Text: Inigo S. Roces / Photos: Brent Co, Vince Pornelos | posted July 04, 2014 14:38
Visiting the American Car Collection of Kenneth Sy
We may celebrate our Independence Day on June 12, but for quite some time, we had celebrated it on the 4th of July, just like the Americans. We know them as our liberators, colonizers, and more recently, a welcome ally in territorial disputes. Yet for car guys, American car culture always was and likely always will be linked to muscle car fever.
Images of the Ford Mustang, Chevy Camaro and Dodge Challenger almost instantly come to mind. Muscle car revival is the prevailing trend in American auto design with a long life still foreseen for both the Detroit's favorite ponies.
Today rising oil prices, congesting cities and pricey condo parking spaces have only helped raise the status of muscle car ownership to that of a luxury, if not a vice. In spite of innovations like turbocharging, common rail diesel , high compression and direct injection offered in more modern American cars, there's no denying the American-ness of a good old fashioned, naturally aspirated V8.
Say what you want about a muscle car's evident lack of handling, boat-like ride, conspicuous fuel consumption and generous application of chrome, but nothing snaps one's head back and tingles one's spine quite like the raw power and sound from a big block V8.
Yes, they really don't make 'em like they used to.
Quite ironically, our literal barnyard discovery was just a side trip from a junket for a Japanese brand yet in Davao (nestled in a far corner of a warehouse for old typewriters) was a garage any muscle car fanatic would be envious of.
Lined up neatly on checkerboard floors, glossy under billiard hall lights and flanked by jukeboxes and posters pop icons, were some of the most coveted muscle cars in the country.
The garage belongs to Kenneth "Ken" Sy. Known for repairing and restoring machines like typewriters and copiers, Ken soon found himself moving on to bigger machines like automobiles.
Besides cars, a wide range of curios also line Ken's walls from hubcaps to various car parts, jukeboxes, record players and even bicycles.
Ken considers himself a rescuer of old cars rather than a restorer. That is evident in his collection of the less popular four-door models of famous cars like the '55 and '57 Chevy Bel-Air, '68 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, Chevrolet Chevelle, '67 Pontiac Tempest Le Mans and Chrysler Imperial.
"I just love to rescue the forgotten or unloved ones," Ken remarks.
He has his fair share of enviable coupes as well, like a '62 Chevrolet Impala, '70 Pontiac GTO Judge, 69' Pontiac Firebird and '67 Mercury Cougar GT and another Chrysler Imperial.
He hadn't intended on acquiring two. Busy restoring his first, a four-door, Ken heard of another junked car he could source the elusive tail lights from. The junket Imperial turned out to be the even rarer two-door coupe in Baguio. As a result, he now has both lined up on the restoration queue.
They may have to wait a while before getting some attention.
During our visit, a Buick Special was being stripped to metal at the back of the shop. His resident welder was busy just in front of the car, reassembling the intricate bumper.
It seems Ken will have his hands busy for some decades to come. Nevertheless, we're glad we stumbled upon this exceptional collection. He's already inspired our generous host who introduced us to Ken to get working on his own four-door Impala, which he affectionately calls, "Impieces."
Perhaps his story could inspire many more to rescue the many unloved cars lying in barns around the country because, after all, they don't make 'em like they used to.