The Proton Putra, Satria GTI and Wira 1.8 EXI - once marvels of Malaysian motoring

Sanjay · Jul 19, 2020 03:00 PM

The Proton Putra, Satria GTI and Wira 1.8 EXI - once marvels of Malaysian motoring 01

Just last week, we saw the 2020 Proton Saga Anniversary Edition made to celebrate the first Saga launched way back in 1985. Some liked it, but there also were critics that poked fun at Proton - thinking that the Saga is merely a cheap cash grab.

The Proton Putra, Satria GTI and Wira 1.8 EXI - once marvels of Malaysian motoring 02

Whether or not you liked it is another question, but it’s a fact that Proton had even hotter cars in their 37-year history, namely the Proton Putra, Satria GTI and Wira 1.8 Exi LE

Put side-by-side, each of them makes the Saga Anniversary edition look fairly humdrum. Let’s take a look at what makes them such fabled marvels in Malaysian motoring. 

Proton Putra 1.8 Exi DOHC (C99D) - 1996 to 2001

The Proton Putra, Satria GTI and Wira 1.8 EXI - once marvels of Malaysian motoring 01

Created to fill the affordable sports car market, the Proton Putra was introduced in late-1996, just two years after the Satria was launched. 

Thanks to its hatchback, sporty look, the Satria was a sought-after model back then and arguably now (I’ve still got friends who drive one). When the market speaks, you listen, and thus the Putra was born.

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And since there already was a two-door model (Mitsubishi Mirage Asti) on the Mitsubishi CB platform, it was a no-brainer for Proton. 

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The Asti came with three (1.3, 1.5 and 1.6-litre) engine variants, but the Putra came with the 1.8-litre 4G93P (P for Proton), four-cylinder naturally aspirated mill. It made 140 PS and 164 Nm and could be paired with either a manual or an automatic. 

With only 1,007 kg to move, the Putra offered stellar power-to-weight ratio and could hit 208 km/h.

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It was pretty cool inside too. The coupe came standard with Recaro Enjoy seats, Momo Daytona four-spoke steering wheel and a Momo gear knob

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Commanding a price tag of RM 65,000, it was Proton’s top-tier model at that time. Till today, it remains the only coupe in our national carmaker’s portfolio. 

Proton Wira 1.8 EXi LE (C99S) - 1995 to 1996

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Homologation is a common term heard in racing. In essence, it’s an approval process to ensure that manufacturers don’t enter pure racing cars in ‘production-based’ racing series, so they have to sell a certain number of units of race-spec yet road-going cars to the public. 

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Enter then the Proton Wira C99 - a rally car for the road made specifically to cater to FIA’s homologation rules. Proton was competing in Group N of the World Rally Championship at that time. 

The model was only in our market for two years. 2,450 units sold were in Majorca Black and 50 RS versions in white.

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Other than its Evo-esque rear spoiler, the Wira was beefed up with loads of upgrades such as a front lip, disc brakes, AAC 14-inch wheels and twin-tip exhausts. 

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What makes it truly a rally fighter for the road is its lightened chassis, now reinforced with double-seam welds. Reinforcement bars were added to improve rigidity. 

It shared a few things with its coupe cousin, such as the 140 PS, 167 Nm 1.8-litre 4G93P engine. No automatics here - only a five-speed manual was offered, propelling the car to a 0-100 km/h time of 8.8 seconds

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Recaro Enjoy semi-buckets, a Momo Daytona steering wheel and a Momo gear knob took centre stage in an interior decked with Recaro cloth trim. 

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In spite of its raciness, it still came with cruise control. Generally, that’s what they all got, but what about the other 50 RS units?

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Short for Racing Spec, everything that made it heavier and slower were thrown out. Bye bye Recaros, interior trim, accessories and power windows! All to make 1,030 kg. 

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Other than throwing out interior parts, Proton also threw out any semblance of normalcy.

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Even Michael Schumacher is a fan!

Now lacking rev cut and speed cut thanks to its fettled ECU, the Wira RS could reach 9,000 rpm and the speedometer read up to 260 km/h - we wouldn’t put past the Wira to achieve that. 

Proton Satria GTi (C99M) - 1998 to 2005

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When Proton got its 80% ownership stake in Lotus, they celebrated the best way possible - by introducing the Proton Satria GTi. 

The guys at Lotus know how to make sports cars, so in addition to magic fairy dust they added a stabiliser bar up front, tweaked the suspension and fitted bigger brakes.

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The exterior got a host of touches that are now-iconic features. With an aggressively designed grille, bumper and airdam plus vents for brake cooling, the GTi just means business. 

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Now a staple in car shows, the Satria GTi came with overfenders - complete with exposed rivets. Capping off the sides are black trim that spelled out ‘GTi 16V’ in chrome and chunky 16-inch wheels. 

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Round the back, the Satria GTi’s sporty aspirations continue with unique, square-tipped dual exhausts and a roof spoiler. 

This is the third model in this list that has Recaro seats, racier steering, and gear knob. 

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As in the highlighted Wira and Putra models, the GTi came with the same 4G93P, propelling the 1,115 kg hatch to a century sprint time of just 8.5 seconds and reaching 210 km/h.

Even as the GTi is not as limited as the Wira 1.8 EXi LE, it’s super hard to find untouched examples in good condition - and they still command mighty fine prices on the secondhand market. 

Conclusion

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So there you have it - highlights of Proton’s history. The Saga Anniversary Edition is a good start, but we know you can do better, Proton.

Sanjay

Senior Writer

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.

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