CC Drive and Show: Colombo Sunday Run December 2023

The final Sunday Run for 2023 took place on the last day of the year, which was happily a gorgeous sunny one after a few weeks of heavy rains. Since it was the holiday season, the turnout was very good and an interesting selection of cars made it out.  As usual, I haven’t tried to capture every single car but instead have focused on giving a general idea of the cars that were there, and a closer look at a few that I think would be interesting, so enjoy!

Photo Credits: Octane Heads Sri Lanka

The cross section of metal that shows up for these runs is always varied and deeply impressive, and the above picture shows just how diverse the lineup is, with 50s British saloons, 90s Japanese sports cars and German luxobarges keeping company with things like Lotus 7 replicas.

Photo Credits: Octane Heads Sri Lanka

If you’d prefer seeing more from one marque, that’s usually covered as well, as this lineup of Peugeot’s finest from across 3 decades will make evident. This time I took more pictures at the finishing point rather than the start for a change, so had to borrow a few here and there.

Photo Credits: Octane Heads Sri Lanka

A real standout was this 1972 Toyota Carina coupe, which looked like it had rolled through a wormhole from the showroom floor in 1972. It’s great that Japanese cars of this era are now being appreciated, since most of them were treated as disposable. A two door such as this was a real rarity in our market, though it must have been a common sight in the US. I’ve made it a point to find out more about this car, and will report back when I do.

The gathering usually starts at 7.30 AM and we aim to move out by around 8 or so. The drive itself is approximately 30 minutes and usually does a loop around part of Colombo city.

The sheer number and variety of cars is such that it becomes quite a spectacle, and anybody out and about on these Sunday Mornings seems to enjoy seeing the cars very much if their reactions are any indication. It’s a little startling to realize that something like this Subaru Impreza WRX Sti, which was a state of the art performance car when I was growing up, is now considered to be a classic car just like the Sunbeam Alpine next to it!

I managed to get hold of a video made by one of the participants, including some in-car footage from their lovely Sunbeam Alpine, which should hopefully give you an idea of what it is like to be on one of these runs.

Sports cars are always well represented, but the number of Lotus 7 type cars that turned out this time was quite remarkable. Here are four of them, photobombed by an Abarth Spider.

As far as I’m aware, none of them is an actual Lotus 7 and are a mix of descendants and homebuilt/locost type machines. The CAY plated car is a 2016 Caterham 7 160S, powered by a 660cc turbocharged Suzuki engine with around 85 HP, giving it a power to weight ratio of 160BHP/ton (hence the name). It was my ride for the day and was a brilliant drive, but not exactly a relaxing one. We’ll do a more in-depth feature on it later.

The other white car is a Westfield from the 80s, while the green one is locally built Locost running Ford mechanicals from what I know.

This rather purposeful looking red machine (again, constructed here) is powered by a Toyota 4AGE 20 Valve engine, with around 160 BHP. On the semi slick tyres it seems to be wearing, it must be quite the handful!

Moving along, we come to a different interpretation of the lightweight sports car, in the form of this delectable “Pagoda” 230 SL. While compared to the sevens it might as well be the G class parked alongside, its relatively svelte 1300 Kg kerb weight makes it one of the few SLs that actually adheres to the “Leicht” part of the famous “Sport Leicht” badge. The 2.3 litre, Bosch fuel injected straight six churns out 148 HP and 145 lb/ft of torque, and is said to be very happy to be wound out, making the 230 SL the most “sporty” of the W113 engine choices.

Alongside the SL were two genuine panzerwagens, a W116 350 SE and a W140 S320. The 116 has been subtly lowered and fitted with larger wheels but also period correct hubcaps, giving it a really interesting stance. As for the 140, the design just keeps getting better looking with age, at least to my eyes. This particular S320 is a one owner from new example, which still gets very regular use.

Another shot of the W116, simply because I found the stance and the wheels very compelling.

The inside is in just as spectacular a condition as the outside, and the colour combo manages to make the somewhat stark 70s MB interior seem almost warm and welcoming.

