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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Creativity drives self-taught father-daughter team

Creativity drives self-taught father-daughter team

Nhean Leakhena finished high school in August. She will start university in October.

"I don't know what subjects I will take or what career I want later. My father

thinks I should be a car designer but I don't know."

She has no training or experience in design work. "I imagined it, the car, and

drew it. I didn't study any books on car design or use the internet. I took an interest

in anything about cars on tv, but mainly I studied the cars coming into the garage

and I got a little bit from many cars.

"The next car? We haven't discussed the design yet, but it won't be a 4-door

sedan because Cambodia is a poor country and there are not many spare parts. It might

end up being a 2-door SUV, something like that.

"But most of all my father needs a partner to get his car into production. We

really don't know what to do next."

Leakhena's father, Nhean Phalet, said he began thinking about building a car in 2000.

In 2002 he built the Angkor I. It took him only four months and $900 to finish.

Phalet said he has had no training and no previous experience with vehicles; his

only knowledge and practice comes from partly dismantling cars in order to clean

them. His education ended at Grade 1 in 1975.

"I even have difficulty working the remote control for the TV," he said.

However, he has an instinctive understanding of car construction.

"First of all, I studied how things fitted together in the cars of my customers.

There was a lot of trial and error; I tried again and again until it looked right

to my eyes as well as others, such as cleaning the gasoline tank, I tried to do it

five times because I bought it secondhand and it was rusty inside, I cleaned it until

it worked," he explains.

The electrical wiring took a week to complete. The Angkor II has nine electric servo

motors and Phalet painstakingly fashioned the complex wiring 'loom' himself.

Most difficult, he said, was the mechanical roof and front storage compartment.

"The reasons why I have difficulty with such things is because I try to build

a modern car like is available in today's marketplace; but my car is so different

from other cars. I built to show what I can do. I didn't copy from someone else's


"If I could create a lot of cars like this one, I hope I would compete with

the Daewoo Tico and beat it 100 percent. Because my Angkor II is modern, it's appearance

is handsome and when I drive everybody looks at my car. Both the poor and the rich

are interested in my car.

"It's difficult to build one car because I have to buy separate pieces in the

marketplace and be innovative and creative until it's suitable; but if I built a

lot of cars, I would have to find someone to build the specialised moulds. "



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