CC Drive and Show: Colombo Sunday Run, November 2023

Greetings, fellow curbsiders, time to join me for another Sunday run from the sunny tropics. These drives happen once a month pretty consistently and the participation is always great. They definitely are a highlight in the calendar for me, and I try to make it every month, unless something really important pops up to prevent it. Alright, let’s jump right in and see what we have in store.

I hope this picture gives you a sense of the number of cars that take part in one of these. This was before all the participants showed up, mind, and there were still easily around 30 cars to be seen. The regular count now sits at around 35 to 40 cars at every run, which is a surprisingly large number to those of us who remember when 10 cars turning up was noteworthy. Still, thanks to the tireless efforts of the main organizer, everything runs fairly smoothly and everyone has a pretty great time. As always, I will try to give you a general idea of the cars that were present, along with more detailed looks at whatever caught my eye that day.

British Classics tend to make up the highest number of participants at our events, because they usually have a very good survival rate. This very tidy looking Mini Moke takes the idea of elemental motoring to the furthest extreme possible on four wheels. I’ve been in a couple and they are great fun, but not for the faint-hearted.

The MGA and MGB are pretty much the standard template “British Sports Cars” for most people, so they are often overlooked in favour of more unusual options. This isn’t exactly fair, because they still are very attractive, fun-to-drive cars that are pretty easy to keep in fine fettle. The almost unbelievably comprehensive parts availability is certainly the envy of those of us who own more esoteric machinery, among other things. I’ve never personally wanted to own one myself, but I can see the appeal.

Let’s now take a closer look at the sober Teuton lurking in the background.

Which is, of course, a Mercedes Benz W123, considered one of the finest wagons ever turned out by Mercedes Benz. These are now becoming very desirable globally, with a corresponding increase in prices. In Sri Lanka, the wagons are very rare, partly because they were very expensive cars in their day, but also because most larger wagons have a negative image since they tend to be used as hearses. This lovely 230TE is owned by a young enthusiast whose father had rescued it in the early 90s, when it was rusting in somebody’s yard. The car has been with the family since then, after a comprehensive restoration, and the owner uses it as his daily driver.

Another golden era Mercedes that caught my eye was this R107 380SL. A late import from the UK, it has very low mileage for its age (apparently under 100k Kilometres), and it looked practically showroom fresh. The 380 tends to be a bit unloved when considering R107s, but I personally would find it hard to say no to this car.

Sitting close by to its roofless cousin was this W108 280S Automatic. Something looked slightly off with the alignment of the trunk lid to me, but I’m not entirely sure what caused it. Too bad, because this car was extremely tidy otherwise.

The brown interior was a great match to the white paintwork, and made the car really stand out. It appears that an aftermarket air conditioning unit has been fitted, which is kind of a necessity in our climate!

Another member of the German cohort was this DKW 3=6, which I believe to be a F94 model from late in the production run. It is apparently regularly used by the owner and clearly looked to be in good health. Unbelievably, it was not the only DKW present on this day, we’ll see the other one soon.

Moving away from the Europeans, next to catch my eye was this imposing looking Datsun Cedric 260. This model was once pretty popular over here, but the vast majority of the examples have the rather agricultural diesel four-cylinder under that long hood, either as original fitment or as a later conversion, which is a real letdown. But this particular car is one of the very few that has the L26 six-cylinder motor, which was very similar to that used in the 260Z This suits the character of the car much better, with plenty of torque and smooth delivery. The owner apparently bought the car from a former government official, who had imported it new in the 1970s. This explains the relatively high spec, as well as the big engine.

Toyota MR2s always have a place in my heart thanks to the two I owned years ago, and I will always stop to take a look at one. This is probably the best kept MR2 that exists in Sri Lanka, a very original Mark 1A (early model), which has been with the current owner for close to 30 years. It has never been restored, but has just been maintained and loved throughout, which is evident from the condition.

Another interesting fact is that this is a Japan-only AW10 model, which has the 8 valve, single overhead cam, carburetted 3A engine (as fitted to many Corollas), rather than the 16 Valve fuel injected 4AGE Twin Cam. AW10s were the most common MR2s in Sri Lanka, because they were cheaper, and the low-powered engine does not really stand in the way of having fun at the wheel, thanks to the stellar chassis.  Still, the Twin Cam definitely does take it to another level.

