Philip Dradrio Asedri drives a Volkswagen Kombi Type 2 previously owned by two other people; a lady who then sold it to Lwanga, from whom Asedri bought it a year ago.
Asedri’s 42-year-old Kombi runs on a 1600cc petrol engine with a fourway manual transmission; it has four gears and one reverse gear. It has no radiator. This means the engine cools itself from the airflow within the engine. This explains why the engine is positioned at the rear end, just like the older model VW Beetle. It also has unique chrome-plated side mirrors.
“When I did restoration, I added a smart sound system with a touch display screen on the dashboard. I also added well balanced speakers all around the car,” Asedri says.
Based on the modifications Asedri carried out, the Kombi caters for the driver and co-driver and one back couch seat that sits three.
Originally, it was a camping van that had a bed at the rear. Upon restoration, the bed was removed.
New number plates
Originally, the T2 Kombi had UVT number plate series. But while transferring ownership of the car, according to Asedri, he was told the Uganda Revenue Authority policy of vehicle transfer meant the vehicle had to be captured in the new system with new number plates. It would also ease acquiring of third party insurance stickers that capture the owner of the car, yet the original number plates were in someone else’s names.
“The trend of being pushed to the wall to change the original three figure and three digit big number plates is killing the heritage, originality and aesthetic look of the classic cars including mine. Imagine a 42-year-old vehicle with number plates that are two months old?”he asks. “These vehicles will never be manufactured again and it is better for authorities to let classic cars retain their initial number plates because they are a living history that will attract tourists,” Asedri explains.
Cost of restoration
The Kombi was just a moving car when Asedri acquired it. Some of the major restoration works he did were to scrap the entire interior as well as give it a new coat of paint. The side mirrors were not only imported but he also had to do a thorough check on the engine and gearbox and apply respective brand new oils in each.
“It was a quick buy and a quick fix. I had to patch up holes in the body and those that had developed beneath the car due to rust. When you have a classic car, there is always much to add or repair anytime. Restoration is not a one-time job but rather something done every day. When I look at something I like and I believe it will look cool on the car, I add it. Classic car restoration is a hobby and passion,” Asedri adds.
Service and maintenance
Unlike most, if not all latest cars, a Kombi is not your regular vehicle where you drive into any fuel station and drive away with a serviced car after driving 5,000km. Its service is done out of intuition; carry out checks on the engine and gearbox oils regularly. However, the most important service routine for the Kombi is engine oil.
The other challenging bit about owning the Kombi, Acedri says , is sourcing for spare parts. Beyond just the few that are sourced locally, most of the Kombi parts have to be imported from the UK and the US.
“I do not get brand new parts locally but I get used ones that are in good condition. With classic cars, sometimes you will not get the exact part you need but have to repurpose what you get to serve the intended role. I have fortunately not repurposed any part in the Kombi in the one year I have owned it,” Asedri notes.
“The Kombi shares certain parts with other Volkswagen cars such as side mirrors and headlamps. During restoration, Asedri advises that you have to be innovative. For example, if you cannot find the original engine of the Kombi, you have to go with what you can find on the market but fine-tune it to serve the purpose you want if it can fit and sit in the engine bay well,” he adds.
Priceless classic car
Beyond car restoration being a hobby and passion, Asedri says the Kombi is also on the market for as long as he receives the right offer. The highest offer he has received was Shs22m, a figure he says was below the expected threshold.
“I spent more than Shs10m on restoration alone without factoring in the cost of the car that was transported from Nsambya where it was bought from to the restoration workshop. I can only accept anything between Shs35m to Shs40m. The time and money and passion you put in to restore the car cannot be calculated and this is what makes classic cars unique,” Asedri explains.
He has driven the car from Kampala to Jinja, a distance of about 80km, and back. Performance-wise, a Kombi is a car that will give you between seven to 10 kilometres using one litre of fuel.
Classic versus latest cars
Technologically, Asedri says the latest cars are advanced compared to the classics. The latest cars, he argues, have millions of changes, including sensors, that should they ever fail, you may even park the car because the repair is not always quick.
“The design and development of classics is mechanical. They are more reliable over the years that you can drive the same car for over 50 years with the same engine when it is serviced well. You cannot say the same with the latest cars that come with soft bodies and more fragile parts that are often light,” he concludes.
The Kombi is a car Asedri drives any day; but on average, he drives it once or twice every 14 days.