Sunday Okpere: Driving Made-In-Nigeria Cars Vision With ‘Rock Car’
“IT is rugged alright,” he exclaims. That is Mr. Sunday Okpere, Automobile Engineer and Chief Executive Officer, Stone Automobile Company, introducing what he calls ‘The Rock Car’. “Rock Car is the functional vehicle he has made for himself using local materials,” he says.
He took this reporter on a surprisingly smooth and comfortable ride in this vehicle that is not quite finished from his office at Rumens Road, Ikoyi, to Falomo roundabout. “The car is made of 100 per cent local raw materials and contains everything that a vehicle needs to run,” he emphasises.
He says he is still working to improve on the job, as he points at the roof, which is held together by reinforcement iron. According to him, he would put the padding and cover also.
Okpere explains that the engine of the car weighs 2.0kg while the speedometer is 160, noting that “it economises fuel.”
He adds: “It took about five months of labour to put it on the road; it took that long because I was employed by another company. The money to buy materials was not always there too. But I was determined and so worked between the hours of 7 o’clock and 12 midnight to make it possible.”
Explaining how he finished the ‘Rock Car’, which is made in Nigeria, he says that it has been a passion.
“It is dream seed which I nurtured for a long time and I asked the Almighty God to guide me. But it is natural gift. I was making toy cars for my friends in my hometown, Uromi, Edo State. It was equally this passion that made me to learn how to repair vehicles at Hope Motors. I spent eight years there,” he notes.
He explains that he later worked as a supervisor at Tag Amour Nigeria Limited, a division of Amour Group of Companies, Victoria Island, Lagos. He left the Amour Group to set up Stone Automobile Company. He says the experience he got repairing armoured vehicles like bullion vans by straightening mauled engines and repairing them helped him in building the car from the beginning to the finishing. “But I am creative by nature,” he maintains.
He also displayed the design of about 30 vehicles he expects to make in the future. But the toy he says is his favourite is a miniature old Bristol vehicle, which he has made a complete vehicle of.
“It weighs 25 kilogrammes and is remotely controlled. The only difference is that it cannot carry a human being.”
Inscribed on the body of Rock Car is the message: “A question of attitude.”
Attitude indeed! The vehicle may not compete with the Hummers, Lexus’ and the Jaguars, but it attracts enough attention. Okpere notes that people come to admire it and ask if he could make one for them.
But the greatest challenge he and his business partner and friend, John Olujimi are facing is that of funding and procuring engines. But he says they are working on a project to manufacture a mass transportation vehicle. He explains that it is the same design as the National Agency for Poverty Alleviation (NAPEP) vehicle.
“But we have made it four wheels to adapt to our roads. It will be able to take nine people including the driver. What we need is sponsorship. If the government can give us a trial, we can produce 50 mass transit buses that everybody can afford.”