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Malaysians, say hello to the 2020 Proton Saga homagE! Let’s make it clear from the start – this isn’t an actual Proton or a concept car from the Malaysian carmaker. As far as we know, there are no plans for a next-generation Proton Saga in 2020, let alone one with an all-electric powertrain.

What this is then, is a flight of fancy by Theophilus Chin, who visioned a national car for the modern age. And since cars are heading into a battery-powered world where the internal combustion engine is deemed as dirty, this Proton Saga of the future is, fittingly, an EV. Not just any EV, but one that takes inspiration from the past, and is proud of its name and heritage. It’s an homage, and it’s electric, hence the name “homagE”.

Sounds familiar? Yes, this is the same idea used for the Honda e, which will hit the market next year. A development of the much-loved Urban EV concept from 2017, the Honda e is a cute fully electric five-door hatch that references the design of the original Civic. Retro yet modern, and super lovable.

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Does the 1980s Saga’s cues translate well into a modern design? The Lancer-based original car’s rectangular headlamps and slim letterbox grille make an appearance here, and that black strip below the 33-year-old car’s eyes has morphed into LED daytime running light strips.

Conveniently, the “no grille look” of the old timer is also a common theme on today’s electric cars, which do not require as much cooling as an ICE-powered car. The eagle-eyed among you would have noticed “Proton” branding on the side of the front/rear lights and the “Infinite Weave” pattern on the slim grille – the former is a modern Proton touch, while the latter is a signature of Geely-era Protons starting from the X70.

Moving to the sides, familiar design cues adapted here include a clamshell bonnet and door frames that also “clam” themselves over the A pillars. My favourite is the “cut off” rear wheel arches that aren’t as full as the front ones. Of course, who doesn’t remember the old Saga’s bright blue paint and (dare we say iconic) body-coloured caps for the steel wheels – the latter has been lovingly reimagined here.

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Rear end designs used to be very simple back in the day – more often than not, backsides were dominated by a horizontal strip with lights sandwiching either the number plate (Saga, Toyota AE86) or a decorative piece with the logo mark, as seen on my favourite 90s behinds (e.g Toyota MR2 and Honda CR-X).

Theo rightfully went for a more contemporary look for the Saga homagE, which sports a full-width chrome wing with Proton lettering that bisects the LED tail lamps. That chrome strip is common on Geely sedans, and this car looks like it’s part of the family, from the rear at least.

That’s not all. Theo also did a Saga Aeroback version of the homagE. Much of the above are repeated for the red car you see below, but there are sportier alloys and a liftback tail. Stubby butt and shorter rear deck aside, the Aeroback gets unique square tail lamps connected by a black trim with Proton lettering. Also in black is the “diffuser” section of the rear bumper. A black Aeroback with Proton Knight-style livery might be interesting.

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Once again, does the original Saga’s design translate well into a modern car? IMHO, not nearly as well as truly retro things like the original Honda Civic (1970s) and Longines Legend Diver (1960s), but I adore this reimagination regardless.

Of course, like most Malaysians, this writer is biased (the Saga Megavalve was my first car, and it’s still in the family today), and I would love to have a Saga EV someday, when it’s inevitable. By the way, we drove an electric Saga before and it was hilarious.

With my rose-tinted glasses still on, I think that this has to be Theo’s best work so far – great attention to detail, mate! To Proton CEO Dr Li Chunrong and chief designer Azlan Othman, what do you think of our 2020 Proton Saga homagE? The designer would love some feedback. You too can share your thoughts below.

GALLERY: 1985 Proton Saga 1.3S