Sweet Sixteen

My car and I
Since I got her in 1996, she’s served me well – in fact, very well!  My sporty Suzuki Vitara was everything I wished for, in terms of comfort, height and ruggedness because I often travel alone, sometimes through rough terrain and at odd hours of the day or night.  One of the main criteria for the advantageous height is the confidence to go through flood waters after sudden tropical storms or seasonal torrential monsoon rains!

In our first year together, she took me all the way from Johor Baru to Penang and further north to Alor Setar, right to the shores of Lake Pedu where I parked her and took a boat over to the resort that was just a hill away from Thailand. The road trip continued from the west across the Karak Expressway to an east coast beach resort in Cherating.  

Following that, we made more trips to the east coast, as far north as Kuala Terengganu, frequently to Malacca and even uphill to Frasers Hill, Cameron and Genting Highlands.

Ah Kee, my mechanic, inspecting her under-carriage
Until recently she has been with me on road trips to Kuala Lumpur, USJ to see my grandma and on day trips to villages in Johor like Sarang Buaya near Batu Pahat and Muar, also to Mersing, Ayer Hitam and Kluang and of course, across the causeway into Singapore. 

Over the years, her glossy white colour grew dull with multiple coats of dust and dirt because I’m not crazy about going to the car-wash.  The occasional wash brought back her shiny sheen but at one time this particular model was the favourite target of carjackers so I decided not to keep her looking too attractive lest she fall prey to those greedy criminals.  My rationale is to keep her engine running smoothly but not to let her attract unwanted attention!

Through the years, I faithfully sent her in for regular servicing to ensure that her engine remains properly maintained.  Ah Kee, my trusted mechanic, understands her temperament and have been personally seeing to her well-being ever since she completed the initial few services with Suzuki.  I have his number programmed on my speed-dial and more than once, he came to my rescue when her battery went flat!  In 2006, I gave her a much-need facelift with a fresh coat of paint and it did not surprise me that she looked as good as new.

Years ago, when I picked Auntie Helen from Changi Airport on her arrival for a visit, she said she will have a spare tyre-cover custom-made for me when she returned to Sydney. 

This is my second custom-made spare tyre cover
That’s because it was common for 4-WD cars in Australia to have tyre-covers made for spare tyres on the back of the car.  She kept her word and arranged for a friend to hand-carry it all the way to Johor Baru for me.  This first tyre-cover was made in solid Black with my name in capital letters, written across in White!

At first it felt rather awkward to shout my name from the back of my car.  Then I got used to having drivers come slowly alongside my car just to turn and look at me – probably just to see who it was who so boldly announced her name on the road!  Some well-meaning friends advised me not to put my name out there but I assured them that I’m a law-abiding citizen and there was nothing to fear about the law catching up with me…

My car getting a much-need facelift with no-water wash!

After her facelift, the old tyre-cover that was already splitting and falling apart, did not quite match her new image.   So cousin Malcolm, Auntie Helen’s son in Sydney, offered to make me a new tyre-cover and we discussed the custom-made design. “Put your favourite photo or your photo on it!” he suggested but I said, “No, thanks!”  Finally I left it to him to pick a suitable picture and he decided on flowers with my name emblazoned across in contrasting White. 

Now from this spare tyre-cover with my name against a background of flowers, I’m easily recognized on the road.  Friends who spotted me somewhere will later ask, “Eh, what were you doing there?” or say, “Hey, I saw you at (…name of place)”.  My car and her whereabouts is often the topic of conversation but its okay because I make it a point to stay on the right side of the law and not be up to any (ahem!) shady business…

My shiny car after the Kilat Kilat treatment
Twice, when I was writing articles on car-wash-polish service companies, they offered to give her their touted treatment and I did not deny them the privilege to test it on my filthy car.  I knew it was a challenge to restore her to a pristine look but because they managed to do it, I thought their products and services must really be something!  I’m just glad she benefited from the much-needed pampering. 

After sixteen years, wear and tear has finally taken a toll on her and since last October, she has been unwell.  More than once I had to call AAM for their emergency services when she stalled somewhere outside the city and recently, things took a turn for the worse.  She has been behaving quite erratically and this is cause for grave concern because I depend a great deal on her and I cannot risk being left in a tight spot, in the middle of nowhere or in inclement weather.  As always it’s Ah Kee to the rescue but there’s only that much he can do, especially when she is already so old.

AAM mechanic to the rescue!
Sixteen years is a long time for any relationship and we’ve been through a great deal together.  Car owners will understand the bond I have with my car and the dilemma I face in dealing with the reality of having to retire her which inevitably means, to part with her.  Just as pet owners feel for their ailing faithful pets, I’m going through similar pain in coming to terms with my car’s gradual deterioration in the (motoring equivalent) of old age and ill health.  

If there’s supposed to be fun and joy in shopping for a new car, I find it hard to elicit such feelings from the whole exercise as I’m also reluctant to part with my faithful old car.  As I compel myself to move ahead to consider car choices that fit my criteria for comfort, height and ruggedness, I know nothing can replace her.  It’s also going to be a challenge to find one that has a rear spare tyre to keep wearing an attractive tyre-cover to let you know that it’s me passing you on the road!


