Timor is an Indonesian based "car maker" that sold a rebadged Kia Sephia in Indonesia from 1996 to 1997. But, there's a lot more story involved inside the car and the carmaker itself, and i think it's one of the greatest car story here in Indonesia. Interested? well, let's go back to Jakarta in 1990.
In 1990, President of Indonesia Mayor General Soeharto said that if you want your car to be sold in Indonesia without import tax, you should sold a car with at least 60% of the whole car were made in Indonesia. And that's quite a tall order, because even the best Indonesian-built car at the time, Toyota Kijang, couldn't achieve that number.
Import tax is such a huge deal in Indonesia, because thanks to import tax, the prices of imported car is really inflated. In 1990, the import tax for cars were set at 300%. That means, the price of a brand new base model 1990 Jeep Cheeroke was somewhere around 90,000 USD. You want a Civic? How about base model Honda Civic for a reasonable 30,500 USD? It was crazy.
At that time, one of Soeharto's sons called Hutomo Mandala Putra, also known as Tommy Soeharto, thinks there should be a market for a cheap Indonesian-made cars with his own brand. Afterall, he's a huge gearhead, owning some of the best car collection in Indonesia, even until today. He at least owned a Lamborghini Miura, LM002, and a Countach, all the Group B homologation cars like Audi Quattro S1 and Ford RS200, and bunch of JDM like Lancer Evo I and Subaru Impreza. And oh, my personal favorite, a red BMW M635CSi.
As you know, to build a car, you need at least some technical knowledge from somebody who actually knows how to build a car. Something like when some men from Austin-Healey went to Japan to help the Japanese start a car industry in the 50's. Tommy Soeharto wants to do that as well, so he choose the most sensible car factory to help him build a car factory. Any guess?
Nope, you're wrong. It was Lamborghini. Tommy with some help from his friend, Setiawan Djody, set up a company in Bermuda called Megatech and decide to buy Lamborghini for 40 Million USD in 1994.
To make things more Interesting, they also ask some help from.... Vector Aeromotive! Setiawan Djody owns 57% of Vector at that time, so it's only logical to ask some help from Vector.
In their mind, Tommy and Djody wants a small sports coupe with Lamborghini look, but powered with small 1000 cc engine, with a target price of 10,000 USD. It is rumored that there's 7 of this car protoype ever produced, but so far nothing ever showed.
In 19 February 1996, Tommy finally set up a company called PT Timor Putra Nasional (TPN). Timor itself was an acronym for "Teknologi Industri MObil Rakyat", or Industrial Technology for People's Car in English. It is rumored at that time that Timor will produce a car designed and made with borrowed technology and design from Lamborghini.
But suddenly in 28 Febuary 1996, President Soeharto told Tungky Ariwibowo, Ministry of Economic from Indonesia decide to fast-tracked the development of National Car of Indonesia. He even will give that company a starting money to start producing National Car. Lot of companies claimed to make a National Car of Indonesia, to simply get that money, but there's only 1 company who get that money. And that company is, surprise surprise, Timor.
This decision upset quite a lot of people, even established Car Manufacturer like Toyota and Suzuki. Simply because, the Timor doesn't even had a car prototype to show off. They felt unfair because how the hell a Car company started if they even doesn't have a car to show off, let alone a producing facility?
And then, Mr Tungky said to Timor, if they want to keep the money, by September 1996 they had to make at least 15,000 car. If they failed to meet the demands they should repay the monies they receive as a loan. A really tall order for a newly established car manufacturer.
Somehow, they set-up the factory facilites to built the car really quickly in Cikampek, Indonesia. And in 8 July 1996, Timor proudly introduced the S515, essentialy a rebadged kia Sephia. Tommy Soeharto said, because the S515 is only 23,000 USD, they could sell at least 70,000 of them per year. That's a big target, since last year all car manufacturer in Indonesia could only sell 150,000 cars. They only accept sales by order at that time, and deliveries will start in September. The only options for the car was metallic paint, at 250 USD.
They ended up selling 33,000 cars from July to September, and some extra 140,000 from September 1996 - September 1997. That means in 1996-1997 they sold 173,000 cars alone. Keep in mind they only had 1 car model, S515.
