Driving this restored Proton Putra is like time-travelling to Malaysia's glorious motoring past
Sanjay · Nov 20, 2021 09:00 AM
Ask about notable things and Malaysia has lots to offer – we have our food, our places, and somewhere along the lines between the penjajahs and politicians we made rather cool cars, of which the Proton Putra sits regally in a category of its own.
To date, the Putra stands alone as the only national two-door coupe. Nothing preceded it, and it sure as hell looks like Proton won’t be making something like this again in this age of SUVs.
Which explains the owner's fascination and wild goose chase with the Putra. It was love at first sight for him, but alas, responsibilities following a newly-set-up family then meant that scoring one new in 1996 was out of the question.
The dream never died, and a few years later he – who keeps a rather low profile – got one, and here we are today.
Rebuilt by those who know it best
Just like the Proton Wira C99‘tiang gol’ we reviewed some months ago, this 1996 Putra has been restored by the people at Dream Street Restoration (DSR), built with a certain theme in mind.
The suspension also benefits from stiffer springs and new perch positions to go, as well as a fully-rebuilt steering rack.
The next best thing to come after a box-fresh engine is having one that's completely rebuilt and blueprinted, and that's exactly what's under the hood of the coupe.
'Blueprinting' is like it says on the tin, the engines are rebuilt following the manufacturer's blueprint, effectively returning it back to factory tolerances. Lots of honing, machining, and boring (but certainly nothing boring) follows, and the result is an engine that's arguably better than new.
There's 140 PS and 167 Nm to play with, and yes, power's sent to the front wheels through a rebuilt 4-speed automatic transmission.
But oh no, don't mistake it for a slushbox – it has been retuned to match the blueprinted engine, which rewards the driver with seamless shifts that's bang-on impressive for new cars, let alone a 25-year-old one.
As for the rest of the bodywork, it's worth mentioning the extra attention paid to the MIG-welded roof by the Petaling Jaya outfit. It's been redone with epoxy coating to prevent any future rusting, as it happens with cars of this vintage.
Saying its held on well is an understatement
Slipping into the Recaro N-Joy driver’s seat, the Putra instantly teleported us to an era where cars were much simpler.
Whether or not that’s better than now is debatable, but it’s in its simplicity that the Putra shines.
The Putra is a car with wide appeal, and it was offered with both 5-speed manual and 4-speed automatic transmissions. This Candy Blue example has the latter; but like we said earlier, don’t pooh-pooh it as it lends an altogether different character to the car.
The smooth engine and reworked transmission makes the Putra a stately cruiser that equally relishable for daily driving. Matched with its sharp handling and an interior devoid of creaks and rattles, this Putra is ready for any interstate travel that may be asked of it.
Another major plus point is how the chassis and suspension are set-up. Calling on Fawster’s Faidzil Alang – who raced for Proton R3 back in the day – and his breadth of racing experience, the Putra soaks up bumps and holds level through different road surfaces with ease.
Though the steering does feel a tad heavy, but the feedback from the Momo unit is extremely direct. Speaking of feedback, the brake pedal feels soft (typical of cars of this vintage) but it bites hard to still remain reassuring.
There won't be another like it
The Proton Putra has cemented itself in Malaysian motoring history as a legend in its own right.
There’s lots to like about Proton’s only coupe, and DSR’s restoration more than does justice to the model.
Yes, there's a five-figure asking sum for one to be completely done-up like this, but short of a time machine this is one's next best way of time-travelling to a bygone heyday of Malaysian cars.
With humble beginnings collecting diecast models and spending hours virtually tuning dream cars on the computer, his love of cars has delightfully transformed into a career. Sanjay enjoys how the same passion for cars transcends boundaries and brings people together.