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Cambodian Amateur Car Maker Dreams of Greatness


In the backstreets of Phnom Penh, in a cramped workshop shared with equipment and old parts, a Cambodian man is chasing his vision of greatness. Nhean Pholet is not a trained mechanic, but this 50 year old is currently building the "Angkor 3".

Nhean Pholet:" I wanted to show my abilities. In Cambodia, we don't have a car industry so I wanted to see if I could do it."

He admits there's no design to follow. He's making it up as he goes along, but the results don't look bad. The shell - handcrafted from raw fibre-glass bought in the local market - looks even and aerodynamic. He says the 660 cc Mitsubishi engine should get it up to 80 kilometres per hour.

The car even has hi-tech touches. The ignition mechanism is an original - a hotel-style keycard, shaped like Cambodia's famous temple, Angkor Wat, which is the name of his car. Pride - personal and national - is very much the driving force behind this blind odyssey into the land of the motor car.

Hand-made it is, but on closer inspection, "home-made" might be a better description. The steering wheel and general trim could do with some attention, and the golf ball on a stick act as the gear shift. But the hardest part, he says, was the basic mechanics and his solution - trial and error.

Nhean Pholet:"It can be quite difficult because I'm not trained and I don't really know the techniques, so sometimes the car has a problem and I have to start again. After that I test it out. If there's still a problem, I have to do it overy again until it runs smoothly."

Nhean Pholet's original car , Angkor 1, has been driving through the streets of Phnom Penh for the past four years. With its sporty lines and pea green-- it looks sleek. On this particular day, one onlooker says the car is perfectly crafted.

Khieu Cola:"We don't need the big one because you see the size of Cambodian people, it's like me. I am small too. So, if I do this car it is very sweet with my body."

For Pok Chan Dara the Angkor 1 has a quality that no other car can match: its country of origin.

Pok Chan Dara:"Big or small, all kinds of car are the same. But, I really like this car because it has the name "Cambodia" on the back."

Now Nhean Pholet's dream is about to go one stage further. When he finishes the Angkor 3, he'll spray it gold and sell it - the first one ever to go on the market.

Nhean Pholet:"My idea is to start up an industry but it depends on money and on investment. I need technical back up. I can't do it alone. If I can get support, I can have my own factory making handmade cars. I want to see Cambodia build up a car industry."

By the time this car is ready, it will have taken a year to build and set him back $3000 USD. As for how much he will sell it for- it's still undecided.

Information for this report was provided by APTN.

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