Story by Thomas Foo, who was the 4×4 Adventure Club of Kuala Lumpur (ACKL) secretary in 1992 and vice-president from 1993 – 1996, and again in 2003-2004
Photos by Leo Loh, the 1992 New Straits Times Trans-Pen Champion, who has the biggest collection of 4×4 photos, videos, 4×4 trophies, tyres, recovery gears, the first guy in Malaysia to use Super Swampers
In 1984, a cigarette marketing guy, Ronnie Kok, asked Yamin Vong, then a young journalist in the NST Business Times, whether he would be interested to cover the Camel Trophy in Sumatra the following year. Yamin, whose passion was fishing at that time, couldn’t refuse the offer. Together with Ronnie, he had his first taste of four-wheel extreme drive activities at Eastnor Castle, England, the training and selection ground for the Camel Trophy. Obsessed with four-wheeling, he went to Australia in 1986 for the second Camel Trophy event. His two Malaysian counterparts were Tang Fook Leong, an ace jungle survivalist and Zaini Shaarani, an accountant from Tan Chong Motors.
Along the way, Yamin had also roped in Taib Khamis from Land Rover Malaysia, Andrew Ee, a king scout master and Duke Low, a civil engineer, and a few other friends to submit to the Registrar of Societies the club’s constitution and the Pro-Tem Committee of the 4×4 Adventure Club, Kuala Lumpur.
BIG DREAMS AND TRANS-BORNEO DAYS
The 4×4 fever had caught on. In 1988, Taib Khamis, the founder president of the ACKL, Yamin Vong as club secretary and Andrew Ee, the club treasurer together with friends like Bob Teoh and Datuk Foo Wan Kien, Asian Auto publisher, launched the inaugural Trans-Borneo Adventure hardcore 4×4 event. The 1,500 km route from Kuching to Kota Kinabalu was an ambitious one. The four-wheeler trucks were shipped by Feri Malaysia to Kuching, and the event was well received. The second edition of Trans-Borneo ‘89 from Kota Kinabalu to Kuching was held on a larger scale. Its success also drew the attention of WARN Winch, prompting it to be the first major sponsor of ACKL’s events.
In 1990, the highlight of the year was the Taman Negara trip from Padang Piol to Kuala Tahan. Danny Kow had arranged for the welcome ceremony at 3 pm and the early 4×4 adventurers actually arrived the next morning at 5 am. By then, the VIP had gone home, the Pahang Government welcome committee were all fast asleep after waiting until midnight, and the curry chicken had turned to frozen oil. The delay was caused by unending mud slides, Sg Tekai became Lautan Tekai, and every hill climb was a disaster. The convoy spread out over 10 kilometers, the radio contact broke down. This Taman Negara 1990 event was a milestone in the ACKL calendar. It fired the dreams, imagination and vision for the 4×4 Adventure Club to become a world leader in 4×4 competition events.
The year 1990 also saw the birth of the Trans-Peninsula ’90 4×4 event. It was ACKL’s biggest adventure of all time. Twelve years ago, it was a feat to cross the Main Range from Cameron Highlands to Gua Musang. The winners were Victor Cheong and Danny Kow, who had a 3-inch lifted Ultimate Suspension Rocky, which was considered a “terror” machine then.
At that time, you needed a police permit to go off-roading along the route. At every 10kms, there were Army checkpoints, and when you got to Gua Musang, you had to report to the police. If anybody did the crossing in two days, he would be called Off-Roader of the Year.
Due to the overwhelming response to Trans-Peninsula ’91, Selection Trials were introduced. Members had to be interviewed and vehicles pre-scrutineered to qualify for the event. It was also the beginning of big corporate companies taking an interest in the club’s events, with Caltex, Petronas, Silverstone, GP Batteries, Warn Winch, Old Man Emu, ARB, Ultimate Suspension, PIAA, Finer Filters, New Straits Times, 4×4 Magazine Japan pouring big money into the Club’s series of hardcore competitions and selections. At the same time, Tourism Malaysia, Malaysia Airlines, State Governments, Prime Minister’s Department, Government Agencies, the Army, Police, JPJ also sponsored and supported the events.
In 1992, on the recommendation of Tourism Malaysia, Trans Peninsula went international and was renamed Trans-Pen Malaysia ‘92. Journalists from all over the world were invited to cover the event. The subsequent Trans-Pen Malaysia 93, 94 and 95 saw off-roaders from over 12 countries. Videos of the event were aired in Asia, Europe, Middle East, Australia, America.
In 1993, the Club signed on Ric William, the publisher of Australia’s Bush Driver magazine to be its international promoter for three years. Ric’s biggest contribution to the club was the publication of the Trans-Pen Malaysia Rules & Regulations, which is still used as a reference for almost all competitive events to this day.
