Turning ramshackle cars to stylish rides

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Tafadzwa Zimoyo Senior Lifestyle Writer
When a 16-year-old boy approached one car dealer looking for a ramshackle, the seller assumed he wanted to take it for breaking.

He thought the boy had somehow made his small fortune and wanted to make more money by selling car parts.

To the dealer, the car chosen did not have much value and the boy would not make much from the parts, so he let it go at a give-away price.

But that was the beginning of a colourful story that was to be told many years later.

It is the story of a boy who got crazy car ideas from movies and decided to try something on his own.

He seemed too young for the idea and many dismissed it as a crazy youthful wish, yet the story is now exciting.

The boy, Trevor Batsirayi Mabhutsu, is now a popular man in the capital for turning ramshackle cars into stylish rides.

He has also made a name for giving crazy looks to some of the flashy rides in town.

That ramshackle he bought at 16 made the first impact when he styled it into a head-turning ride. His touch has made him popular with celebrities and socialites who want attention-attracting rides.

Mabhutsu wanted to be a pilot, but his love for cars came when he started checking out “Jay Leno’s Garage” — a popular American car talk show — and “Pimp My Ride”.

“After being inspired by those series, I decided to be a classic car collector and restorer,” he explained in an interview with The Herald on Saturday Lifestyle.

“The inspiration of cars, especially the classic cars in particular, started at a young age. My father had an old 1959 Mercedes Benz Fintail, which was the first car I ever drove.

“So, since then it has been a passion to bring the old cars lying around back to their former glory.”

The young entrepreneur recently made headlines on social media when his ‘before and after’ images of cars that he modified went viral.

The 25-year-old car modifier said he started working with his brothers who are good at panel beating. With his passion from movies, it was easy for the pieces to fall into place.

“I ventured into the restoration business with my elder brothers who are very excellent at panel work and spray painting, but we parted ways in 2018 as each is following their own dreams,” said Mabhutsu.

“As a trio, we did one of our best jobs on a Datsun 120Y which became a sensation and an eye catcher to everyone who saw it.”

Though he is currently locked down in Cape Town, South Africa, where he had been contracted before the coronavirus pandemic hit the world, Mabhutsu’s garage is in Lochinvar, Harare. We started the business as a hobby,” he said.

“What we usually do basically is restoration and I specialise in vintage or classic cars.

“They take some time and patience as you would like to focus on detail. I usually take up to three months working on the model, while for a modern car it is about 10 working days. The models that I mainly restore will be those badly damaged in accidents.

“The difference is that we don’t only restore, but we add an artistic flair. One of the cars I have worked on belongs to socialite Olinda Chapel. We did her Mercedes C200 which we gave a detailed pearl black colour.

“We work with what the client wants. If he or she wants modest designing, we stick to that. If they want it pimped, that will be an extra cost.”

Growing up as the youngest in a family of five, Mabhutsu said his father taught him to be a “jack of all trades”, but he has stuck to his love for cars.

“The biggest challenge right now is that to do a job to full capacity does not come cheap, most of the clients do complain that the prices are a bit expensive and with this I end up taking jobs for less to survive. This lockdown has affected our work greatly, but we just try to be creative.

“My role model is Tinashe Mutarisi who is also my mentor and the supplier of the quality paints that we use. I have seen the way he works and how he grew to be such a big brand and hopefully following the same steps I will get to where he is.”

Mabhutsu’s favourite car is a 67 Mustang.

“I have had one, but it was very expensive to rebuild,” he said.

“Right now, the most expensive car I’ve ever done which I’m still working on is a Bentley 8.”

Well if you want your car pimped you need to part away with US$600 or more depending on the model. Mabhutsu briefly referred to the programmes that inspired him.

“Back in the early 2000s, a television programme hosted by MTV entitled “Pimp My Ride” inspired dreams in many young people — to modify a dream car with such inspiration and owning a car despite one’s background,” he said.

“The programme was hosted and produced by United States rapper Xzibit, real name Alvin Nathaniel Joiner, which ran for six seasons from 2004 to 2007 with each episode consisting of taking one car in poor condition and restoring it, as well as customising it.

“As a young lad, missing the show could be so disappointing, because tomorrow at school you would have nothing to show off or talk about.”