As a boy, Christopher Odhiambo loved cars. He was keen on their structure and slowly started building his own replicas using wires.
He never thought he would go beyond building facades to a point when he would modify actual cars as a source of income.
His workshop in Namuwongo, Duratech Polymer Limited, is noisy and it is for a creative reason. He is carving out metals and fine-tuning decorative parts before he changes them into a car. He started motor vehicle modification or pimping as it is referred to in the car world in May 2012. He says he was keen on motorcar magazine and MTV’s Pimp My Car.
“I wanted to do the same but incorporate some of my own ideas. I have a number of books of particularly Japanese car manufacturers and pimp masters. I look at their designs and pick ideas and form something unique,” Odhiambo explains, adding that the cost of pimping a ride depends on the amount of materials used.
Godfrey Ssegujja is in a similar business.
“Car modification is a mechanical art and process that starts from research on what can be done with a particular car, mechanical analysis which involves the mechanical condition of the car, strength and performance in relation to how much can be added on to such a car such as weight, size, design and so on, proposing new designs or conceptualising, coming up with various sketch work developing 3d models where necessary before coming up with a conclusive design,” he elaborates.
Unlike Odhiambo, Ssegujja additionally does panel beating, buffing, finishing and professional artistic car spraying and car stickers’ application. Ssegujja runs a company called UG Rides which he says gets its name from the fact that their primary market is Uganda.
He says UG Rides has trains people and also occasionally brings on board some practising professionals from the auto-mechanical fields. A few are direct from the university such as students attached to the College of Engineering Design Art and Technology (Cedat) Makerere University. At his garage, you can observe a level of expertise as it is partly automated with mechanics up to their job. Annexed to it is a metal workshop and there is a lot of interdependence between the two companies. The fabricated metals are some of the materials used in pimping the cars.
Where ideas come from
Namunye says he is a self-taught decorator while Ntwatwa says these are skills picked from Nakawa Technical Institute where he was able to interact with a tutor who had had a working stint at one of the vehicle manufacturing plants in Europe.
He taught Ntwatwa how to spray vehicles and put final touches to car during the mechanical process. This is what he does at their garage. Namunye does the panel beating and the decoratives on the cars.
Odhiambo gets his ideas from car magazines. Over time, he has been documenting his works in a photography album which he says he shares with customers as proof that he can do what he says he can. The plus for Ssegujja is that he is a professional artist. He is a graduate from Kyambogo University where he specialised in use of multi-media which he has been practising since 2006. In the last two years, he has acquired knowledge on use of fibre glass.
“Later, I got the idea of using fibre glass for car modification after some fibre job that was done on my brother’s car but seemed non-satisfactory to me as an artist. However, this raised questions about how far I can take this with my artistic abilities and education. So from there, I was oriented on how the process is done using fibre glass by my brother Peter Ssegujja who is a professional mechanic,” the artist explains.
Ntwatwa, Namunye and Ssegujja work on a car depending on how big it is or how much work it will require for them to put accessories. Its condition is also an important factor to consider when talking about time. “However, if it needs major work like full body modification, it can take about one month plus whereas for smaller extensions, for example, snookers, spoilers, lower lips, side skirts, can take one or two weeks,” Ssegujja adds.
Finding the materials
Odhiambo buys his materials from Henkel in Namuwongo which deals in metallic items Namunye and Ntwatwa say they get theirs from Kisekka market. Ssegujja orders his materials online. Some of his suppliers are in Nairobi. He also gets some local suppliers, for example for paint.
All these car pimp mechanics say they do not have a uniform price to their work because different cars and customers call for different parts and accessories. However, what is common among them is that they are creative and are the reason your car could stand out of many.
In Wandegeya, two young men have also niched out a career in beautifying cars with accessories. Daniel Ntwatwa and Godfrey Namunye decorate and add music booming boxes. The car radios are connected to the speakers at different points.
SOURCE: Daily Monitor