The MR2 proved that Japan could build a great sports car, and it probably would be even more appreciated now if it weren’t for Mazda and their modern twist on the classic sports car formula, which really drove the point home. These two Mariner Blue examples provided a nice counterpoint to the wedgy Toyota, and if you asked me to pick one car from this drive lineup, I’d pick one of these without a second thought.

If the Miata is a great example of substance and style melded into a cohesive whole, this 1969 Mazda 1500/Luce is a great example of a stylish body covering up for pedestrian underpinnings. Its Giorgetto Giugiaro penned lines are eye-catching in their elegant simplicity, even with the rather ugly fender mirrors this car has been saddled with. However, the chassis and drivetrain underneath that elegant shape are resoundingly average at best.

Fun fact: this model of Mazda was assembled from CKD kits in Sri Lanka in the mid-60s, when a local entrepreneur thought we needed a car industry. Quite a few were apparently sold, and one of them was even my father’s first car. This example however, is a Japanese import, which likely arrived as a used car in the mid-70s.

However, the most interesting member of the Japanese contingent was not a car at all, but this rather lovely Toyota Liteace van. A first-generation (M10) model, the condition was frankly jaw-dropping because basically all of these were run into the ground and scrapped when they had nothing left to give, so finding a survivor is surprising enough, let alone a time capsule like this. We will be seeing more of this little green box on CC, because I’m trying to get hold of the owner for a full feature.

Right, that covers what I found most interesting at the starting point. As usual, after a bit of chatting and admiring the machinery, we set off for a drive through the city of Colombo.

Lining up all these cars in an orderly manner takes some doing, naturally but there is very rarely any confusion and everybody seems to instinctively know how to behave on a run. The idea always is for it to be a parade of sorts, but other traffic, stoplights, and the fact that some participants just want to drive a bit quicker than others all mean that by the endpoint the cars arrive in multiple smaller groups rather than the one big group that starts off.

This time, thanks to one of the other participants, I managed to get hold of a few rolling shots as well, which I feel make a nice change to the usual parked ones.

This picture of a Renault 4, Morris Minor, and Mercedes W108 passing by one of our city’s famous heritage hotels could have come straight out of the late 60s, if it weren’t for the modern tower block lurking in frame.

Here’s a better picture of the building, the Galle Face Hotel, which was founded in 1864 and is one of the oldest hotels east of the Suez. The MGA in the picture has a history that is almost as interesting as the building’s, a story that will come to these pages pretty soon.

They’d managed to capture yours truly in my gallic chariot as well, which is always appreciated. I obviously never get to see my car on the move, so this was nice to see.

A few more rolling shots, closer to the endpoint.

The DKW from earlier in the post was joined by a companion, which appears to be an even later model. The registration on this one is from the mid-60s.

This lovely Lancia Monte Carlo is one of two in the country, and was driven with vigor, befitting a mid-engined Italian sports car.

This is probably one of the finest Mercedes Benz Pontons I have seen, an almost immaculate example with near-perfect chromework, finished in a colour that really sets off the shape. Who says grey is a boring colour choice?

As usual, the run ends at a different car park, where the host treats the participants to a quick breakfast, and some more car talk happens. Things start wrapping up by around 9.30 am, and everyone is usually gone by 10 at the latest. This time, some of us got a bit later because our host’s Triumph TR3 suddenly decided that it didn’t want to produce electricity, flatly refusing to start up when it was time to go.

This led to a multi-person diagnostic session, which established after some trial and error that it was an ignition problem. A bit of field-expedient engineering got the big four running again, and our host got it home without any further trouble, and managed to sort the problem out the right way. One of the rare occasions where many cooks did NOT spoil the soup, but instead created a positive result. Those who were around to help were thrilled to be able to assist our host, because we’re all very thankful to him for tirelessly putting this run together every single month, just so his fellow enthusiasts can have a good time.

Well, that pretty much wraps up the Sunday Run for the month of November. I hope you enjoyed following along, see you again soon for the next one. Thanks for reading!