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. "