The Perodua Kelisa Is Now Starting To Disappear

Remember the Kelisa? better known as the slightly bigger Kancil, what happened to them? I don’t see them as often anymore, even the converted Daihatsu ones, have they all been driven to the ground? or maybe they’ve been kept in a garage to be sold off as a future classic soon. Back in 2014, I almost got a blue two-tone manual Kelisa instead of Old Yellow. Let’s talk a bit about the Kelisa.

UK spec first gen Kelisa (we never got these wheels!)
Source: driveeveryday.me

The Kelisa was the third car made my Perodua (fifth if you count the Perodua Rusa and the Kembara), and is based on the then current Daihatsu Mira (L700). The Kelisa is the direct successor to the Kancil, which was also based on the same Daihatsu counterpart and both had animal names, though the name Kelisa, is named after the fish, Ikan Kelisa (Arowana) rather than something similar to a mousedeer (Perodua Kancil).

The fish it was named after
Source: National Geographic

Interestingly the Ikan Kelisa is the most expensive aquarium fish and according to Chinese culture, the gold and red coloured fishes are very auspicious. The Kelisa on the other hand, was not the most expensive hatchback during its time nor did it have any lucky traits, in fact, when it was sold in the United Kingdom, it was the cheapest new car on sale at only  £ 5,000.

Facelifted Kelisa
Source: Carlist

Throughout its six year run from 2001, the Kelisa had one design change during its mid life cycle, the early models had a more late 90s/2000’s fascia with round lights and an upside-down arched grille. Later models had a full grille that reached both headlights. Both designs retained the centre triangular shaped piece with the Perodua logo. Other than that, the car was an exact copy of the Mira L700.

Base models did not come with painted bumpers
Source: Wikipedia

The Kelisa came with a typical vibraty 3-cylinder engine, common for Peroduas at the time, you can opt for a 850cc engine or a slightly more powerful 1 litre engine. performance wasn’t the focus on this car, it was meant to be a cheap town runabout and it did the job well, Kelisas sold like hot cakes with trim levels varying from transmission type, trim and wheels. The EX (base), GX (middle) and EZ (top) models were the main line-up consisting of different seat materials, steel or alloy wheels and basic kits like a Bluetooth system. There wasn’t much that could be done on a car this basic, but Perodua did one thing to spice up the line-up, some uniquely coloured versions of the Kelisa, let’s get into these Special Editions.

Kelisa Limited Edition

This was the first special Kelisa to be released, the Kelisa Limited Edition was a two-tone coloured Kelisa available in three different colours, Sparkling Silver, Kenari Yellow and Royal Blue. These two-tone models are distinguishable by the obvious two paint scheme, leather seats and steering wheel and badging that denotes either GXL or EZL. How many of these limited editions were made? I have no clue, but these aren’t extremely rare, you can find them for sale on a few car sites with both pre and post-facelift models being offered with this trim level.

Kelisa Special Edition

Kelisa SE
Source: Unknown

Few years down the line, Perodua introduced the Kelisa Special Edition, a slightly more cooler version of the Limited Edition. These SE Kelisas were offered in only two colours, Ozzy Orange and boring Ebony Black. Besides the eye popping paint (Orange ones), the SE got you clear turn signal lights, because that was a thing in the early 2000s, sporty fabric fixed head-rest seats with Special Edition stitched into it, similar to an AMG Mercedes, sporty white gauges and to top it off, a sporty body-kit with no engine enhancements at all, sporty isn’t it? Jokes aside, the SE model actually does look cool, with the orange paint it does make the car stand out a bit more and the body-kit was stylish for its time. In addition to that, alloy wheels were standard. This is the Kelisa that I would find and buy if I planned to get one.

