In The Passenger Seat: William Ong, Founder of JDM Classics SG

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Itps William Cars And Wisdom Featuredjpeg
(Photo Credit: William Naga)

In this episode of In The Passenger Seat, we have William Ong, the founder of Naga Motor Pte Ltd and JDM Classics SG. His car collection is definitely the most impressive one to be featured so far!

William Ong has been in the car trade for many years. After reaching out to him, we could tell that he is very passionate and knowledgeable about the automotive industry in Singapore.

He mostly deals with VITAS Submissions and preparatory emission testing for brand new and used parallel imports, such Japanese and Continental Cars as well as. As such, this has allowed him to acquire a number of classic cars that some might consider rare.

First of all, what’s your name and what do you do?

Hi everyone, my name is William Ong. I’m going to be 50 soon, and I have been in the car industry for almost 30 years.

For the people who don’t know, what car(s) do you own?

Itps William Cars And Wisdom6(Photo Credit: William Naga)

I have a collection that consists of classic Continental and Japanese cars including several modern ones. They include a Mercedes AMG 45s, Honda Accord Wagon, BMW E36 M3 Coupe, Mini JCW GP3 and a Mini JCW Clubman (sold recently).

Itps William Cars And Wisdom2(Photo Credit: William Naga)

For classic cars, I have a 1966 200D Mercedes Fintail, Toyota Starlet, Nissan Skyline DR30 and a Suzuki Every converted into a VW for a vintage look.

Among your car collection, which one is your favourite and why?

Itps William Cars And Wisdom11(Photo Credit: William Naga)

My favourite car in the collection is probably the BMW E36 M3 Coupe. It is a very popular car and many people like it. This is due to its six-cylinder engine, which is naturally aspirated. It is also a manual.

Could you tell us how you acquired the Skyline DR30 Iron Mask and how do you like the car? We don’t see that many of them around.

Itps William Cars And Wisdom3(Photo Credit: William Naga)

I encountered the DR30 while I was scouting for classic JDMs. The DR30’s engine caught my attention. This is because it has a twin-cam turbocharged engine from that era. Of course, when I'm looking for classic cars, I am ultimately looking for a good RWD car.

From what I know about this car, the DR30 Iron Mask was made for Nissan’s motorsports section, which was booming in Japan and Australia at that time. Hence, it did not land in other parts of Asia. Tan Chong Motors, at the time, only brought in the C31, which was called Nissan Laurel.

You also own a Suzuki Every that is equipped with a Volkswagen body kit, which is a very cool concept. Did you purchase the body kit yourself, or did it already come like that?

Itps William Cars And Wisdom4(Photo Credit: William Naga)

The VW x Suzuki Every was my project in 2008. In 2007, I got the first Suzuki Every to register in Singapore. I then happened to find out about this VW body kit at the Tokyo Auto Salon (TAS). So we brought it from Japan and fixed it to the Suzuki Every.
What’s your earliest memory of cars? How did you fall in love with them?

Itps William Cars And Wisdom5(Photo Credit: William Naga)

I’ve been in the industry for 30 years. During my apprenticeship, we sold a lot of Toyota Starlets. They gave me a lot of memories, which was why I bought back the Starlet from Japan to remember my time as an apprentice.

It lets me reflect on my tough training in the past. I was “tekan-ed” by washing cars before I was allowed to ask about the specs of a vehicle, why the rims were different etc.

The reason for those wondering was that car salesmen wanted to protect their rice bowls in the car trade back then. When you ask too many questions, these uncles would tell you to not talk too much and to clean cars first.

Itps William Cars And Wisdom12(Photo Credit: William Naga)

Later on, I just had to be hardworking, buy them coffee and make them happy. It was all about being industrious. Eventually, they’ll open up and tell you more about the trade. Times have changed people in the car industry now are more willing to teach newcomers.

Most of your cars are on the older side. Is it hard for you to maintain them? How often do you send them to the workshops?

Itps William Cars And Wisdom14(Photo Credit: William Naga)

Workshop wise, it is not an issue. My late mentor, Dato David Wong, Team Principle of Petronas Syntium Team, employed very experienced car mechanics that handled classic cars. Till

today, I still pay them visits when I need assistance.

I just need to know which workshop is good at dealing with the necessary parts and services. To be honest, old cars maintenance is not much of a worry as long as you know how to maintain them accordingly. They should not give you any issues.

Having owned several cars. What is your thought process when purchasing a car?

Itps William Cars And Wisdom15(Photo Credit: William Naga)

Ultimately, we buy things that we like. Some people like Contis or JDMs. I prefer Japanese cars, so I mostly buy and import from Japan. My priorities are manuals with RWD. Ideally, they would be turbocharged as well.

What are your thoughts on the car scene in Singapore? Are there areas of improvement you would like to see for car enthusiasts?

Itps William Cars And Wisdom13(Photo Credit: William Naga)

The whole world, not only Singapore, will be seeing more electric cars soon. Many car lovers around my age are acquiring older cars for memory sake.

Some recall their times with their dads, during their school days when they used to drive them around. Some would buy cars just to recall the memories of their first dates.

People nowadays are buying based on fond memories. Some simply like a specific make and model, hence they only purchase because of the branding.

What are some tips you think any young or aspiring car owner should know?

Itps William Cars And Wisdom17(Photo Credit: William Naga)

Buy something that you think you would like or love and can afford it. I believe that you should not overspend. When you get your car, love it and maintain it well.

This is because cheap things don't come good; good things don't come cheap. Lastly, do your homework on the car before you fully commit to it.

What is the most important advice you can give after all these years of owning and driving cars?

Itps William Cars And Wisdom7(Photo Credit: William Naga)

A car is a commitment and it is also a liability. Before buying the car, do think carefully if it’s a need. Remember, it is just a hobby.

Don’t become a slave to the car when you can’t pay for it. You will eventually fall into debt. Get yourself financially comfortable before purchasing your dream car.

Lastly, do you have any other projects that you are currently working on?

Itps William Cars And Wisdom8(Photo Credit: William Naga)

Yes! I have this unique 1966 200D Mercedes Fintail that is a Q plate and locally registered. I’ve had it with me for 4 years now, and I’m currently having it restored.

Thank you William for sharing! Do support him and Naga Motor Pte Ltd for importing and pre-checks for your cars! Also, remember to give JDM Classics SG on Facebook a follow as well!

*This interview has been edited and condensed.

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