Pictured: Volkswagen’s MQB (Modulare Querbaukasten) platform

Catalyst Motors, a Singaporean automotive manufacturing start-up, is planning to introduce a working prototype of its retro-styled two-door sports car in 2023. It is currently in the final stages of building a drivable chassis, with completion targeted by the end of the year, The Straits Times reports.

The modular platform will serve as the foundation for two other cars, one being an SUV, and the other a super sports car. The frame was assembled in-house by hand (from scratch!) using aircraft and automotive-grade aluminium.

Company co-founder Anthony Parks said: “We understand the process of putting the chassis together, and know it inside out, so when we go into further production, or when we build multiple models of this variant, it can happen relatively quickly.”

Parks’ co-founding partner, 45-year-old Lionel Lau, added: “This is our intellectual property. The modular platform also allows different powertrains to be installed, including an electric one, which we are currently developing.”

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Three engineers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) have been enlisted (under a MoU signed between NUS and Catalyst) to design the company’s modular platform. The trio are Lim Hong Wee, 37, Hozefa Husainee, 32, and Kenneth Neo Kang Wei, 32, all of which are NUS instructors and have experience in designing race cars.

They are also involved in NUS’ Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) race car project, which builds a Formula-style race car for the annual Formula SAE Michigan competition. “In Formula SAE, we design a race vehicle from the ground up every year, competing with top universities from all over the world. We have to present our car design to judges from Ford, General Motors, Tesla, Bosch, and others,” Lim said.

“It is through these presentations and feedback from the judges that our team grows in knowledge to design better vehicles,” he added, while also acknowledging that the team must factor in durability, manufacturability and ease of assembly when designing a commercial roadworthy car.

Once the drivable chassis is completed, it will be sent to Britain to be certified and validated for roadworthiness. Then, the chassis will return to Singapore for the bodywork to be fitted on, before being sent to Britain for homologation or the granting of approval.

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Details such as prices, specifications and where the car will be made will be announced later, Parks said. However, the company is expected to be officially launched in 2023, when public orders will also be taken.

As a backstory, Catalyst Motors was started in 2014 by Singaporean Lionel Lau and American entrepreneur Anthony Parks, who is in his 40s. Lau, who had worked in private equity, is the son of late Malaysian tycoon and philanthropist Lau Gek Poh, founder of the Hap Seng conglomerate, which has businesses in credit financing, property, plantations and automotive retail.

Catalyst Motors, however, is completely independent from the family business, and is bootstrapped by the two founders. Together, the duo have invested a few million dollars in the venture, but will proceed to look for suitable partners as it scales up. The company now has 30 staff, including consultants based in Italy, Britain and China.

To go up against established carmakers, new players must have a really good value proposition, said adjunct associate professor Zafar Momin of Nanyang Technological University’s Nanyang Business School. When asked about this, Lau said: “We are aware of the challenges in this endeavour, but we are confident in delivering speciality cars that are attractive to car lovers around the world who want something different.”