Sun, 14 Oct 2001

Roy Suryo's search for antique Mercy

Antique Mercy is Roy Suryo's new toy

------------------ Sri Wahyuni The Jakarta Post Yogyakarta ------------------

Multimedia expert Roy Suryo, 33, who is also a lecturer at the Indonesian Arts Institute (ISI) and Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, is indeed a person of many hobbies. Automobiles, electronics and computers are just a few of his pursuits, but now he is also chasing antique Mercedes sedans.

Roy began his latest quest only three years ago and has so far managed to collect eight Mercedes, including models from as far back as 1954 and 1963. That excludes the 1984 Tiger Mercy he drives on a daily basis.

"Actually, I don't like being called an antique Mercy hunter. I prefer to be called a nurse for the cars. In fact, I'm no longer hunting for the cars like I used to," Roy told The Jakarta Post, referring to the popular local reference for Mercedes.

The idea of collecting antique Mercy cars had actually crossed Roy's mind when he was still a junior high school student watching the James Bond film Goldfinger starring Sean Connery.

He recalled that the leading character drove an M-180 series Mercy sedan, or Mercy Kentang as it is locally called. The car impressed Roy so much that he decided to make it part of his collection in the future.

He only realized his teenage dreams in 1998, when he bought his first 1961 Mercy Kentang. It was still in quite good condition, meaning that it could be driven well. Both the certificate of ownership for the car (BPKB) and the registration (STNK) were still valid.

"The only thing I had to do then was repaint it," Roy said.

The first experience was such an exciting experience that he began actively "hunting" old Mercy sedans, especially the kentang (potato), kebo (buffalo -- used to describe the 280s series) and Batman (220s series) models.

Roy entered the public spotlight after he revealed his study relating to a leaked telephone conversation between two men who sounded like former President B.J. Habibie and the then attorney general A.M. Ghalib in 1999, discussing an intention to desist from pushing through with the investigation of Soeharto. At the time, Roy said he found similarities in the voices and insisted the conversation was a direct recording.

His experience in sound analysis landed him a job with the National Police in an effort to trace the whereabouts of Soeharto's youngest son, Hutomo "Tommy" Mandala Putra, before the latter was acquitted of corruption charges.

In his pursuit for antique Mercedes, Roy could drive as far as Jakarta or Temanggung (Central Java) on his own. He also advertises in local newspapers and on the Internet.

"The results (of the advertisement) were indeed beyond my expectations. I received dozens of calls with offers. It was more confusing rather than helpful," he said, adding that the only one he could really buy from the advertisement was the "remains" of a 1959 Mercy Kentang currently still being repaired.

Roy said there were some vehicles that he actually wanted to buy but the owners had eventually decided not to sell.

"It seemed to me like they just wanted to show off their collection by offering them to me, but when I agreed on the price they said they changed their mind," Roy said, adding that the experience enabled him to learn more about people.

After that, Roy decided not to look for the cars any longer.

"Anyway, I'm not a broker who look for antique cars to resell. I bought them for my collection. I have plenty of time to do so. There is no need to hurry. Buying a car is pulung (Javanese word for fate) for me. We just cannot force something to happen if it is not our pulung," Roy said.

It is also the norm for him to object to being called an antique car hunter, because what he really does is "nurse" them so that they remain in good condition.

Three of Roy's eight vehicles are still being repaired at an auto repair shop. The rest are kept at his parent's house in Notowinatan.

He plans to move the vehicles to his own residence in a narrow alley on Jl. Magelang, where he has built a garage big enough to house eight cars.

Among other things, locating original spare parts for the cars seems to be the most challenging activity for Roy in satisfying his newest hobby and he is very selective in the process. Unless the spare parts are original, Roy will never buy them.

"I'd rather have a second-hand original spare part than a brand new fake one," Roy said, adding that information from the Internet helped him in this area.

"This is what is amazing about Mercy. The company, through its website, provides us with complete information about the cars," he said

"It is also through the website that I later discovered there are only hundreds of Mercy kentang, kebo or Batman left in the world now," Roy said.