When mechanical engineer Ng Kiang Loong wanted a family car, his top priority was performance. Everything else – space, grace or resale value – took a back seat.
The 36-year-old, a co-founder of home-grown engineering firm Hope Technik, opted for a high-powered Mitsubishi Evo 9 Wagon, though his car-buying journey took a roundabout route.
“It was last year that I was ready to replace my four-door 1.8-litre Honda Civic,” he says, adding that he was considering a Ford Focus RS, Subaru STi, BMW M135i or an Evo 9.
“The BMW was struck out first, only because there was no manual gearbox option. And I wanted a manual car so badly.”
Mr Ng wanted an Evo Wagon, but could not find a manual version. So he settled for a Focus RS – until a friend called him one day to say that there was a manual Evo 9 Wagon for sale on online car portal sgCarMart.
“Unfortunately, by the time I contacted the dealer, it had already been sold,” he recalls. “I was so disappointed, I even offered to buy it back at a premium.
“As far as I know, it’s the only Evo 9 Wagon with a manual gearbox that was ever imported into Singapore.”
That dealer did not or could not oblige, so Mr Ng asked his friends and acquaintances to look out for the car and to contact the owner if they spotted it.
Just three months later, one of his friends saw the car and managed to contact the owner.
“It took some persuasion, but by mid-week, I was the proud owner of a shiny black Mitsubishi Evo 9 Wagon,” he says.
Without wasting any time, Mr Ng began modifying the car.
“I work on an OEM-plus methodology, which means I make improvements on what the original manufacturer had designed for optimum overall performance.”
OEM stands for original equipment manufacturer.
He adds: “However, a company like Mitsubishi would also have taken other factors into consideration, such as cost and ease of mass production. Here is where my engineering know-how takes over.”
The bodywork was modified by the previous owner, so he had a specialist shop fabricate fenders to mimic the original, slightly bulging wheel arches. After that, he worked on the suspension and chassis to improve the car’s handling and steering response.
Much of the work was done by Mr Ng himself. The Evo 9 evolved with many new parts, some custom-fabricated.
The car now has slightly wider tracks, a lower ride height and is a joy to drive. Slightly stiffer springs and firmer damping did not seriously affect ride comfort.
He uses it as a practical family car and to commute to and from work.
So far, his parents and in-laws – who live with him – have had no complaints. His wife, whose everyday car is a Suzuki Ignis Sport, “loves my Evo 9”. They do not have children.
Mr Ng has also taken the car to Melaka International Motorsport Circuit in Malaysia several times and it has proven to be highly reliable.