Young Innovators Build Kenya’s First Jua Kali Limousine
Jua Kali Limousine: When best friends John Kinuthia and Benjamin Omache came across an old Nissan abandoned at their school teachers quarters’ car park, they began to toy with the idea of transforming the jalopy into a fancy limousine.
Less than 12 months later, the two students at the Nairobi Technical Training Institute have developed what would pass as the country’s first ‘home-made’ limousine, which partly relies on the sun’s energy for its internal operations.
“Some time ago, we were searching the internet, reading about cars when we stumbled on information that claimed limousines can be made by stretching a normal car.
It was curiosity to see whether this was actually true that prompted us to give it a try,” says Benjamin, a third year student of automotive engineering.
Armed with the information from the internet, the two buddies approached the owner of the car, who turned out to be one of their lecturers, John Wathanga, who agreed to help them turn their idea into a limo.
“Our lecturer, who is also an engineer, helped us design the car, after which we worked on it,” continues Benjamin, who says that they began to work on the vehicle in May last year. By applying simple technology, the two, both 21, have managed to turn an ordinary four-seater sedan into a luxurious eight-seater automobile.
“Initially this was a Nissan B14 with a 1600cc engine, but we cut it into two, stretched it and using galvanized steel, we transformed it into a limousine,” explains John, who, like his friend, is a third year mechanical engineering student.
When best friends John Kinuthia and Benjamin Omache came across an old Nissan abandoned at their school teachers quarters’ car park, they began to toy with the idea of transforming the jalopy into a fancy limousine. PHOTO| LEOPOLD OBI
After the car was cut into two halves, the two put aside the driver and passanger seats the bonnet, passengers’ seats and boot, and then used a sheet of galvanized steel to extend it before joining it together to form a long car that stretches to about 2.5 metres.
They then took the car’s window measurements to Impala Glass Industries in Industrial Area, Nairobi, and had the windows made.
“We then fitted the car with some steel bars to reinforce it,” John explains.
The students have also installed a solar panel, mounted on top of the limo to power the car’s air conditioning system, music and TV system, as well as lighting. This ensures that the car battery is not overworked.
They spent Sh1.8 million to build the car, money they received from their college. Two weeks ago, the two friends drove the limo from their college in Ngara, in the outskirts of the city, to Nairobi’s CBD to showcase it at the National Science Week at KICC, where they attracted many admirers with their sublime innovation.
The limousine made its maiden ride in November last year when they noticed “a few technical problems”, forcing them to take it back to the garage where they dismantled it and then reworked it all over again, adding two more coil springs and another steel bar to make it more stable.
The two have documents from the Kenya Revenue Authority stating that the vehicle is no longer a Nissan B14.
“We also have approval from the National Transport and Safety Authority, who made sure that the car is fit for the road,” says Benjamin. The duo have started making money from their car.
“So far, we have hired it out seven times, the functions all weddings. We charge Sh50, 000 per day when it is hired within Nairobi, while it costs more if the event is outside the city – cost is negotiable though,” says John, adding that two of the seven functions were in Nyeri and Meru.
Their tutor, Mr Wathanga, acts as the limo’s chauffer whenever the car is hired.
Buoyed by their success, the two say that they are ready to build other limos should potential clients approach them.