Crazy about cars

Jeya holding the futuristic Mercedes C 111 model
On Sunday’s you may have spotted him cruising along in a Fiat 131, Fiat 127, Mercedes 230E or an eye-catching Yellow 1962 Triumph Spitfire.  This was when car enthusiast, C. Jearajasingam, better known as Jeya, would take his cars out for warm-up runs on Johor Bahru’s Inner Ring Road.  Recently Jeya sold his Fiat 127 and he misses it to this day.

Jeya, a past President and active member of Malaysia Singapore Vintage Car Register (MSVCR), is at almost every car event in and around this region.  While he shares his passion for cars with fellow car-crazy friends, many do not know that Jeya’s hobbies includes a prized model car collection and a priceless album of Mercedes car catalogues.  In fact, Cycle & Carriage wanted to borrow his catalogue collection for an exhibition but because they are so precious, Jeya told them, “I’ll think about it.”

In a rare opportunity to view his private collection, Jeya, 67, was in his element, showing and sharing highlights on his collectibles.  The range of model cars in Jeya’s collection bore classic brand names like Matchbox, Dinky and Corgi.  Retrieving his favourite model cars from wall cabinets and display cupboards to line them up on a table, this true-blue car lover actually had a sparkle in his eyes as he talked about his cherished cars.  

Some Mercedes model cars in Jeya's collection
When he was in Form 1, Jeya spent the princely sum of fifty cents from his pocket money to buy his first model car.  In the 60’s Matchbox was one of the biggest-selling toy car brands in the world and these British-made die-cast metal cars measuring about 2.5 inches or 6.5 cm in length, were sold at up to only RM1.50 each. 

Some of the cars in his collection were made of solid plastic but most were of die-cast metal.  These made-to-scale models featured plastic windows, interiors, tyres and opening parts for hood, boot and doors.  Several looked rather battered because his sons played with them when they were kids but some cars were still in their original packaging and preserved in mint condition. 

Jeya with part of his prize model car collection

Among the few hundred beauties in his collection, Mercedes cars stand out as his obvious favourite.  From convertibles to coupes, Jeya has them all.  He even has a bright Orange colour 1969 model of the futuristic Mercedes Benz C 111, an experimental car powered by a rotary-piston engine.

The bodywork and interior of Mercedes Benz cars are duplicated in amazing detail in its model cars.  

Mercedes Benz 540K with "Mother-in-law" seat

When Jeya showed off the leather seats and movable parts in the glossy Red Mercedes Benz 540K, he gently flipped open a rear row of concealed seats which he said with a smirk, is known as the “Mother-in-law seat.” 

There were several units of the sleek Mercedes Benz 300SL in different sizes and colours and Jeya frankly admitted that this most desirable car is his Dream Car.

The car that Jeya carved out of wood
Jeya’s hobby in model cars includes making them as a handicraft.  His most ambitious project must be carving a car out of a block of wood and fixing it with details like rubber tyres, plastic seats and windshield and painting in a dashboard, headlights and bumpers.  And when his eyesight was better, he also enjoyed fixing plastic model kits and finishing the model cars with a coat of paint.

His wife, Padma, confided that when they were dating, he warned her that, “Cars will always be my first love.”  But since she accepted his marriage proposal, she found that his opinion has been reversed.  Padma his soul-mate and greatest supporter, goes to new Mercedes car launches and car events with Jeya and is now helping to scan and save as much material to create a blog so that Jeya can share his passion with like-minded people.

Jeya, a Technical Teacher who retired in 1996, is now attached to a private school.  When classes are over, he will not go home yet but his wife knows he will not be far from cars.  His favourite hangout would be in motor workshops with his car cronies to enjoy hours of tinkering around, analyzing and identifying car problems and solving them together. 

A version of this article was published in The New Straits Times, Johor Buzz in November 2008

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