It turned out that every generation of classic S class was represented that day, unfortunately no one had thought to park them all together by age, which would have made for a fantastic photo opportunity. As it was, I was happy to be able to capture them anyway

The W108 is a 280S, while the fin-tail is a 220S, both running carbureted six cylinder engines. These cars are true survivors because most of their like had their engines replaced by diesel lumps in the 80s when penny wise pound foolish owners got their hands on them. The same fate befell the vast majority of W126s in the country as well, so an original petrol like the 300SE here is now a real rarity with high value. This trio and the duo above show just how evolutionary Mercedes Benz design was in the golden era, as you can trace the lineage all the way from the W111 to the W140. It’s a real shame that they decided to throw the baby out with the bathwater in the 90s, but that’s a whole other story.

As we saw before, the “French Mercedes” was very well represented, with 203, 403, 404 and 504 being present. Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

This lovely 203 was one of two that were present. It appears to be a 1959 model, making it a late example, since the 203 was produced from 1948 until 1960. Peugeot’s first unibody car, it was styled with a distinctly American flavour. Under the hood however, is not a V8 or 6 pot, but a 1290 CC four cylinder with hemispherical combustion chamber. Producing 44 BHP on paper, these always seemed much stronger on the road, and had a reputation for being brisk and tough cars and did well in endurance motorsport.

The cream interior makes a nice contrast to the rather sober exterior hue, and again shows American influence both in general layout and overall styling.

The 203 was conveniently accompanied by its successor the 403, which was the first in a long line of Peugeots styled by Pininfarina. The Italians gave the 403 a much more modern three-box, “ponton” suit, which had a passing resemblance to the Mercedes Pontons from some angles, no bad thing given Peugeot’s nickname at the time.

The interior developed on the same themes as the 203, with a bit more flash to signify that this was a more upmarket product. Other than the relative narrowness, this is a very inviting place to be.

And now for something completely different, I present another Toyota that appears to have driven out of a wormhole, this time from the early/mid 2000s. This 1987 Toyota Levin is wearing all the typical drifter/tuner tweaks that were common on these back then, along with the sort of rust that was much more common at the time, since a lot of these now seem to be restored and pampered. This car was originally an AE85 with the SOHC 1.5 liter carb motor as found in more prosaic Corollas, but it has been converted to AE86 Spec with the 4AGE Twin Cam, suspension upgrades, brake upgrades and so on.

Even the interior features all the common 2000s tuner tropes like a more aggressive driving seat, extra dials and so on. The steering wheel even appears to be an Italvolanti Admiral as made famous in a certain sideways traveling AE86 that dominated automotive pop culture, once upon a time. This car is now a time capsule of another era, and quite charming in its own way, as far as I’m concerned.

The other JDM tuner car present on the day was this 3rd generation (FD) Mazda RX7, which apparently had all the addenda fitted in Japan. The table like wing and fairly massive intercooler indicate that this car is not exactly stock, and it apparently is rather scarily fast, which I have no trouble believing.

Moving on to something more sedate, this pair of Fords caught my eye. While I always appreciate a nice Capri, it was the Corsair that demanded a closer look because they are extremely rare, so seeing one is always noteworthy.

Built from 1963 to 1970, the styling of the Corsair was very clearly inspired by the third generation Thunderbird, which made for a very distinctive car given the market it competed in. Corsair’s were available with both Inline 4s and V4s, and being a 1967 model this example is likely to have the latter engine in 1.7 L form. As far as I know, it has been in one family from new, and still seems to be in great shape overall. Apparently, of 310,000 Corsairs produced, only 600 remain on the road in its country of origin, so I can’t imagine the number is much higher anywhere else. That makes this car, which is likely the only running example in Sri Lanka, all the more noteworthy.

And that just about wraps up our coverage from this Sunday run. I do hope you enjoy these periodic snippets of classic car culture from my island home, and I hope to keep bringing them to you this year as well. Until next time, happy motoring!