An indigenous innovator with the passion to build made-in-Nigeria cars has rebuilt a better version of the beetle Volkswagen car, and is calling on well to do Nigerians to invest and make the economy wealthy, boosted and better. BINTA SHAMA reports.
Can we meet you?
My name is Uchechukwu Eugene aka. Artman from a family of five with two gone and the three of us now left. I am from Abia precisely Arochukwu, I graduated with a BSC. In Economics from Imo State University. Married to the most beautiful and gracious woman with 3 wonderful children. I belong to ‘Abuja classic cars forum’, and ‘Abuja drifters’. Talking about my business, it is called Artman Autoz.
What prompted the innovation?
Okay, thanks and that is a question I’ve been waiting for. Yes, I started discovering my technical know-how at the a young age of 10. When my family relocated to Umuahia in Abia State from Imo State, I met with a new neighbour Ugo then we became very close friends due to similarities we had in creativity. He was same age with me, he built things I never saw before then, he had a bicycle and fixed his father’s car.
Everything about his talents and gifts attracted me to him, and I started building things with him, then I discovered how intelligent I’d been by learning things once and it sticks to me. I could figure out issues faster than him and it never made him jealous, rather it brought us closer and he talked about me everywhere both in school as we attended the same primary school, at home and even other social gathering. We had a dream that we will build a car from scratch when we grow up. Though along the run, we got partially separated because I went to boarding house during my secondary school days which made us miss out on a lot of things we use to do together. But that didn’t stop us from dreaming and focusing on our passion independently. I returned home, we continued from where we stopped. We even built toys, electric fans with bucket and different things as I could use things i see around me to build toys which I have taught my kids to do and they do the same. We Built toy cars for our friends and they paid us then, you can imagine the excitement we all had then.
The saddest part of my story with Ugo, was that during our mid-teens he started drinking a lot of alcohol and was always drunk to the extent that it caused a lot of quarrel between us that we started drifting away from each other gradually, then we started staying away from our dreams and vision and then without him as my ally on our creative activities, I lost interest to the extent that I did not do sciences in my senior secondary. I later lost the passion completely, until I graduated from the university and there was no employment for me, then I went back to using the gifts of my hands which is why you and I are discussing right now.
Please, tell us more about your invention?
As a child I’ve always had in my mind that i will build a car from scratch which will be my next project and it’s in view. Back to your question, I am currently restoring two classic cars, a 1970g wagon and a1975 Volkswagen beetle to it OEM form (the way they were when they were manufactured) which is what attracted this interview. I have converted some engine features like the contact point and coil to recent technology that now uses ignition coil, CDMI and electronic magnet to send the ignition sparks. That way, it will drive like the recent cars on the street without shutting down often as we know beetle use to do in the 80s and 90s then. These cars can go up and down as controlled, and I am proud and honored to tell you I made it. Customize vintage cars to current technology like push start, android. The designs I saw when I visited the United States. I decided to make SUVH custom jobs as it is not being done in Nigeria perfectly.
Any support from family when growing up?
As a child i wouldn’t say if they liked it or not but they were always praising me when i succeed with fixing something but not when I spoil something instead of fixing it. At the time I lost my Dad at the age of 14, my family financial status started facing challenges, then I started fixing things at home which would have cost my mum extra cash to spend. Most times, I fixed both electrical issues, generator engines and one day, my mum allowed me do a completely engine overhauling for her Peugeot 505 then. When I was in secondary school, I built battery operated hand fans, movable toy cars, and whenever i want to build or fix things, I look around me and definitely find something as a raw material to fix the problem, maybe something condemned or trashed out. Yes, like earlier mentioned, of having 3 kids. The first is a boy and the second is a girl while the third is a baby boy. My daughter the second one is 4years old and she can make boats and ships with paper, when kids are playing, she will be on her own experimenting with one thing or the other. I always tell my wife that my girl will do better than me. The Volkswagen beetle I rebuilt, was rebuilt and customized by me, both mechanical, electrical, fiber glass moldings and bodyworks/painting.
Any support or partnership?
I have approached a couple of people but they don’t understand very well where I was heading to because what I was explaining is not common. But since I started making customized cars I have not approached anyone yet, I just want my finished job to do most of the explanations. I intend looking for sponsorship or support and using this medium to speak to well-meaning Nigerians to come to the aid of young passionate Nigerians like me and invest to make our nation rich and advance her economy to greater heights. So my response to that question is that, for now no support yet, but I truly need a strong support no matter how little to keep the passion alive because such projects takes a lot of funding, time and investment.
Any challenge so far?
Of course yes, we all know that the major challenge in any given project is funding especially when there isn’t enough funding. Asides that, the challenges I’ve experienced is that trying to do it alone is impossible and so I had to employ people to help me do certain things but most times I give out jobs, they fail me because of lack of standards in their mind, we lack skilled workers with reasonable character and they can actually frustrate someone’s plan because of lack of skills
What next from here?
Hmmmm, that’s big but I have a ready made answer to that. My future dream is to build a car from scratch and the future which I have already started working at hand as I am talking now, I have already started putting things together, making drawings, measurements, measuring metal thickness, body alignments, stability management and so on. Soon, it will come to reality by God’s Grace, amen.
What’s your advice to young Nigerians and leaders?
My message to young Nigerians is this, they should have a purpose, invest more time in self development than pleasure, because what you become is what they will pay you for. If you deliver quality services in your area or career, you must be rich, it is just a matter of time but if you practice mediocrity, you can never stand out of the crowd because the rich will never want to patronize you second time. They should also try to learn more than what they were taught, spend data on Youtube where the best comes out and taught.