Lyssa Tan, creative director of Caccina Sofa Manufacturing, delineates the reason the Porsche Cayman S lost its battle against a newborn.
What do you look for in a car? A tranquil ride that lets you slump back, procrastinate and curate a perfect imprint on the nappa leather upholstery? How it spontaneously draws up a mini competition and beats other vehicles to the next set of traffic lights? A better specification than contemporaries and more economical to keep up, perhaps?
For a discerning aesthete like Lyssa Tan, who functions as the creative director for her family-owned couch-making business, it is all of the above and a little more. “Obviously it has to have the right proportion from the grille and the rear bumper. I scrutinise every design detail of the car,” she insists, adding that nothing escapes her watchful gaze and the litany of demands. She insouciantly likens a sports car to a physically attractive person. Sedans just aren’t voluptuous, she continues, compared to sports cars.
“For me, exteriors and interiors are equal in importance,” Lyssa says, “one’s superficial, the other’s inner beauty.
“Every designer including me suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder. We seek perfection. For example, I don’t necessarily examine how fast the car goes, but I will eyeball the little things like how it feels when you fling the doors open, the interior lighting that sets the ambience, the shape of the air-con vent, and so on.”
It wasn’t much of a surprise then that when I first connected with her a few years ago about an editorial feature, she turned up in a BMW Z4 – a 2-door roadster with retractable metal roof that the purists call an E89. Petite, agile and especially orchestral when you jam the foot down the accelerator, it is a dream car for many across gender binary. She kept the roof intact that day as we conducted the interview inside the car. It was the genesis of our friendship over her passion for hot rides – and cool air-conditioning because the 3pm outdoor shoot in the sun was rather unbearable.
“When I was growing up, I could only dream about owning cars like this,” Lyssa says of a childhood fraught with deficiency. She used to shadow her grandmother to peddle goods in morning markets in Kajang. It was before the family fortune swung up. Never a plain-sailing story of rags to riches, some years ago, their furniture factory was engulfed in an inferno. Matters were exacerbated because the premise was uninsured. Debts had to be repaid and they had to rebuild ruined reputation, inventory and most importantly pride.
Her interest in automobiles was seeded during her college days. Surrounded by well-to-do classmates, many of whom are in the social circles of Prestige and PIN Prestige Malaysia, she didn’t succumb to peer pressure. What really pulled her into the cauldron was the thrill that came with speed. Her weekends were spent at the Batu Tiga circuit, while at nights, enviously spectating her friends in their souped-up vehicles on freeways from afar in her approachable Perodua Kelisa.
When time came to shop for a set of wheels comparable to her friends’, she recalls rather enthusiastically, “I was hot on Maserati. I liked their design and everything just seemed so right.” Lyssa says she was close to fishing it out from the showroom. It didn’t eventuate because she yielded to an advice by her friend about the availability of spare parts should the vehicle go awry.
And so, Lyssa leaned towards something more universally acceptable – a Porsche Cayman S in champagne, complete with a rear spoiler and vinyl racing stripes stretching from the hood to the trunk. A mid-engine 2-seater she was proud to show off because she had to work for it, it was for her the pride and joy. Still in her 20s, she craved speed and acknowledgement, and what better to accomplish those than a Porsche that could chew down idle to 100km/h in about 5 seconds? “I didn’t have my own little family back then,” she says with a laugh before continuing, “I believe it is a phase in life the pimply will go through.” She was no different.
Her life profoundly changed in the past couple of years. Unbeknownst to many, she graduated into motherhood. The baby girl is fast approaching one year old. Lyssa’s Instagram account now is swamped with daily updates of her daughter’s antics, as well as her own mischiefs in raising the infant.
While aesthetics is still an important consideration, safety and convenience features of a car are now her top priorities. Born of motherly concerns as well as its ability to fit a toddler seat while still catered to a small family, Lyssa procured a Mercedes-Benz GLC 250.
“The infant,” she says, “is the centre of my attention. Let’s not talk about owning a sports car; it’s impossible to even leave her behind for a minute for a round of leisurely drive in one.”
The 2-door vehicle, she asserts, is reserved for a bachelor or bachelorette.
Consequently, she sold the Cayman S, citing “it was best to find a new owner who would better appreciate the car because it deserved so.” Candidly, she continues, the house simply ran out of space in the porch to the extent that the Porsche was parked unguarded outside of her home. The car sat so low that it no longer felt “right” for her. There were times, she says, it was neglected for a month. The pile-up of these factors culminated in a maudlin decision to bid goodbye to the car which for so long was part of her identity.
The Z4 is still around, she jokes, “because it sits higher off the ground.” It was between the Cayman S and the Z4, she says, and ultimately, it was a decision she is happy with. But she teases that once the child (or children) has grown up, she might contemplate making a U-turn.