Dyan: Malaka, you have been introduced to me as a Lawyer who is also the current President of the Italian Car Enthusiasts’ Club; trained and participated as a Track Marshal at Singapore’s F1 besides confirming that you’re an Italian car addict by possessing a string of Fiat cars – wow!
Malaka: [smiles] Thanks Dyan – I have also taken part in numerous car-rallies and attend to restoration of my Fiats ‘hands-on’ instead of merely being a spectator – idly watching the restoration work being done! Besides I am also a collector of numerous motoring memorabilia; and do you know that I have painstakingly collected every single issue of the now glossy and highly readable MOTOR magazine ever since it was first launched as a basic ‘Motor Trading Post’?
Dyan: What a wonderful display of unbridled passion for 4-wheels Malaka; we also really appreciate with much gratitude your ‘Thumbs-Up’ for Sri Lanka’s own MOTOR magazine! Let’s now hear you out with your absolute love for FIAT cars Malaka, how and when did this all start?
Malaka: Literally from around the moment I was born as I was brought home from the Nursing Home to my parents’ residence in a Fiat! Obviously this infectious bug was ‘caught’ via my father who also had a ‘Bug Fiat’ which incidentally was his first car which he had bought from Prof. Ediriweera Sarathchandra. My Fiat-mad father later got himself a Fiat Multipla, following up with a Fiat 1100, EN 2346 in which we have had memorable trips to all four corners of the island; my father did buy numerous Fiats thereafter and finally ending up with a Fiat based Lada
Dyan: That’s a ‘Fiat Legacy’ from your father; tell us – MOTOR readers about your Fiat bug too
Malaka: Well I inherited my dad’s Fiat 1100, EN 2346; apart from that the first Fiat I bought was a Fiat 128, an Upali Fiat and then a Fiat UNO a fine, lively car which I enjoyed for around 3 years whilst the Upali Fiat was a ‘rust-bucket’(!), the Fiat UNO of mine was maintained in such pristine order that it was proudly displayed at a Motor Show in 2000 at the Convention Centre.
Dyan: I would totally endorse all the positive things you say about the Fiat UNO as when in 1984 the UNO was adjudged the European Car of the Year, I got myself an almost new Fiat UNO 60S – I loved everything about it and even raced it up Mahagastotte & Radella Hil Climbs in late ‘80s.
Malaka: I loved the UNO too; by and by I had the good fortune of picking up a rare Fiat X1/9. As you might know Dyan the Fiat X 1/9 was designed around the all-new Fiat 128 SOHC engine and with the gearbox (transmission) from the front wheel drive Fiat 128, the X1/9 relocated the transverse drive train and suspension assembly from the front of the 128 to the rear of the passenger cabin, directly in front of the rear axle, giving a mid-engined layout. The layout also located the fuel tank and spare wheel side by side ahead of the engine, directly behind the seats - optimizing the proportion of the car's weight falling within its wheelbase for more effective handling and also enabling cargo areas front and rear. Fiat began marketing a right-hand drive variant in 1976. Unlike Fiat's marketing nomenclature at the time which used a numerical system (e.g., Fiat 127, 128, 124, 131) denoting relative position in the model range, the X1/9 retained its prototype code as its marketing name. Fiat's prototype coding used X0 for engines, X1 for passenger vehicles and X2 for commercial vehicles. The X1/9 was thus the ninth passenger car developed using the nomenclature. I savour each moment when I drive my Fiat X 1/9! I thereafter bought a Fiat Punto 1998 Model - besides the Fiat Regata I had earlier. So it has been Fiats, Fiats and Fiats all the way following my Fiat-mad father! When the Fiat bug hits you, it’s for keeps!
Dyan: Malaka, you told me that you currently own five Fiat cars of numerous models – please specify
Malaka: Yes, I have five Fiats and they are:  Fiat Regata  Fiat X 1/9;  Fiat Punto One  Fiat Grand Punto and a Fiat 1100tv which I am in the process of restoring – it will take some time to complete.