Kelisa Imago Edition

This final variant of the Kelisa was the Imago, now the word Imago has two descriptions, the first one is a shopping mall in Kota Kinabalu, the second meaning is the full and final stage of an insect’s life. I’m guessing that the Kelisa Imago was referring to the insect definition, not a 4.5 star rated mall in Sabah. It sort of makes sense since the car has bug looking eyes, but it was named after a fish, why couldn’t they just called it the Final Edition? The Imago came with its own special colour, just one, Metallic Pearl Jade. Other additional cosmetics you got was chrome door handles and locks, silver trim and seats with Imago stitched on. In 2007, the Kelisa was replaced by the Viva which also had various editions primarily focused on colours and trims.

Kelisas converted to Daihatsu Mira Ginos

These converted cars aren’t factory, but it’s worth mentioning since it is a part of the Kelisa Culture. The Kelisa was based on the Mira L700, naturally, many people would slap on Daihatsu badges and be “JDM bro”. But true JDM bros will convert their Kelisas into Mira Ginos, the Gino was a variant of the Mira that had a more classic front end styling, similar to cars of the 50’s. The Mira Gino was heavily inspired by the Mini Cooper, with the obvious light arrangements and chrome bumper, it looked even more like a Mini in its three-door body style form (not available here).

Daihatsu Mira Gino
Source: Wikipedia

I am told that Gino conversions are rather expensive, depending on how good the body panel swap is, and of course additional trim and features that you want to put, we even spotted a Gino Kelisa here on our Instagram page. Here are some true Gino Mira photos and how cool their mods can be (photos are credited to their owners).

Do you want one? well you should get one. Owning this small peppy car is a decent second-hand town runabout if you can get your hands on a decent condition one. I have stumbled upon a few adds of good ones that have been sold, most of which are the special coloured variants. Prices range from as low as RM 3,000 to the most expensive stock one I saw was at 15k, for a yellow limited edition model, there’s even a Gino converted model selling for 18k. You can check the listing from Carlist here.

While this Malaysian Mini Cooper (as many refer to due to the taillight resemblance?), the Kelisa has been both positively and negatively criticized, prominently by all three Top Gear presenters. While James and Richard appreciated what the Kelisa is, Jeremy Clarkson on the other hand, wasn’t to keen of it, so much so, he bought one off the showroom floor and mashed it with a sledgehammer. This video got so much attention, it was actually brought up by the Malaysian government and I believe resulted in Top Gear never to be aired on TV anymore, of course Jeremy had to ruin everything.

Here’s the videos below.

I would really love to test drive and review a Kelisa one day, these are cool cars that people taken for granted and sometimes completely forget about (excluding Kelisa fanclub people), some can’t even tell a Kelisa between a Kancil. This shows that the car did its job well, to be a cheap, simple transportation that people can drive to the ground and replace, these cars were never designed to be kept, as with many cheap cars, they were disposable, it’s even more evident by the fact that there aren’t many good photos of any Kelisa that I could use, you might have noticed that as I was explaining the different variants. The ones available are only through Carlist or other car buying sites.

Despite that, I think it’s a great car, especially the UK spec models with the cooler wheels. This could be a possible future classic, or something that us car nerds would get really excited if we see a clean one, just a few days ago I saw a Gino Kelisa which actually did put a smile on my face. Imagine being able to drive a Kelisa SE with only 600 kilometres on the odometer, now that’s concourse material! If anyone has a Kelisa that I could review, hit us up on our email!

There Is A Cool Following of Kancil Drivers On Instagram

Everyone knows the Kancil right? not just the animal but the car made by our second national car maker, Perodua (Perusahaan Otomobil Kedua Sendirian Berhad). This little box on wheels was essentially a rebadged Daihatsu Mira (as with all Peroduas as a part of the joint venture) and was the first Perodua ever to be made back in 1994. The Kancil was undoubtedly popular among Malaysians because of its incredible fuel consumption and small size, to this day, the car still angers many Malaysians as we search for parking only to find a smug Kancil parked way too inwards in the parking bay.

Sticking to its Japanese origin, the Kancil was sold with a 660cc inline-3 engine (660cc being the max capacity for a car to be classed as a Kei car in Japan, thus avoiding high tax) or a more powerful 850cc engine, along with either an automatic or five-speed manual. Any Malaysian born in the mid to late nineties must have driven one at least once in their lifetime, because it is the official driver’s-ed car. Almost all driving schools used specially built Kancils with passenger controls to teach the eager/nervous 17 year old how to shift gears, perform a hill start and parallel park, I remembered mine not having second gear and rattled every. single. second.

