Myan­mar’s own Henry Ford

The Myanmar Times - - News - KHIN SU WAI khin­[email protected]­

AF­TER read­ing an ar­ti­cle in a news­pa­per in 2013 about cars pow­ered by mo­tor­cy­cle en­gines in In­dia, 33-yearold in­ven­tor U Zaw Myo Oo in Meik­tila, Man­dalay Re­gion, was in­spired to build a tan­ger­ine-coloured sports car.

Within a year, U Zaw Myo Oo had suc­cess­fully built his first car pow­ered by a mo­tor­cy­cle en­gine. He be­came some­thing of a sen­sa­tion on the in­ter­net with his sec­ond car, which he used for his own wed­ding. He said he was still able to make his cars even though the gov­ern­ment de­cided in 2015 to crack down on the as­sem­bly of ve­hi­cles in in­dus­trial zones.

“I just want to do this. I’d al­ways wanted to come up with new de­signs and new ideas, so I pro­duced my third car,” he said.

The self-taught in­ven­tor’s first car, which was two me­tres long, a me­tre wide and weighed around 530 kilo­grams, was pow­ered by a 110cc mo­tor­cy­cle en­gine.

His sec­ond had a 150cc en­gine, and weighed 220kg, while his third has a 250cc en­gine and weigh 530kg.

He said he has great faith in the safety and re­li­a­bil­ity of the cars.

“I in­cluded a lot of things in my lat­est car. I in­stalled an MP3 player and an air-con­di­tion­ing sys­tem. This bad boy goes 70 kilo­me­tres per hour and has a range of 89km us­ing 3.8 litres of fuel. I used metal for the front and back bumpers in­stead of fi­bre­glass so this in­creased the weight and brought down the top speed. “It has a left-hand drive and a man­ual trans­mis­sion with seven gears. In fifth gear, the car can get up to 60kph. The sev­enth gear is re­verse,” he said.

“I in­vented it, from the first sketch to the fin­ished prod­uct. It cost me K1.6 mil­lion for the ma­te­ri­als, even though some of the parts, such as the steer­ing wheel and the tyres, are re­cy­cled.”

U Zaw Myo Oo said he started learn­ing ma­chin­ing tech­niques from his fa­ther when he was in the fifth grade, adding that his wife en­cour­ages him be­cause she thinks like he does. His wife even helps on tech­ni­cal is­sues be­cause she stud­ied me­chan­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing at a gov­ern­ment tech­ni­cal in­sti­tute.

He also ap­pears to have a pas­sion for cre­at­ing me­chan­i­cal things other than cars. He has come up with brick­mak­ing ma­chines, mix­ers, build­ing de­signs, and elec­tron­ics, among other things, by watch­ing in­struc­tional videos on the in­ter­net.

“I’m very pleased with my cre­ations. I was es­pe­cially happy when I got mar­ried in my sec­ond car. Some peo­ple marry on planes or ships in other coun­tries, but I man­aged to get mar­ried in a car I built. The pic­ture of that will hang on the wall of my liv­ing room for my grand­chil­dren to see,” he said.

“I want the cars to be man­u­fac­tured here. There are peo­ple who would like to buy them. The cur­rent one is re­ally pop­u­lar. Peo­ple want a car at an af­ford­able price in­stead of mo­tor­cy­cles. I want to sell them, just like the Tata Nano af­ford­able car (made in In­dia),” he said.

His lat­est set of wheels took seven months to build, and he says about 50 peo­ple have asked him about buy­ing it, sev­eral say­ing they would be proud to drive a car made in Myan­mar. He says some of those in­ter­ested in his car wanted to or­der one with an en­gine made in Thai­land.

“Since I have ex­pe­ri­ence now, it would only take around three months to build an­other if I have ev­ery­thing I need. It would be won­der­ful if I could make this a re­al­ity, but it would re­quire of­fi­cial ap­proval, land, a fac­tory, tool­ing, man­power and fund­ing. I’m open to the idea of a part­ner­ship with the gov­ern­ment or a pri­vate busi­ness,” he said.

U Zaw Myo Oo said he hopes that his son will be­come a civil ser­vant, as the me­chan­i­cal pro­fes­sion is very tax­ing, but he will sup­port his son no mat­ter what he de­cides to be.

The bud­ding Henry Ford is now mak­ing ar­range­ments to show his cars at an expo in Man­dalay and will also par­tic­i­pate in a crafts­man­ship expo held with Amer­i­can sup­port.

Photo: Khin Su Wai

U Zaw Myo Oo shows the in­te­rior of the car he built.

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