As a child, Seng Rithy would squeeze onto his parents’ motorbike, competing with heaps of belongings for space, and hold on as the underpowered machine attempted to keep a straight line.
This memory motivated Rithy to invent his own alternative, and he recently manufactured two affordable engine-powered tricycles that cost close to the same as an average motorbike.
Though he has received several purchase inquiries, the 34-year-old, who is busy building his third model vehicle, says he would prefer to sell his vehicles only to people who test-drive them first.
On a recent day in his front yard, Rithy toiled away welding a metal frame around his latest tricycle, which resembles a miniature car. It was already equipped with an engine, steering wheel and tyres.
Born into a family which could not afford a car, Rithy remembers watching his parents struggle to keep control of their swaying motorbike.
“I was just about seven or eight years old. My parents couldn’t afford a car. We owned a small motorbike and they often loaded stuff and me along. The space was so small for us. I started to imagine what if we could connect two motorcycles together?” Rithy tells The Post.
His fantasising egged him on each day until two years ago when, with the support of local tycoon Oknha Srey Chanthorn and a little money from his savings, he started taking action.
“I started off with my own curiosity and by trying to learn from the internet, practising with my own car and motorbike. Figure it out, how it works, take it out and prepare it all by myself. Until I finally found what I needed for my invention,” he says.
Together with three apprentices, he created two vehicles fit for driving on the road and a third one is in the process.
“The two achievements were made as tricycles but the third one, we plan to make it four wheels,” he says.
The first and the second models have almost the same structure except for the size and the seats. The 110cc tricycle engine is capable of short journeys of up to 50km.
Unlike most tricycles, Rithy’s hybrid vehicles have two wheels in the front and one at the back. The new invention allows drivers to bask in fresh air streaming in from the side doors and windshield-less front. The comfortable seats guarantee a safe ride for up to four people.
“Who will believe that it’s just a combination of car and motorcycle parts, and solid enough to run on the national road?” he says.
Though it might be more suitable for sunny weather than rainy season riding, the vehicle was created with driver comfort in mind, unlike motorbikes, which give drivers aches and pains. The front of Rithy’s vehicle is made totally of car parts except for the brakes. The back of the vehicle is made from all motorcycle parts.
Rithy claims his invention is safer than tuk-tuks. The wheel at the back propels the tricycle forward and the two front wheels turn and brake.
“I have tested it. Even driving on bumpy roads, it still achieves balance. Sometimes, you don’t even need to shift the gear. It even saves a lot of gasoline compare to a normal car,” he says.
Rithy, whose day job is selling mobile homes, took three months to finish his first model vehicle.
“My first one is bigger than the second. There are four seats. If I were to sell it in the market, it would be around $2,500,” he says.
“The second is a little smaller and was made like a frontier car. It also can fit around three or four people. The cost would be only $2,000. It didn’t take me long anymore, just around one and a half months. I estimate the third one will only take me two weeks.”
This time he will use an engine up to 200cc, so that customers can drive it longer destinations, even across provinces.
He says he hasn’t sold any yet. His father uses one and Chanthorn, the tycoon who supported him, has the other model.
Nevertheless, many customers have continued contacting him to place orders. Some even bring cash to attempt to pre-order one to ensure they don’t miss out. But Rithy didn’t accept any of the offers.
He says when he finishes the third model, he wants customers to visit and test-drive it before they consider buying one.
“If they like it, they can purchase it,” he says.
He says he tried to make the price suitable and affordable for all Cambodians. The roughly $2,000 price tag is the average price for an average new motorbike.
He adds he will try to make smaller sizes because people say they mainly want to use it to travel to work over a short distance.
“They believe this is much safer than motorcycles,” he says.
Rithy’s journey wasn’t easy. Sometimes he couldn’t find the right equipment as he attempted to fuse a hybrid of motorcycle and car parts.
“I’ve failed quite a few times. Because what I’m doing is quite new to spare part shopkeepers. They are not familiar with what I need, so I have to order some parts from overseas, like the US, for instance.
“Sometimes, what I already have is not the right part. If it does not fit, I need to replace it again and again. It costs fairly a lot,” he says.
Rithy says the vehicles will last for a very long time because he uses good quality equipment, parts and accessories.
Besides his career and building hobby, Rithy, who is fascinated with odd inventions, has also built small canoes and mini air conditioners that can be installed in tuk-tuks.
Many people have given him good feedback, offered constructive advice and expressed a desire to purchase one of the vehicles on Facebook.
‘’I’m glad to have many people supporting me. I’m also trying to be flexible dealing with my customers, but admittedly I can’t fulfil all of their demands. If I can add it, I will. If not, I will explain to them that their demand is outside of my technical standard. It is a self-made vehicle, but it also requires suitable parts to balance itself,” Rithy says.
While he is excited to receive compliments, Rithy humbly urges people to invest in research and technology to catch up with developed countries.
“I believe we Cambodian people, the descendants of those who built the Angkor Wat temple, have talent. If we try hard and invest in research and technology for the future of our country, we can grow fast along with other countries,” he says.
“That’s why I’m willing to share and welcome those who want to adopt this skill. I’m eager to share what I know to all passionate people.”
For more information about Rithy’s vehicle, call 081 696 996 or 088 990 7777.