Between 1994 to 2009, Perodua sold over 700,000 Kancils and even exported them to the UK, where it was called the Nippa and to Indonesia, called the Ceria. It was the love of many Malaysians because of its simplicity, good fuel economy, cheap maintenance and small size. However, as it was designed to be a cheap economy car, you don’t see many of them around anymore, in good condition at least, almost all of them were driven to the ground, abused and thrown away. It’s perfectly normal consumer behaviour, I mean you too would dispose a cheap economy car after years of driving, newer economy cars or even normal sized vehicles could almost achieve the Kancil’s fuel consumption with an added benefit of being safer, because lets face it, you are the crumple zone in this little econobox.

But some individuals kept them, and kept them extremely clean.

This may not be a new thing, but after going through Instagram, I’ve founded several accounts dedicated on people documenting, keeping and preserving their Kancils in pristine condition. Now there are plenty of accounts with this car life documentation style post, but seeing an old pre-facelift Kancil being taken care of is something unique and really cool. This interests me so much that I contacted one of these accounts and asked some questions. This little dark green Kancil belongs to a cool young man, Jay.

Photos courtesy of thatblue660 @ Instagram
Photos courtesy of thatblue660 @ Instagram

Jay goes by the name thatblue660 on Instagram and his econobox is one of the early models, before Perodua gave it a major facelift with the round front lights. Now looking at the photos above, you can see that Jay’s Kancil is in impeccable condition, I mean when was the last time you saw a Kancil this clean and kept in stock condition? I provided a few questions to Jay about his Kancil and what he thinks of his car and the community around it. Here’s the story.

Photos courtesy of thatblue660 @ Instagram

This is Jay’s first and current car, it was originally bought at an auction in 2001 for RM 15,000 because the previous owner couldn’t afford to pay the monthly instalments, in 2018, it was finally handed down to him to be driven.

“It’s an absolute shitbox and I love it.”

Jay spent his whole childhood with this car, reminiscing stories such as being locked in the backseat when he was a baby resulting in a window that had to be smashed or when he ruined the central locking system because he kept playing with it to hear the satisfying sound it made.

“A lot of good memories when I was a child, so I’ve got a lot of sentimental value and a special bond with this nugget.”

“In terms of what other people think of it, there are some people who appreciate and get intrigued when they see it, and there are some who look low upon it since it’s a bone stock Kancil with nothing special about it. I’ve had some senior people who have told me my car looks like it came straight out of the factory back in the 90’s/2000’s and it always warms my heart”

Out of the factory indeed, looking at Jay’s photos, you can see that his Kancil really does look like it just left the factory yesterday, the only thing missing are the plastic covers on the seats. Jay originally planned to swap the engine out of the car due to the stock one not having that much power. he stated that a motorcycle engine was an option because of the similar size and displacement. However, his lack of budget for such mods and being a student, Jay has opted to wait a little longer until he has the funds to make that happen. He also mentioned that he’s currently focusing on turbocharged Mira engines to swap, which would be ideal since its basically the same car.

“Most of my expenses on this car comes from my savings. My dad does help pay for some of the large repair expenses. So far I think I’ve spent around RM400~500 on mods such as the Ultra Racing strut bar and rear frame brace, Sparco aluminium pedals, LED headlights (4300k only, still JPJ legal) and a couple more.”

This Kancil does have some but tasteful upgrades as mentioned above, in addition to that, the speakers were swapped in from a later model Myvi which according to Jay might sound mediocre in a Myvi but sounds a lot better than the stock unit in this Kancil. Jay also focuses on mods (if there is a need and budget) that improves the cars performance or simply make it drive better.

