The next time you spot a super cool Mercedes from the 1960s rolling up next to you at the red light, peek inside to see who is driving—you might be in for a surprise. While it has traditionally been regarded as a masculine activity, the gears have been slowly shifting these days. More women are getting behind the wheels, muscling in and taking over what is classically seen as a man’s area of interest—investing in classic cars.
Perhaps the most notable is Lady Gaga. From the semi-rostered baby blue 1967 Ford Bronco she drives around in, to the Chevy Nova SS from 1969, the multi-award winning singer has proven that her armada of classics is anything but shallow. Then there is Beyoncé Knowles who, together with husband Jay-Z, owns a fleet of Ferraris, Porsches, and Lamborghinis. But the piece de resistance in her collection? The 1959 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud II, which reportedly cost US$1 million.
But the world of collecting classics is not just for the rich and famous. And the appeal, according to the women in Singapore who own them, is in the craftsmanship associated with these cars. “Most cars today are designed in what I call the ‘box standard’. They are efficient, aerodynamic in design but, in the end, look the same,” says Rosalind Howe, branch director at a financial advisory firm. “Classic cars are different and with so much character. You can see the love and passion that goes into the making of one.”
Howe is part of the growing number of female classic collectors around the world. In Singapore, these numbers are slowly rising as well, and many of them are members of Classic Car Club Singapore.
“There are definitely more women who are investing in classic vehicles these days,” says Kumar Balasingam, founder and president of the Classic Car Club Singapore. Established in 2016, the club started with just 11 members, including Balasingam. Today, the numbers have grown with more than 100 members. “Currently, we have 10 female members who are collectors of these cars. But there are many others who have joined us simply because they are interested. That’s always a good start,” he said.
Ahead, we speak with five Singaporean female classic cars collectors on their love for these sublime vehicles.
Retired bank executive
As the wife of the president of the Classic Car Club Singapore, Jyoti Balasingam has a lot of first-hand experience when it comes to classic cars. Her interest in them started more than three decades ago, when the two of them were still dating.
“We will be married for 38 years next March but when we were dating, I used to help him clean, do some repairs, and wash the cars. It became a dating activity for us,” she recalls.
By the time the pair got married, Balasingam had a good knowledge of the technicalities of the cars. “We had many magazines and books on classic cars. And as I started getting interested in them, I realised that these cars are very different from the ordinary ones—they’re more cantik (pretty in Malay).”
While her husband owns about 30 classic cars, the mother-of-two owns a classic 1969 Mercedes-Benz 280SL. “I got this a couple of years ago. It is sleek and sexy, and with cream interiors, which is something I’ve always wanted in a car.”
The retired bank executive says that this was the car she had always wanted. “It is not a bulky car, and is also easy to drive. Plus, you can take the top down which makes it even more attractive”.
While Jenna Mueller has always loved cars, her passion for classic ones started while accompanying her German husband on a hunt for one. “My husband is a fan of classic cars and we were actually looking to buy a classic Porsche 911 but that did not happen because I was not feeling it,” she says.
Instead, the homemaker says they fell in love with a Rolls Royce Silver Shadow. “We chanced upon it in the same showroom as the Porsche, and it was a really nice car. So, we bought it immediately.”
It was a good purchase, and one that is a constant head-turner. “We bring it out on Sundays, and wherever we park, the car always gets a lot of attention. People will come and take photos with it,” says the mother-of-two.
Her advice to beginners looking to purchase a classic car?
“When you want to buy a car, check whether there’s any rust. If there is, then do not get it because it will cost you a lot of money in the long run for maintenance because you just need to keep fixing the problem. Another thing is to check the VIN numbers of the car you like and that it matches all the parts. This is to ensure that you’re getting the original. If all the numbers tally, then the value is there,” she says.
Olivia Joan Wargis
Senior customer service officer at a premium airline company
“I bought my first classic car eight years ago after following my friends to road shows and classic car rallies. It was a Lancia Flavia Coupe in grey,” says Olivia Joan Wargis.
The 1964 model was purchased from the Italian car firm Pininfarina in Malaysia. When asked about the price of her fist classic baby, Wargis did not want to go into specifics but revealed that it was in the five-figure range. “Depending on the model that you’re after, the cost of investing in a classic car is not that high,” she adds.
“For me, the shape is very important, and the coupe is nice and sleek. I also think it matches my personality. Plus, you don’t see these cars around, so it is a very rare sight”.
To date, she has purchased a second Lancia Flavia Coupe—this time in white. “Everytime, I drive this baby on the road—which is not often enough—I will get a reaction from other drivers.” She recalled driving out of Cuscaden Road and receiving a honk and a thumbs up from a man driving by.
“I drove up to him and asked him if the thumbs up was for me or the car, and he said it was for both,” she says with a laugh. “It is a nice feeling and you do not have to be so serious about these things because people don’t usually expect a woman driver when they see a classic car.”
Branch director at a financial advisory firm
From a very young age, Rosalind Howe has always wanted to own a Jaguar. To her, that has always been a mark of prestige. Today, the branch director at a financial advisory firm owns two. Her latest baby? The 1984 Jaguar XJS-C, which she recently imported into Singapore from the United Kingdom.
“The other one I have is the Jaguar E-Type Series 1, which is the most sought after classic car model,” she says. “My partner and I wanted a Series 1, and looked for it for a very long time. Finally, we were able to find one in the market in the United States, and it was a dream come true when we bought it”.
Howe, together with her British partner, counts 15 classic cars in her armada, spread out between the United Kingdom and Malaysia.
Her penchant for cars in general started early in her childhood, having sat in her father’s Ford Cortina as well as the Volkswagen Panel Van. “It was definitely a privilege back then because it was not very common to own cars. So, it was very grand and we had a lot of fun,” she says.
While these cars were not considered classics then, today Howe says she looks at the cars her father used to own with a lot more passion. “Everything you do is tied to a memory, and so these cars, which are considered classics now, bring a sense of nostalgia to me. So, over the years, I’ve developed this love for older cars.”
Finance manager for an aviation company
It was the design and the make that attracted Grace Ng to make her first car purchase two decades ago. “It was a Fiat 130 coupe, and it had a very unique design when compared to modern cars.” Today, the car is still in her possession and in perfect driving condition.
She has since added two more classic cars—both Mercedes-Benz—to her collection. One of which is the limited edition right-hand drive E36 AMG model. “There are only 14 units in the world and I believe there’s only one in Singapore,” she says.
“People will notice you when you drive these cars because it is a rare sight. They will honk at you, and give you the thumbs up when they drive past. It’s a very nice feeling.” Her other Mercedes-Benz baby, purchased three years ago, is the 280ce model, which she takes out on drives, especially for meet-up with other car collectors.
For those who are looking to buy their first classic car, Ng suggests starting young. And it does not have to be an expensive purchase. “Start by getting a cute car, like a Honda or a Volkswagen Beetle. They are not so expensive and you can slowly work your way up to the big ones.”