At January 1996, Timor introduce the more equipped S515i. It's quite advanced compared to the old one. It has fuel injection, power windows, speed-sensing power steering, air conditioning, radio, and good gas mileage. All for 28,575 USD. And because of this, the sales of Timor Cars were soaring. They sold a massive 392,000 car in 1996, 300,000 of them were the new S515i.
Tommy Soeharto then start toying with new ideas. As a big rally fans, he want to took the venerable S515i to WRC. It is rumoured that Tommy ask Prodrive UK to build a rally version of the Timor S515i. Timor even go as far as making the S516LE "Prodrive License". Basically it's a Timor with uprated 1.6l engine with 120hp, limited-slip differential, lightweight racing flywheel, lightweight racing clutch, stiffer sport suspension, 16" Compomotive wheels, and Dunlop tires. It is unknown how many S516LE ever produced, but rumors said it was less than 200.
Tommy also want more body style. So he ask a local Indonesian coachbuilder "New Armada" to build some variation of the S515i. They build 2 cars, the SL516i and the SW516i. The SL516i is a 6-door limousine, designed for ultimate Timoring experience. Basically they take an S516LE, stretch it for an extra 25cm, replace the sport suspension, and replace the whole interior with leather. They build 50 of them, and so far there's 3 of them survives until today. Price start from a reasonable 35,000 USD.
There's also the SW516i. It's a Wagon version of the S516LE, but the sport suspension were replaced with a stock S515 suspension. They build 50 of this thing, nearly all of them survives until today. The price is 30,000 USD. I almost forgot, the Timor Special editon cars like the wagon, limo, or sport, is only avaliable to purchase if you already have a Timor. I guess Tommy did this because he was inspired by how Ferrari sold their special cars.
They're also considering a new body style to be sold in Indonesia. There's the Timor Borneo, a luxury SUV powered by a Lamborghini 5.2L V10, designed to be a luxury SUV comparable to a Range Rover. Price starts from 80,000 USD. There's a rumor of a working prototype that's now resides in Tommy's house, but since I can't find any info about it, it's just a rumor.
There's also the S213i, a small city car designed by Zagato, powered by Timor-Designed 1.3l 4-cylinder engine with Fuel Injection. Not much known about this car, except there's a running prototype exist in Italy, and it was designed to slot under the S515, with projected price of 10,000 USD.
But then in the middle of 1996, some of the other car manufacturer starts wondering about Timor's claim of "National Cars of Indonesia". They wonder is this car reaaaaaaaaaaaaaally made in Indonesia. After some research (I guess that includes peeling the "T" badge from the S515), they found out that this car was in fact, Imported from Korea. In Fact, this car, is just a rebadged Kia Sephia.
After they found out that this is just a Rebadged Kia Sephia, one of the ex-excecutive from Timor said that before they struck a deal with Kia, they also considering selling the cars from Lada and Khodro from Iran, but only Kia who willing to sell a car in Indonesia without their badge. Kia sold the badge-less Sephia to Timor for 7,700 USD, and Timor get at least over 15,000 USD of profit for each car. That's just insane.
Also, apparently the Sephia that sold in Indonesia is under-equipped, becuase in most market, Sephia comes with Airbag and ABS, while the Sephia in indonesia hasn't. To make things even worse, to pretend that Timor made some cars, they import a used Kia machining facility, when they claim that machine is "The brand new and advanced manufacturing facility".
In his defense, Tommy Soeharto said that the car were made in Korea with Indonesian labor. But that claim is rather misleading, and Timor was taken into WTO court in 4 October 1996 after the Japanese claim a lawsuit. The Japanese won, and in 1997 Timor declares bankruptcy.
In it's last days, Timor still able to sold 58,000 cars, although most of the profit is gone. The factory still exist until today, and there's even some incomplete body panels inside, the same bodypanels that they used to show their production process. There's still a Timor Fans Club in Indonesia called Parkir Timor, and some people still loves this car, despite all it's flaw.
Used Timors also still sought after by some people in here, mainly to be used as their first car. Neverthenless, Timor cars is a very interesting chapter in Indonesia car history.