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Hong Kong architect Ian Foster sees beauty in older cars his friends ridicule

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 May, 2016, 3:01am
UPDATED : Friday, 27 May, 2016, 10:07am

The architect and collector, 52, says he never buys new cars and motorbikes, as many of today’s new models look dull

I’m driving a 1982 Ford Capri 1.6 LS car and ride a 1982 Honda CB1100RC bike at the moment. The Capri is a “blast from my past”. It was too sporty and unaffordable when I was 19, but I found this one last year, lying covered in dust in a Stanley car park. The previous owner looked after it well, but realised he couldn’t keep it in Hong Kong. So I set about restoring it.

The Honda was the ultimate production racing superbike in 1982, and about double the price of other similar-sized bikes. This model was raced by my Northern Irish hero Joey Dunlop, and I am preparing it for [long-time champion racer] Ron Haslam to use at the 50th anniversary of motorcycle racing at the Macau Grand Prix on November 19-20 this year.

I haven’t named my cars and bikes, as some owners do. I’m not a sentimental girlie. Cars and bikes are to be enjoyed to the full, not to become a sissy over. They do get called some quite colourful names by me when they break down at the top of Route Twisk, or somewhere similarly inconvenient.

My driving and riding tastes haven’t changed. I’m still really influenced by what gave me a thrill when I was a teenager – learning to drive in a 1980 Austin Princess “Wedge”, and seeing the saga of the 1981 DeLorean unfold in my home country, Northern Ireland. These are still my main passions.

I’m very loyal to my DeLoreans but I’m not a “Club man”. I prefer mixing with [owners of] all types of cars in the Classic Car Club of Hong Kong [CCCHK], rather than [focus on] single brands such as MGs, Porsches and so on. I enjoy driving in Hong Kong, but not in traffic. I now live in the middle of the New Territories, so my daily commute is on a motorcycle to the railway station, to get to my office in Shenzhen via Lo Wu.

[Driving there] is very relaxing in open roads with clean air. I take the odd diversion to the top of Route Twisk when I want to chill out. I also go to the deserted Castle Peak Firing Range in the northwest of the New Territories, or head off to Starling Inlet in the northeast.

I don’t customise my cars and bikes as I prefer to keep their standard look as they were designed in the 1970s or 1980s. I think customising the vehicle would spoil its originality and lower its value.

Do architects look at cars or appreciate them differently? Well, being an architect, I think I am more concerned with the aesthetics or image of the car or bike. Many of my friends ridicule why I would be interested in an Austin Princess, as they had a terrible reputation in the worst days of British motoring, but I see a very beautiful car there.

I am always looking at what else is available, however, just to compare with what I have ... I am a satisfied man. As in marriage, “there is no problem looking”.

Being an architect, I think I am more concerned with the aesthetics or image of the car or bike

I never buy new cars or bikes. This year’s new cars all look like dull jelly moulds, even the Porsche 911 remains uninspiring. Among the bikes, the Kawasaki H2R looks an awesome piece of kit, and has all the hallmarks of being a future classic, however.

One is always going to have mechanical troubles with a 30-year-old car. It annoys me that I am not more mechanically inclined to fix these issues. It is becoming more difficult to maintain our classic cars in Hong Kong. We do not have the expert mechanics needed to keep these “toys” running. Even so, my classics are appreciating in value and always bring a smile to my face.

The Hong Kong car scene is busy, particularly this autumn, when there are lots of exciting events, from the Formula E on October 9 to the Motorcycle Show 2016 on November 6. Hong Kong bikers are also taking 80 classics to the Macau Grand Prix 50th Anniversary of Bike Racing, on November 12-20. The CCCHK’s Chater Road show is on November 20, and the annual HK Classic event is planned to run in early December.

The government should show support to collectors willing to preserve Hong Kong’s motoring heritage. Too often it looks like the rules are being implemented to punish us, not support this unique culture we have in Hong Kong. That does not exist anywhere else in China.

As told to William Wadsworth