If you consider yourself a car aficionado in Malaysia, chances are you would count Erwin Azizi among your acquaintances. A well-known figure in car appreciation circles, particularly of the fast and furious class, Erwin juggles both his work — as director of the Menara Group as well as the Indonesia-Malaysia Business Council — and play — as founder of the Blue Jackets Society, an independent car owner’s fraternity — with aplomb.
In charge of the Indonesian-based Menara Group’s international portfolio, whose business interests span plantations, IT, property and property development, Erwin divides his time between Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta, commuting up to three times a week. “I’ve been doing this for about a year already and I guess I am used to it. I have much less time for the Blue Jackets Society right now. Thankfully, I have great people to assist me. But I am looking forward to our next drive, which will be to Kuantan in the last week of September.”
What’s more challenging to squeeze into his schedule would be the society’s famous Madmen Drive, which runs for a whole fortnight in a single stretch and takes participants across the whole of Thailand. “You can clock up to 8,500 clicks in those two weeks, hence the name,” he laughs.
On the society’s evocative name, Erwin shares that he thought it was unique and something that would stick in one’s memory. “My partner Ray Hong and I were having coffee and that’s how we came up with it. We recalled our college days in England ... you know, the idea of prep school blazers and all that. And since it was a racing fraternity, it would also cement the ideal that motorsports, as far as Blue Jacket members are concerned, is a modern gentleman’s sport. We also added the word ‘Society’ to the name to link it to the youthful camaraderie as seen in the movie Dead Poet’s Society. There’s no minimum criteria to join us either. Our members’ ages range from thirty to late sixties and all one needs to possess is the ability to mutually respect one another and, of course, enjoy the pleasures of the road and combustion engine in a safe and fun manner. Our activities are all geared towards the family, in any case. One is always welcome to bring one’s wife, son or daughter. The only thing I don’t mince words about is safety, which is paramount, and proper conduct at all times when one is wearing the Blue Jacket uniform.”
On his recent experience with the Mercedes-Maybach S 560, Erwin smiles: “It is quite a beast and definitely in a class of its own. Granted, it’s designed to be enjoyed from the passenger’s seat but, having taken the car to Sepang the other day to drop my son off for his karting class, I found it to handle really well. It has good traction, is stable with corners and the power delivery extends throughout the whole rev range. And, although it is very big, it is still nimble and doesn’t feel as if you are driving a boat!”
On the inextricable correlation between luxury cars and success, particularly here in Malaysia, Erwin says: “Yes, that certainly seems to be the case here. That’s one school of thought where luxury cars are a symbol of success and one which I don’t dispute. But if you look at the US or Europe, there’s another school of thought comprising people who appreciate cars that are deemed ‘high-end’ in this part of the world but who buy and drive them out of pure passion. They are evolved fans, aware connoisseurs, who, besides driving, also dedicate a lot of their spare time to refurbishing, upgrading and tinkering with their vehicles. And that is a joy to see.”
Erwin’s love of fine, fast cars stems from his father, Datuk Azizi Yom Ahmad. “We are fortunate to have a dad who loves cars and, more importantly, didn’t mind sharing his cars with his sons,” he laughs. Memories of long drives all over the world is something Erwin cherishes. “When I was studying in the UK, I clocked up 80,000km in the first five years! My favourite routes in England are from London to Somerset, where you drive past some of the most beautiful sights and cities in the West Country, like Stonehenge, Bath and Salisbury, and the drive to Symonds Yat in Wales, where you have to cross the Severn Bridge. The view is just fabulous! In Europe, I love the drive from Rome all the way down south to Sicily as well as the coastal roads, along the Cote d’Azur in the South of France. But I definitely prefer Italy much more. Somehow, the landscape reminds me of Kedah. It’s all along B-roads, not highways, but it’s beautiful and far more interesting to drive on.”
This article first appeared on Sept 10, 2018 in The Edge Malaysia.