RPK and his BMW


I suppose it was very difficult for this BMW dealer to accept the fact that a Malay can fork out RM85,000 cash to buy a 728i. I was just a motorcycle dealer so surely I could not have that much money.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

“RPK, did you just buy a BMW?” asked George Eng in a question he posted in Malaysia Today. Yes, a very interesting question indeed, and a question a number of others have asked as well over these last 24 hours.

Surprisingly, all those asking this question are Chinese. Maybe Chinese find it weird that Malays, too, can afford to buy a BMW.

Anyway, this question by George Eng brings back fond memories of when I owned my first BMW. I have actually told this story before but probably George and those other Chinese have not read what I wrote earlier and this is why they are asking me that question.

I bought my first BMW, a 728i, in 1981. That was after I sold my Mercedes Benz and Porsche 911, which I bought in the late 1970s. The Porsche was second hand, though, and I bought it from the late Tun Ghafar Baba’s insurance company.

The registration number for the Porsche was WM6 and they wanted back that number. I replied that I would only buy the car if it came with the number. So we made a deal. I can use that number as long as I still own the car but once I sell it I must return the number.

In 1981, I was only 30 then, I fell in love with the BMW 728i. I actually wanted the 528i, which I saw in the BMW showroom in Park Lane in London, but it was not available in Malaysia. So I had to settle for the 728i.

There was no BMW dealer in Terengganu but the Hong Leong Yamaha manager in Kuantan said he knows the Kuantan dealer so I drove down to Kuantan. The dealer, a Chinese chap, did not have it in stock so he would have to order it once the finance is approved.

I informed the dealer that I would not be taking finance but would pay cash. The dealer was taken aback. The car costs RM85,000, he told me. No problem, I said, I will pay cash.

But he cannot order the car unless he first collects a deposit. So I took out my cheque book and signed a cheque for RM40,000 and told him that once the cheque clears he can order the car.

The cheque cleared but he still did not dare order the car. He was worried that if I do not pay him the balance of RM45,000 then he would be stuck with the car. And it is not easy to sell a BMW 728i.

He then phoned the Hong Leong Yahama manager to ask him what to do. He told the Hong Leong Yamaha manager that he is not confident I can pay him the balance of RM45,000. The Hong Leong Yamaha manager laughed and told the BMW dealer that I was his top Yamaha dealer and number two in the whole of Malaysia in a list of 500 dealers.

The BMW dealer finally ordered the car and when it arrived I drove down to Kuantan and paid him the balance of RM45,000.

I suppose it was very difficult for this BMW dealer to accept the fact that a Malay can fork out RM85,000 cash to buy a 728i. I was just a motorcycle dealer so surely I could not have that much money.

True, I may have been just a motorcycle dealer, but I was the number two dealer for a few years running. Every year I won a Rolex watch and an overseas holiday. I won so many Rolex watches and overseas holidays that I gave them away to my friends.

So, to George Eng (and to all those other Chinese who had asked me that same question), yes, I first owned a BMW 728i 34 years ago back in 1981. Unfortunately, though, two years later I was forced to sell it to buy a Mercedes Benz 380 SE.

And the story goes like this.

I had just been given the Mercedes Benz dealership for Terengganu and they were very upset that I was driving a BMW and not a Mercedes. They told me I must sell my BMW and buy a Mercedes. So I brought the 380SE and later imported the 190E for my wife, the first one in Malaysia.

My wife saw the 190E when we visited the Mercedes factory in Germany (the car had not been launched yet) and immediately fell in love with it. So I ordered it for my wife even before it was launched and told them that it must be the first one in Malaysia. I then registered it with TH88 (you know lah, my wife is Chinese).

So that is the saga of RPK and his BMW.