Dyan: Out of all the Fiats you have the pleasure of owning what model still excites you to this day?
Malaka [smiles] Of course my precious Fiat X 1/9 – and to answer your question ‘why’, let me elaborate: firstly it is a Sports Car and it has a trendy retractable hood; mid engined, like I said earlier, rear drive, 4-speed gear box, 1300cc, 75 bhp – maybe not ‘powerful’ like today’s cars but an absolute gem to drive!
Dyan: Malaka, you’re also the President of the Italian Car Enthusiasts’ Club, a fitting tribute to a Fiat nut!
Malaka [laughs] The seed for forming a Club for enthusiastic Italian Car owners sprouted in 2002 when a bunch of enthusiasts like Nimal Wimalasuriya, Dayan Fernando, Romesh Emanuel, Sulochana Wanigasundera and myself met informally and generally agreed to form such a club, yet it did not bear fruit until 2006 when the club was set up. From humble beginnings we have now grown to having nearly 100 members. Those who own or had a Fiat, Lancia, Alfa Romeo, Lamborghini etc even a Ferrari can be a member. Anyway we do not restrict membership to those owning a car; anybody who has owned an Italian car earlier and who is an enthusiast – qualifies for entry. Yes, idea is to encourage Italian car-nuts! We share our experiences of motoring pleasures as well as the issues we have and pool our thoughts on how to resolve them; we also discuss matters we get via the Internet about other similar Italian Car clubs world-wide.
Here is a list of current automobile manufacturers of Italy. Alfa Romeo (1918–present). Ferrari (1947–present). Fiat (1899–present). Lamborghini (1963–present). Lancia (1906–present). Maserati (1914–present).
Dyan: So calling all you Italian Car Lovers: Do join this wonderful group of car enthusiasts, pronto! Malaka, could you share your experiences in Singapore’s F1 as a Track Marshal – quite an honour!
Malaka: I owe a debt of gratitude to Ceylon Motor Sports Club [CMSC] & Confederation of Australian Motor Sports for having selected and indeed trained me so thoroughly for the event by conducting a Training Course for Marshals back in 2012. I was so smitten by the exposure, that I volunteered my services as a Track Marshal at Singapore Grand Prix on two consecutive years, namely 2013 & 2014. I was also totally impressed by the clinical efficiency and incredible punctuality of the Singaporeans. We had to abide by the Formula One ‘Minute by Minute Book’ that covers all aspects minutely of any Formula One Event. At any particular section there would be 20 Marshals such as Flag Marshals, Fire Marshals, Track Marshals and relevant ‘Sector Teams’ comprising of personnel from all over the world, such as from Australia, India and yes, even Sri Lanka and other Asian locations, apart from Singaporeans.
Dyan: Great stuff! You also told me that you have been a ‘Rally Driver’ of sorts back in 2008 & 2009?
Malaka: In 2006 I was Runner Up at CMC sponsored ‘Good Driver Competition’. Then in 2008 I took part in a ‘Non-Rally prepared Rally’ up to 1300cc by driving my Fiat Punto. It was a 250km day time rally run full of fun! Again in 2009 I was second runner up in a 500km midnight rally that ran thru Ginigathena, Laxapana, Kitulgala and back to Hanwella – this was a tougher rally, physically & mentally challenging!
Dyan: As a veteran driver, Lawyer, Italian Car Enthusiast etc do you live by any credo as a motorist?
Malaka: I’m a promoter of disciplined good driving and driving by example. In fact my motto is displayed on the exterior of one of my Fiats which I also fully abide by: “I don’t own the road what I share with others”
Dyan: Malaka, I enjoyed chatting to you and listening or rather feeling your wonderful car-enthusiasm!
Malaka: Thank you Dyan. Let me congratulate Nimal, you & the rest of the MOTOR team for sustaining and indeed improving over the long years this incomparable, world-class motor magazine for Sri Lanka.