Mechanic builds his beast for R50 000

2010-09-05 10:41

About 100km out of Johannesburg, in Hammanskraal, you will find a glimmering red beast with horns mounted on its bonnet.

The car’s body radiates in the sun with its white-and-pink leather roof canopy folded up – the glorious creation of local ­mechanic Masopa Mangena.

He doesn’t have ­professional training or a formal education.

Mangena is a self-taught ­mechanic who barely owns the correct tools.

“I built this Mangena multi-use vehicle using a drill, lots of body-filler and a hand-grinder.”

The 55-year-old is originally from Lephepane in Tzaneen, where he used to build cars from wheelbarrow wheels and planks from a young age. His
passion was revived when he worked for a prop-shaft company in Johannesburg several years ago.

“I would often watch the other guys working on the engines and I started buying engines from scrap yards and try to work on them at home in my spare time.”

Five years ago Mangena bought a damaged 5.8 V8 Chevrolet engine for R5000. He dismantled it, cleaned and fixed it. Since then he has spent about R50 000 creating his own car.

Mangena has been buying old cars from scrap yards for years just for the love of getting them running again. His backyard looks like a metal graveyard.

The floor of his workshop is covered with old engines and parts.

He owns a Chevrolet El Camino, an Impala, a Holden Monaro GTX and many more rust buckets he wants to fix up.

Mangena used the front end of a 1968 Mercedes-Benz and the chassis of a Chevrolet El Camino for his car’s middle part and the doors. The rear is his own ­design, for which he used a bed frame and the back lights of an old Ford ­Fairlane.

He hot-wires the car to start it up. The battery is in the rear of the car with a sound alarm.

As I took my place on the wobbly red-and-white leather passenger seat, Mangena folded down the roof to shield us from the sun. A piece of metal ­represents the gear lever from the ­automatic transmission, none of the instruments in the ­cluster work and the interior’s floor still needs carpets.

The car roared into life and off we went – for a home-built car the drive was relatively smooth.

Brimming with pride as the people on the streets cheered him, Mangena held on to the roof with one hand out the window.

“Once this car is done, I will hire it out for weddings at R750 a day,” he said.

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