reach your destination in record time. The spectacle of these buses zipping through traffic was enough reason for tourists to visit KL!

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While monorails and modern city buses have proven to be safer, quicker and more reliable, these mini buses provided an economical means of transportation and fond memories for city folks of yesteryear.

5. Roti Bike

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A motorcycle laden with bread and snacks with a rhythmic honking manner was a common sight in kampungs, residential areas, and flats. Generations of Malaysians have relied on this roti bike for literally their bread and butter.If you think balancing that huge load on a “kapcai” is hard work, don’t forget they have to brave the erratic Malaysian weather to bring food to you.

Like most traditional industries, the roti bike is gradually ceasing because of stiff competition from hypermarkets and convenience stores. The emergence of avocado toast is not helping these humble sellers either.

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But to the few who are still plying the trade, they are fuelled by the children’s joyous smiles.

So, there you go, 5 vehicles that are no-less Malaysian than Malaysian manufactured vehicles. Meanwhile, do share with us which vehicles we might have missed out on.

Happy birthday, Malaysia.


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