In terms of fixing/restoring it, all of the work is done by him. Jay has repaired issues such as rust spots where he would sand the area down and spray paint it to prevent the rust from spreading. He also resprayed and clear coated the wheel covers to prevent any dirt getting stuck to them. Perhaps the best part of the car are the factory wheels, just take a look at them, it screams nineties econocar! and they are properly taken care of, you don’t see these wheels on any other Kancil looking this fresh.

Photos courtesy of thatblue660 @ Instagram

I admire the work he has done to the Kancil, but how does he think of his car?

“It ain’t a pretty car, but it’s kinda cute. Sometimes I do be a little sad because it’s really really slow compared to the other cars on the road, but then it compensates with the fun of driving it.”

With the manual transmission, Jay has noted that it is much more interesting to drive the car around and with the additional strut bars and the Kancil’s lightweight construction (just under 700 kg), it fairs rather well against windy roads.

Like I’ve said in the beginning, there are a number of other pages where people enjoy documenting their Kancils (I’ll provide a short list later), Jay is aware of these people such as keikancil and kancilsyndicate, all of which are devoted in anything Kancil and Daihatsu Mira based. The bigger accounts are also known to host meet ups and events where people like Jay can hang out with other Kancil enthusiasts. This awareness also translate to a growing community and friendship among others.

“Yep I have made friends with a couple of Kancil owners and other car enthusiasts and we message each other if we have any doubts on our cars.”

Jay also shares the same opinions as me, that clean bone stock Kancils are getting harder to come by as he mainly has encountered ones that have been converted to Miras, though often terribly done, completely butchered out modified Kancils or ones that have been driven hard and worn out.

Photos courtesy of thatblue660 @ Instagram

Jay has no plans on selling it anytime soon, if so, he will only sell it to a family member or a close person (maybe me?). His plans are to take a step by step process in tastefully modifying it with a turbo swap or a larger engine but still preserving the car’s looks, essentially making it a sleeper of some sort. Jay is also contemplating on purchasing another Kancil and restoring it, though no clear plans have surfaced yet.

Having the online interview with Jay was an opening experience, because cars like this are neglected, Jay himself agrees that the Kancil isn’t really appreciated because of what it is, a simple econobox despite it being the perfect example of “slow car fast”. Average people would see it as another old car, but to us enthusiast who know what the car actually is, it’s a big favour for normal cars like the Kancil to be something that people can work on, restore or modify without spending an insane amount of money. Furthermore, the idea of documenting the car’s “life” shows that machines too, can have a soul and a bond with someone.

Photos courtesy of thatblue660 @ Instagram

I’d like to thank Jay/thatblue660 for providing me with the clear feedbacks and the photos of his fabulous car, we at Maximum Torque Malaysia wish you all the best in your future car endeavours! Please do follow thatblue660 for more updates on his Kancil on Instagram and checkout these other awesome guys too.

sinaran850 (very detailed documentation

itstheyellow850 (coolest colour)

jessikancil (coolest wheels)

Barn Finds Are Truly An Awesome Way To Find A Car

Barn find Dodge Daytona
Source: Drivetribe

Finding old things people haven’t seen in a while is truly an interesting discovery, if it has been preserved hiding under a tarp or shelter, that old object can tell so many stories. Barn find cars really are a gem in the car world, the reason it’s called barn find, is well it’s generally found in a barn. either rotting away or naturally preserved by shelter. Some barn find cars can be a huge discovery, such as finding old racing Bugattis and Jaguars, to less rare classic cars. Really it can be anything that has been sitting for quite some time, some of these barn find cars are not even known by the owners of the building, they were just stored in quietly, while some, are a vast collection of unmolested automotive gold, cars that were literally frozen in time as an owner collects and fills up a room full of cars that might never see the roads ever again, until someone finds out. This video by famous detailer AMMO NYC shows a huge 300 car barn find, and they are for sale! Check out the video below to see what’s hiding under the shadows of this crazy barn find.

AMMO NYC also did a video on detailing one of the cars in the barn, a racing spec Bizzarrini, you don’t see those often coming up for a wash and detail video on YouTube. Check out their channel if you’re the kind of person who loves to clean your car meticulously.