Our new columnist is a lawyer and one of the high-octane motormouths inside Torque’s editorial powerhouse.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Our new columnist is a lawyer and one of the high-octane motormouths inside Torque’s editorial powerhouse.

My Reading Room

THIS Mister Singh grew up helping dad fix and tinker with his motorbikes and cars. 

So, pardon the cliché, I have had petrol in my veins from a young age. In fact, I wished I could drive in Primary 3, well before my puberty at 21. 

My father’s first car was a Volkswagen Beetle 1200, followed by a Ford Anglia. A Triumph Herald replaced the Ford, and after that a Morris 1100, an Austin Mini 850 and then an Austin 1300 GT. By the time I became a car-driving teen, we owned an Austin 1300. 

I particularly remembered the Triumph Herald. I was in Primary 1. It came with a removable hard-top. But somehow, we never went topless (the only topless experience I had was on the beach). 

I hated the Herald’s pointed rear lamp design – the Brits tried too hard with the Herald to imitate American cars of the 1950s with their tail fins.

My Reading Room

The columnist in 1970 when he was a cute four-year-old, with his dad’s Triumph Tiger motorcycle. 

Each night before I slept, I wished that a bad guy would come by in the middle of the night to cut off the offending appendage with a hacksaw. 

And in the mornings as my dad and I walked to the car for him to send me to school, I filled with anticipation whether God had answered my prayers. And every day I questioned God’s existence. 

I was glad when he sold the American wannabe and bought the Morris 1100, a more modern-looking car then. 

Sometimes he pillioned me to school and back on his 1959 Triumph Tiger 100 motorcycle. 

On our rides home, he would ask me if I wanted to “fly” before we crossed onto the Kallang bridge towards Geylang. I never said no. 

With both wheels momentarily in the air, the engine revved higher. It was thrilling for a 9-year-old. We always landed without drama, but “Don’t tell mummy!” was his refrain every time. 

When my dad owned the Austin Mini 850, he often showed me the power of the Mini by spinning the front tyres in first gear off the lights. I was impressed. Now I think he had bald tyres. 

The Austin 1300 (top) was memorable, too – it was stolen! And that after we had it restored by the renowned SAE workshop in Thomson Road, which prided itself in offering the best workmanship for car restorations. I think the thief liked it even more than us. 

When I was in Pre-U 1 in Siglap Secondary School (after I got kicked out of Temasek Junior College for smarter students – TJC was never the same again), we had two cars for the first time. 

I remember a Saturday morning when we went to look at a white 1970 Fiat 850 Spyder at Hooper Road. I could not believe I would be driving a sexy convertible sports car without having to get As for my exam. The only A I scored was my A+ blood type. 

Imagine my disappointment when my dad told me he could not afford the second car as it was too expensive at $7000.00. 

I was even more sad to have to disappoint all the pretty girls in school. But the following Saturday, it was parked in the carpark below our flat! 

I drove my little white convertible (above) to school every day. My dad even gave me money for petrol. For a ten- dollar fill, it would last the whole week of school runs (which was not very far) and one weekend of dating. I became the most popular guy in school. 

I would always drive the Fiat top-down, even in the searing noon sun – looking cool was more important to a teen than comfort. This is still the case now when I look at my daughters’ boyfriends. 

Today when I buy something expensive, like bigger wheels for my car or exhaust pipes for my bikes, I say to my daughters, “Don’t tell mummy!”