THE EXPANSION YEARS
ACKL’s membership grew fast from 30 members in 1988 to 200 in 1991, and every four-wheel driver you saw in Kuala Lumpur was a friend. Every modified four-wheeler with spades sticking out of the front bull-bars was certain to belong to a member of the ACKL. The early 90s saw a big membership expansion. With club publicity through offroad trips, competitions and jamborees, membership grew rapidly to about 1,000 members.
Sallehuddin Rahman introduced the monthly “Member’s Nite“ to promote interaction between members and sponsors. Ghazali Abdullah published a book on four-wheel driving and started the Club’s Off-Road School, which attracted scores of new members. The concept of Environment Preservation & Conservation was entrenched into the Club’s Code of Ethics on 4-wheel driving.
At the same time, Leo Loh, a professional photographer then, started a data bank for ACKL’s photography and video materials.
The Club’s “4×4 Adventurer” Newsletter was introduced in 1992. From a simple 8-page photocopy, George Wong wrote, designed and printed 1,000 copies of a 24-page, full colour newsletter. It was circulated all over the world free of charge. ACKL had become the pioneer in information technology for 4×4 activities worldwide.
Roslan Wahid, the president of the club had formed the Elite Recce Team to chart Peninsula Malaysia for tracks and routes, which to this day off-roaders still find challenging. Roslan left a big legacy in enhancing the Club’s Constitution and documentation. He took the Club to an unprecedented level of world renowned status and dimension.
In 1993, the Club organised the first Malaysian Overland Expedition. It was the KL – Vientiane Goodwill Friendship Expedition. The 6000km expedition to Laos was to be the Mother of Overland Expeditions. Other overland expeditions were the Kembara 7000 ‘95 to Kunming, China, followed by the Silverstone Inner Mongolia Expedition ‘96.
Mah Weng Kwai was Club president in ’96. With his legal background, he drew up a proper legal framework for the club. He also promoted the concept of Family Off-Roading to appeal to a wider audience of new 4×4 adventurers.
Luis Wee, the Club’s President for ‘97 and ‘98, injected new blood into the club. He brought in new corporate sponsors like Dunlop Malaysia, Red Bull, revived the Warn Winch sponsorship, attracted a flood of European competitive off-roaders to Trans-Pen Malaysia which was renamed as Monsoon Challenge. It was a new dimension in event marketing, worldwide television exposure and competed head-on with the Camel Trophy for status of 4×4 international competitions.
Luis revamped the 4×4 Adventurer Newsletter and made it into a 36-page mini magazine, with fresh designs and circulated up to 2,000 copies worldwide.
The following year, the main annual club event of the year was privatised by Motorsports Adventure with the name changed to the present day Rainforest Challenge series. The Club nurtured the event with its pool of hardcore off-roaders and helped manage the operations and logistics.
THE QUIET YEARS
Ahmad Yusof took over the presidency in 1999. Before he could implement the programme of securing a piece of land for the club, ACKL faced the biggest acid test in its club history. The Registrar of Societies de-registered the Club in 2000 due to non-submission of certain annual return documents over previous years.
With the Club de-registered, no programmes, events, AGMs could be held. Steven Chan, the secretary and Ahmad Mayo worked tirelessly for three years, having numerous meetings with the Registrar to re-instate the ACKL. Past reports, accounts, documents dating back to 1996 were re-submitted and verified for auditing by the Registrar of Societies.
Finally in late 2002, the Club was re-instated. An AGM was held in November 2002 which led to the Annual General Meeting in April 2003 for the election of the 2003/4 committee.
Haji Mohd Isa was named as President, Thomas Foo as Vice-President, Steven Chan as secretary and Yeoh Lam Kong as treasurer, together with seven committee members.
Once the club was revived, there was a spurt of enthusiasm among the members. In 2004 and 2005, over ten offroad trips were organized to Endau Rompin, Jerangkang, Elephant Mudhole in Terenggannu , Ulu Yam and other parts of Peninsular Malaysia. The Club also brought back the ACKL Jamboree which was held at Ulu Yam in 2005 and in Janda Baik in 2006, as well as the offroad school for new 4×4 enthusiasts. The ACKL organised its first overland trip, Trans-Asia I to China in 2005 and Trans-Asia II China in 2006. In 2006, a team of ACKL pioneer hardcore members organized Trans-Pen Revisited and once again took on the challenging Elephant Mudhole in Terenggannu.
The next ACKL committee, led by its president Chong Kon Fong, took over after the club’s AGM in 2007. He has revived the club and the 4x4ACKL became once again one of the most active clubs. The highlight was the jamboree it held in Ulu Yam in 2008.
At the 2009 4x4ACKL annual general meeting twenty members voted for current president Leong Bun Kong. He is a veteran 4x4ACKL member and he campaigned for more off-roading activities. He looks forward to bringing the club back to its roots, promoting offroading and the enjoyment of nature with club members, friends and family.
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