1989 Proton Saga comes out top at Hagerty UK’s Festival of the Unexceptional, becomes best classic

Opportunities for a Proton Saga to win an international award are fairly rare, especially a Proton Saga that is as old as most millennials. But one in the United Kingdom has done just that over the weekend, beating out 49 other contestants to take the top prize at the Festival of the Unexceptional.

Jon Coupland’s incredibly mint 1989 Proton 1.5 GL Black Knight Edition (the Saga nameplate was never used in the UK) won the Concours de l’Ordinare at event, held by classic car insurance provider Hagerty at the Grimsthorpe Castle in Lincolnshire. The 30 year old police officer – yes, he’s younger than his car – from nearby Boston took home a trophy, rather endearingly shaped like a cup of tea, for his efforts.

We should point out at this juncture that Coupland didn’t miraculously beat some classic Ferrari to take the gong. As you can probably approximate by the name, the Festival of the Unexceptional is a celebration of mundane cars, ones that usually wouldn’t be on the radar of a typical concours. Ironically, the fact that they are unloved means that surviving units are often rarer than even the most exalted supercar.

The Black Knight Edition is a case in point – according to the website How Many Left, which tracks the amount of vehicles left on UK roads, Coupland’s is the only one of its kind still in existence. To give you a sense of perspective, that’s five fewer than the amount of highly-exclusive Monza SP1s – which retails for around US$3 million (RM12.7 million) a pop – Ferrari has sold in the island nation.

Proton didn’t sell that many to begin with, as just 201 units left dealer forecourts when new. The Black Knight Edition is quite a bit different from the Saga Knight that we got over here – it’s a sedan rather than an Aeroback, for one, although it is painted in a similar metallic grey (Majorca Black, later used on the Wira 1.8 EXi DOHC Special Edition).

It also sports the same orange-and-grey colour scheme for the body stripes, but the decals are different, incorporating ornate knight-on-horse logos on the sides and rear. Those logos can also be found on the hubcaps, which are unique to this car along with the rubber bootlid spoiler.

They add to the standard features found on the GL spec, which include body-coloured (still manually-adjustable) door mirrors, a rev counter, front door and seat pockets and black side rubbing strips. Power comes from a 4G15 1.5 litre eight-valve carburetted Magma four-cylinder engine, which produces 85 hp and is mated to a five-speed manual gearbox.

Coupland is the third owner of this example, which was garaged just four years and 5,800 km into its life in 1993 as the original owner became ill of health. It stayed there until 2017 before moving onto its second owner and covering nearly another 16,000 km. The car is now sparingly used to be exhibited at events like this, Hagerty said.

“I have been a car enthusiast from a young age and only acquired the Proton in 2019, so I have never been to [this event] before,” said Coupland. “I was over the moon to be accepted for the concours, so to have impressed the judges enough to have won the overall prize is beyond my wildest dreams!”

Coupland runs a YouTube channel showing cars like this (amazingly, he owns three Protons, including another limited-run 1.5 SE LE and a later 1.5 GLS based on the Iswara Aeroback body). Unfortunately, he hasn’t filmed a full walk-around video of the Black Knight, but he has done one on his LE. Another channel, IDriveAClassic, has also published a review of the Black Knight. You can watch both videos below.

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