In Nairobi, many mechanics are notorious for taking advantage of their customers' ignorance.
Meet super mechanic breathing new life into wrecked cars
I restored a wrecked Toyota Crown in just a week - Wilberforce Wendo
However, Wilberforce Wendo is not your average mechanic. He is a rare gem in this field which seems to have been taken over by brokers with little knowledge of the trade, making a killing from ignorant vehicle owners.
In an interview with Pulse Live, Wilbertech, as he is commonly referred to by his peers, narrated his journey from living in the streets of Nairobi to breathing new life into many vehicles that roam the very roads he slept on.
He said his hustle mentality started when he fled home as a teenager due to harassment from his stepmother and never looked back. His father who used to work in the military had married a second wife in the city.
He went from flipping chapatis at vibandas in Gikomba to learning how to repair electronics before graduating to bending motor vehicle parts to his will.
While Wendo still attends to car repairs, such as engine fixes or bodyworks, he says the best use of his time is when clients task him with restoring vehicles that would have otherwise been dumped as unusable.
“As we speak I am in Mpeketoni working on a small lorry that was dumped more than 12 years ago. The owner asked me to come down to the coast and restore it,” he said in a phone interview.
Saloon cars and passenger vehicles which Wendo is used to, often take him about a week but this new challenge should take his team about a month. After that, he will head to Malindi to tend to another vehicle since word already went round that he was in at the Coast.
To vehicle owners and those shopping for new wheels, Wendo is a Godsend Tony Stark who turns into Iron Man as his Roysambu garage.
It is there that he takes the cars apart and reassembles them as if they were mobile phones in a repair shop in Luthuli.
His last project in the city was a Toyota Crown which had been involved in an accident and completely written off by its insurance company.
“We bought the salvage car from a local insurance company at a throwaway price and restored it. It cost the owner less money to rebuild the car than it would have to buy it at a yard,” the mechanic said.
He ripped apart the car’s interior down to the metal and cut it into pieces to dispose of wrecked parts and replaced them with new ones.
Wendo assesses the level of damage done to each car brought to him and through his vast network of dealers, buys the spare parts that need replacement. Whether it’s something as small as a spark plug or as big as the chassis, Wendo will get it.
Other than restoring wrecked cars, he also does modifications at his clients’ requests.
The self-taught mechanic also gets high in his own supply, to mean that he drives a Honda Stream which he restored at half the cost for a new car.
“My biggest advantage over other mechs is that I understand all the components of the job from engine work, panel beating and wiring. Many of them j It’s important to understand that in this new age of automatic cars, problems are more than just mechanical,” he explained.
Wendo is indeed more than an everyday car expert. Moreover, he never let his lack of formal education get in the way of his passion.
He represents thousands of Kenyans with requisite technical skills acquired from experience over time.
The government is finally addressing the plight of many ‘Wendos’ with no formal education but have acquired the skills in various fields such as construction, as well as the jua kali sector which is key in Kenya’s industrialisation efforts.
In June 2021, President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered the Kenya National Qualifications Authority (KNQA) to come up with a framework under which youths in the Jua Kali sector can be awarded certificates based on the skills they have acquired at work and without having to seek formal education.
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