Ah Kee to the rescue in Plaza Pelangi Basement Two
It happened again! On Friday, 24 February 2012, I was out on a round of errands before I went for a lunch appointment with Karen and the chairman of an NGO and then to visit their premises.  My first stop was Sultanah Aminah Hospital to pick up dad’s prescription.  The next stop was Plaza Pelangi to meet my friends in Elle to discuss about an event in December before leaving for my lunch appointment.  I thought the timing was just right to hop into my car and drive over to Taman Sri Tebrau and find a parking spot near the restaurant.

But when I turned the ignition to start, the engine jumped to life but refused to keep humming!  After a few futile tries with the engine dying on me again and again, I knew that it was useless.  I called Karen to cancel my lunch appointment but I still hoped to continue with the site visit later.  When I got Ah Kee on the phone, he was quick to ask me for directions into Plaza Pelangi and he soon turned up in Basement Two, driving his little Kancil that was as usual, filled with his handy toolbox and equipment.  

Checking the engine - again!
He wasted no time to check the engine and as his suspicions zeroed in on a possible fault in the petrol pump, he crawled under the car to examine it.  To check if it was faulty, he made me start the engine again and again.  The carpark was suddenly filled with the pungent smell of petrol as he emerged with his arm slicked with it because it overflowed as he opened a valve to check.  Having confirmed the problem, Ah Kee suggested towing her back to his workshop for the repair so I called AAM for their towing services.

For all the wonderful emergency help AAM can give, this was one time they totally failed me.  Firstly, their representative told me on the phone, that their tow truck cannot access the basement carpark and that I should push the car outside for them.  “Tolak lah!” he said and even suggested that I ask the security guards to help.  I was too upset to speak but managed to say that I would think about it first and I hung up. 

Before he rushed off, Ah Kee told me to take a walk in the mall and reassured me that he will find a solution.  In about half an hour he called to say he should be in the carpark in a few minutes (with help to tow the car outside) and I should call AAM to collect the car from outside.  To my horror, nobody answered the phone in AAM – the 24-hours emergency service line – as it rang and rang on.  I realized that it was Friday but I’m still deeply disappointed that there was no one manning the 24-hour emergency call line!  It seems like AAM members must plan their emergencies to never happen at that hour on Friday in order to enjoy their services!

Towed out of carpark with hazard lights blinking
I had enough heartache to last me a long, long time so I decided to use the reliable services of Ah Kee and his friends to arrange for the complete transfer of my car from the basement carpark to his workshop.  He reminded me to remove my personal items from the car as it was hooked up to his friend’s bigger car that was to tow it outside.  As he sat in my car, ready to steer its way out, Ah Kee asked me, “How are you going home?”  I haven’t given it any thought yet but his friend was quick to suggest, “Take a taxi!”

With her hazard lights blinking, I watched my car being maneuvered through the carpark corridors.  Clutching my belongings and making my way back into the mall, I squeezed my eyes shut for a moment to take stock of the situation.  I knew my car was in good hands and I should go on with my afternoon appointment to meet the NGO chairman.  So I called Karen to ask if we should proceed and she agreed to pick me from the front of Menara Pelangi.

As I stood in the shaded porch to wait for Karen, the afternoon heat was humid and I was just wiping perspiration that seemed to pour out from every pore.  As usual, a few people were walking by, arriving or leaving the building while I stood silently, waiting.  Suddenly my composure simply shattered when I saw my car passing, being transported on the flatbed truck and I let out a howl that sounded like an animal in pain!  Maybe the sight was too unexpected because I thought she had already been taken to the workshop.

There she was, on the flatbed truck, along Jalan Kuning!
At once, the female security guard hovering nearby responded by asking, “Your car?” because by this time, I had whipped out my camera and had it trained on that vehicle.  Her gentle concern did more damage to my fragile composure because I was choking back sudden tears while snapping the shots.  A busybody passerby joined in to ask, “Why uh?” and the security guard kept herself busy explaining her version of the situation.

The slow traffic let me have full view of my car as the truck with her on it, inched its way down the road.  I felt a lump in my throat growing larger, threatening to explode in hot tears but a loud honk from a car in front saved me from further embarrassment.  It was Karen.  The guard asked helpfully, “Your friend?” and I nodded, quickly stepping into the car and pulling myself together into a semblance of calm, switching gears to ready myself for my appointment that afternoon. 


Thank you so much - everyone, who expressed their concern for my ailing car.  Just a brief update to let you know that under Ah Kee's tender care, my car has been restored to better health - for now...  Thanks!

That's her, looking sweet in the carpark of Maio, MSuites

Latest Update:

My car suffered damage even while it was parked!



  1. Anonymous2/29/2012

    Wow..that's not a joke. Ms. Suzuki V has been with you for 16 long years?
    I like the tyre-cover on her. She looks so sweet , attractive and feminine. The owner's name (Peggy) on it gives her even a stronger and deeper sense of belonging . Finally... I feel the sadness in Ms. Peggy's heart too...having to leave Ms. Suzuki V for a while. I sincerely hope that Ms. Suzuki V will recovers soon.

  2. Sixteen years!! The longevity is nothing short of amazing! Especially given the hot & humid operating environment, the incessant traffic jams and, on top of that, driven by a female! Obviously they don't build motor vehicles like they use to! I think car years are a bit like dog years......i.e. 1 car year is equivalent to 7 human years.....in which case your trusty Vitara is equivalent of 102 human years! Me thinks she should be resting peacefully in Muzium Negara! Perhaps your avid readers could contribute to a Peggy's Vitara Compassionate Fund to retire her. I'll start the ball rolling and pledge 1k!