Ekasi youth invent a supercar

2011-07-02 13:44

A small business, run by a group of youngsters from a township in Gauteng, is in the final stages of building an ambitious supercar.

The firm, Tahaka, has manufactured the shell of a two-seater supercar aimed at competing with pricey international car companies such as Lamborghini, Ferrari, Maserati and Aston Martin.

Tahaka has dubbed its gull-winged­ ­vehicle Awethu and hopes it ­becomes a powerful global brand in five years.

“Awethu means we are using the strength of our minds instead of our hands to come up with a concept that will pull us out of poverty and make our country proud,” says Samora Malamule, the founder of Tahaka.

“Our aim is to specialise in producing hand-crafted cars on a small scale and, when the business starts booming, we will be involved in mass production and offer a variety of sedans, hatchbacks and commercial vehicles,” says Malamule.

Tony Twine, an economist with a ­penchant for the motor industry, has nothing but praise for these youths.

“This is the best news I have heard this week, mainly because the source of the creation is not some university engineering student or big company but a group of township youths,” says Twine.

He says the first sports car invented in South Africa was called the Dart.

“For the guys to come up with this initiative and get as far as they have done is an outstanding achievement and it doesn’t matter whether the project becomes a commercial success,” he says.

Twine is also impressed that the youth have manage to produce a gull-winged car.

“It is not easy to create gull-winged cars because it needs fancy equipment and straps,” he says.

Twine says the motor manufacturing industry is difficult to penetrate.

“Setting up plants, distribution and dealer networks takes a lot of time, energy and money. Very bold entrepreneurs have been defeated in the past,” he says.
Twine advises Tahaka to approach the Industrial Development Corporation for funding.

“I wish Tahaka every possible luck because they are going to need it,” he says.

Tahaka was started in 1999 when Malamule and his friends were still primary and high school pupils. When some of them finished matric and started working, the car moved from being just a design to being the real thing.

“We used the money we earned from our different jobs to buy spares, body filler and second-hand shells,” says Malamule. He says the firm has so far spent at least R500 000 on the project.

However, the road to building Awethu was not without potholes. Some of the youths’ parents were supportive while others were not. “I dropped out of tertiary education to focus on the project and my parents kicked me out of the house because they did not believe in the ­concept,” says Malamule.

But their parents started being ­supportive when they heard their children being interviewed about the car on a ­national radio station.

In 2003, Tahaka built an F1-inspired model from cardboard but decided to ditch the design for a better model. ­They started building another car in 2007 but it too was not completed.

“The second car was a complete failure, it did not look good,” says Malamule. “In 2008 we started manufacturing Awethu and so far we are happy with the product. The only thing that is left is to produce an engine and suspension.”

He says their failures while building the car have taught them not to give up.

“No matter how many times we fail, we will always come up with a new car concept. We believe that in the end our brainchild will succeed,” he says.
Tahaka hopes to have a prototype of Awethu running in one year.

“We want to perfect the design and have a car that is on the streets by next June,” he says.

Malamule says he and his colleagues were inspired to build supercars because they are crazy about cars and want to carve a niche for themselves in the vehicle market.

The firm has added 10 more partners who are skilled in making car engines and suspensions. Tahaka’s workshop is based at a house in Buhle Park near Germiston on Gauteng’s East Rand.

Should the firm become a roaring success, as its founders believe it will, they will attempt to create electric-powered cars from internal combustion engines.

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