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Township duo pimp R1.5m Maserati

Published May 11, 2015

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Johannesburg - David Gumede and Lesego Legoale were undaunted by the huge task at hand. But the brand name and the price tag that came with their latest experiment made their hearts skip a few beats.

The duo from Mohlakeng, west of Johannesburg, who audaciously turned old wrecks into “dream cars” by adding custom butterfly doors, were staring at a R1.5 million Maserati.

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They had long idolised supercars like this, so much so that they had used their old family cars as test cases, giving them “cosmetic surgery” to make them resemble the models so beloved of the rich and famous.

To their friends it all seemed a fantasy until they launched a car-customising company - White Wall Boys.

Their workshop in Nandi Street, Mohlakeng, is hardly recognisable as one because there are no signboards, but now their reputation is enough for car owners to drop in.

For years the self-taught duo stripped and chopped old cars, transforming them with outrageous “pimping” that earned adulation for the pair in the township and made enthusiasts gasp.

But nothing could have prepared them for the project they were given last month.

*Omar Patel, top executive at a multinational computer company, drove through the winding streets of Kagiso to the pair’s secondary workshop space, getting hopelessly lost in his Maserati, to find the duo he wanted to customise his doors so they would open straight up in the air.

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GUT FEELING

The lanky Gumede said: “When [Patel] called asking for a quote and he said his car was a Maserati, my heart skipped for a moment.

“I tried to phone around to find built-in kits for such a car, but there weren’t any locally. Finally I called a company in Hong Kong and they said they had a universal hinge for all supercars.

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“I went with my gut feeling, which simply said I could do it - it’s just another car. I got over the fact that this was a car worth more than R1 million.”

Although it was a gamble for Patel, he was confident about the results - although he told his wife he had taken the car to a workshop in the northern suburbs.

He said he had received three quotations, but couldn’t be sure that the workshops in Sandton would stick to his specifications or timelines.

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“I found these guys through a Saturday Star article from a couple of years ago on the internet. I managed to track down a cellphone number of one of the guys. I looked for them for about two days.

“I managed to find David, we had a chat and he gave me a quote.

“My main concern was taking the risk, but if you believe you have found trustworthy people to do what you want, then you just simply do it.”

TRUST FIRST

Driving his low-slung sports car on Kagiso’s narrow roads, with their huge speed humps, Patel was scared out of his wits.

“I knew I was going somewhere in Randfontein and that was basically it. The location was a concern and I said to David: ‘Listen if you need to sleep in the car (to ensure it’s safe), then take a blanket and enjoy it every night.’ Obviously there is a concern about bringing a vehicle of this nature to a township. But for me the most important thing was that these guys were a registered business.”

Instead of basing any judgment about the White Wall Boys’ ability on the location of their business, Patel chose to “trust first and make a judgment afterwards”.

“Sometimes (this approach) has burnt my fingers, but sometimes it hasn’t - like now. I took a chance. After three telephone calls, I brought the vehicle to the guys.

“To me it doesn’t matter that they are a township business unknown and struggling from month to month - their skills are what make the business.”

In the backyard workshop at the corner of Mzimela and Utlhanong streets in Kagiso, Gumede began stripping the white Maserati and chopping its body to make space for the hinges and hydraulic devices that would support the doors when they were open.

But with the smell of drying spraypaint wafting through the air, Gumede became worried. The doors were too heavy and the struts he had ordered couldn’t hold them up. He returned them to the supplier and replaced them.

“When I started chopping the Maserati to prepare for the installation of the hinges, I thought about the R1.5-million price tag,” Gumede said.

“But I knew it was going to come right. I resisted listening to the back of my mind. The experience I have had on many cars suggests this one was a bit of a walk in the park.”

KEEPING THE FAITH

Patel became nervous as the timelines shifted because of delays in securing the required parts to hold up the doors, but kept his faith in the duo’s abilities.

“I think it’s about keeping the customer informed about the cause of the delay if there is delay.

“It’s understandable that a small business is reliant on their suppliers. Suppliers can make or break your business.

“For me, it boiled down to the skills they had. It’s a specialised skill. Even the guys here who worked on the car don’t seem to realise that what they are doing is a highly specialised skill.

“If you do it often and day by day, you don’t realise that not anybody can do what you do.”

As Patel drove out of the township this week, happy that his Maserati was complete with gullwing doors, the sonorous sound of the exhaust reverberated through the eerily silent streets where youngsters huddled on corners.

There was a buzz on every corner the Maserati passed, but it wasn’t until it stopped near a high school and its doors flipped up that youngsters wrestled wildly with one another to take pictures of it.

Patel has advised Gumede and Legoale to look beyond their geographic location to grow their business.

“There is a massive demand for this customisation on vehicles, whether low-end or high-end,” he says. “There is a need in the market for it, but then again location determines your clientele and the value of the vehicles that come in.

“You’ve got to ask the question: How many owners of vehicles like this would be prepared to be open-minded and take the chance or risk associated in just coming here and dropping their cars off?

“In a country where we are so short of skills, it should be easy for the government or for these guys to approach the government to say this is what they are doing and can they be helped?”

A beaming Gumede declared: “I think with this car we have proved how far we can go and how capable we are beyond a reasonable doubt.” - Saturday Star

* Not his real name as the businessman wishes to protect his identity.

Related Topics:

Maserati

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