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Youth of the week: Nhean Leakhena


Angkor Car designer Nhean Leakhena. Photograph: Phnom Penh Post

Angkor Cars have quickly garnered a spate of international attention for their unique designs.

Nhean Leakhena, the 28-year-old daughter of Cambodia’s first domestic car designer, Nhean Phaloek, is the mastermind of design behind the series.

Given her father’s unique profession, Leakhena found herself drawing cars at a young age.

“I never learnt car design before, but my father gave me a paper and pen and asked me draw him cars,” she reflected. “I was young and I didn’t know much about design, but I got good at detailed sketches.”

Leakhena graduated with her Bachelor’s in Interior Design from the Royal University of Fine Arts in 2008. She designed her very first car, under the tutelage of her father, at the tender age of 18 – when she was in high school.

Since then, Leakhena has designed seven cars.

“My first design was only for my father, and I never thought about receiving outside support or recognition,” she said. “It’s interesting how things can change.”

When Leakhena designer her first car, she had many discussions with her father before sketching; as she explained, the design is constricted by available materials and the capacity of the vehicle.

She said that with her first design, she gave little thought to making it a modern car.

In 2004, Leakhena made the switch from a pen and paper to using a computer program for her designs. She said that using the program is not too tedious or overwhelming, simply, because she loves the creative process.

“I’ll spend half a day drawing sketches of a car, but that doesn’t mean it’s finished,” she said. “The design can be changed any time until the car is actually produced.”

The Angkor Car brand is a series of handmade mini-cars. The latest car uses an electric battery, instead of petroleum, and has a higher focus on built-in technology.

Both Leakhena and her father have recently cooperated with Heng Development Co Ltd for the production of the latest model.

“The latest model can help people save on spending when it comes to petrol, and the national economy will improve if more Cambodians start buying locally made products like this one,” Leakhena said.

In the future, Leakhena is looking forward to running her own design company.



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