Ever since its inception in 1983, national automaker Proton has conceived dozens of concept cars and race cars, some of which you’ve probably never seen nor heard before. Most of these one-off vehicles were stored within the Proton Legacy Garage (or Garaj Warisan Proton) in Hicom, Shah Alam, but last we checked, they were no longer there.

Rumours quickly began spreading on social media, suggesting that the entire legacy collection was destined for the auction block, and that the cars were sitting in a warehouse in Old Klang Road belonging to Pickles Asia Auctions. Curious, we reached out to them, and were swiftly given exclusive access to tour the “garage.” What we found turned out to be far more than what we expected – from heritage to concept cars, to even Lotus one-offs, they were all there.

UPDATE: A few Proton and Lotus cars have now been withdrawn from the auction, as per Proton management decision

Anyway, just for context, Pickles Auctions has been operating in Australia for over 50 years, dealing with used and salvaged vehicles. The auction and valuation specialist only made its way to Malaysia in 2017 (its first overseas venture), and has been regularly hosting auctions since. Interested buyers can participate either in person or remotely via a smartphone app. We suggest going in person, because nothing beats seeing a motor-mouthing auctioneer in action. In the short years since, the Pickles Asia has moved over 10,000 vehicles, with around 150 to 200 lots being sold to an average of 400 bidders every week.

The vehicles are clearly classified as Scrap, Wreck or bank repo lots. According to Pickles Asia Auctions, not all vehicles labelled as “total loss” by insurance companies are unrepairable. While some vehicles are destroyed beyond repair (these would be labeled Scrap, to be stripped for parts), other “total loss” cars are simply labelled as such because they cost more to repair than the sum of their insured value – technically termed Beyond Economic Repair (BER). On the auction floor, these are called Wreck lots.

Once these cars are sold, only JPJ-approved workshops are allowed to perform restoration works. After that, the cars must go through Puspakom’s B5 inspection before they can be sold to other parties. These are all legal (they are eligible for bank loans, even) and Pickles Asia Auctions would even conduct a preliminary 1,000-point inspection before accepting the cars back to be auctioned off. These, by the way, will be clearly labeled as Restored vehicles, so you’ll know what you’re buying.

The bank repo lots need no explanation, of course. The was even a mint-looking 2018 Mercedes-AMG GLC63S going under the hammer when we were there! Now, back to the legacy Proton cars, well, most of them are classified as Scrap because there are no legal documentations to homologate them for road use (a few have been de-registered). So unfortunately, these cars can no longer be driven on the road – they can only restored for collectors, or used as track cars at most.

Some of the cars include the venerable Proton PERT Evo VI, Waja Evo, and Proton Wira 4WD rally cars. There’s also a range of Petronas E01e-powered models like the Proton Satria GTi, Proton Putra, Proton Perdana and Lotus Elise. For the uninitiated, the E01e was developed by Sauber Petronas Engineering in 1997, and through its learnings from Formula 1 managed to squeeze 204 PS and 204 Nm out of the naturally-aspirated direct-injection 2.0 litre engine. That’s a worthy Honda K20A rival right there, folks.

Proton subsequently obtained the patents to the engine from Petronas in 2012, and for a while the engine was rumoured to be fitted on the second-generation Proton Perdana in 2018. That didn’t happen of course, because Geely came into the picture. As to whether the partnership stifled those plans, we’ll probably never know.

Part of the pile was what was claimed to be an electric Proton Exora, likely to be the Exora REEV (Range Extender Electric Vehicle). Announced in 2010, the Exora REEV predates more popular range extenders such as the Note and Kicks e-Power.

It featured two electric motors for a total of 94 PS and 220 Nm, and in November 2010 was named the Best Range Extender EV at the Royal Automobile Club Future Car Challenge in the UK. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to verify that the said Exora was indeed the REEV model, because the bonnet latch was broken.

As a kid growing up, have you ever wanted an open top hatch in Malaysia? Okay that might have been a long shot, but Proton really did make a concept – the Satria Cabriolet. This was presented at the 1997 Frankfurt Motor Show to gauge European car-buyer interest. In fact, two models were made, one in purple and another in gold. Both are currently collecting dust in the Old Klang Road warehouse, if they aren’t sold already.

Other tear-jerking finds include several Lotus protoypes, a Proton Chancellor (basically a stretched Waja with the Perdana V6 engine) complete with plastic seat covers(!), an immaculate Proton Saga 12V (a perfect MSF Saga Cup car, we’d say) and several “unique” Proton prototypes created by local university students (these are not official Proton designs, so if you don’t like them, don’t blame Proton). One prototype even had an electric motor under the hood!

Unfortunately for these cars, this is what it has come to. It’s a little too late to wish for an alternate outcome, such as having them minimally restored and displayed at an officially sanctioned museum. Still, we think it’s a crying shame that Proton is selling off its heritage cars, especially since a few are definitely worth keeping, such as the official concept and motorsport cars. We sure hope these storied cars will be dutifully restored and preserved for the future.

May our paths cross again sometime, hopefully for the better.

This piece has been translated from the original story written by our BM counterpart.

GALLERY: Proton and Lotus cars with Petronas E01 engine

GALLERY: Historic Proton models at Pickles Auction, Old Klang Road