280kms per hr: Inside One of Kenya’s Fastest Hand-Built Car [VIDEO]

38-year-old automotive enthusiast, Calvin de Souza with his hot rod

A hot rod has attracted nationwide attention with viral videos picked from his Instagram page shared widely on other social media platforms. 

“It is a Rolls Royce,” one Tik-Tok argued while on Twitter, others debated that it was a Ferrari look alike. 

The beauty of it all is that the car is handmade, designed and built from scratch by a 38-year-old automotive enthusiast, Calvin de Souza. 

Speaking to Kenyans.co.ke on Wednesday, August 25, the Nairobi based designer detailed the inspiration behind Kenya’s fastest car that, he claimed, clocks 280 kilometres per hour. The test run was reportedly conducted by renowned rally driver Tejes Hirani, in a 5-kilometre speed test on GPS. 

Calvin de Souza's hot rod

Hot rods are typically old, classic, or modern cars that have been rebuilt or modified with large engines modified for more speed and acceleration. The trend started in the US before spreading across the globe. 

They are built lighter which makes them faster. Hot rods have benders on the bonnet and the engines are mostly exposed. 

The 38-year-old started building cars with his father as a hobby and took up the craze, building and modifying cars as a career. 

“I started modifying a few cars before I built the hot rod. I started experimenting with the vintage car, 1940 Willys military jeep, so that I could compete in 4x4 events synonyms with veteran rally drivers such as Ian Duncan. 

“The jeep attracted so much attention as I dominated some of the 4x4 events. So I shifted to racing. I built my first drift car, an Altezza, with the powerful supra engine in 2017, 2018. However, I got involved in a near-fatal accident that forced my family to ground me,” Calvin recalled. 

Then in his youth, the car enthusiast’s arm was paralysed for nearly two years. He also underwent a number of surgeries and therapy. Calvin believed that his career was over, but this was his turning point. 

“My family had seen enough of my stupidity. They grounded my car and a lot of dramas ensued too. Being allowed to revive my career was a chance to prove to my family that I can be responsible and still build nice cars. 

“That was where the dream for the hot rod started. It encompassed everything I wanted in the car that I used to visualise and draw since my primary school days,” he stated. 

Calvin assembled all the components from the crashed car to build the hot rod. He redesigned the suspension components and reengineered a new chassis to be better suited for speed and agility. The engine was from the Toyota Supra. 

According to Calvin, the car is tuned, has 600 horsepower (hp), but at one point it was about 880 hp. It is 5 speed, has a single turbo and a 3000 cc, 6 cylinders, twin-cam (2 JZ GTE) engine. A twin-cam engine has two camshafts per bank of the cylinder head, one each for the intake valves and exhaust valves.

Apart from designing the hot rod, Calvin has also modified several other cars, including, a white Mazda Miata, a 1940 International pickup that the British used during the colonial era in Kenya. 

Calvin de Souza at work

“In fact, the pickup left my garage today (Wednesday, August 25). We gave it big wheels, turbo, suspension and engine. Am also working on a Ford tractor that will have a V8 engine,” he told this writer. 

In March 2021, he started receiving clients who request modifications. He first assembled a VW Beetle, giving it a 6 cylinder 3600 cc twin-cam engine. 

“I always request that they allow me to be free and experiment with my creativity and outdo myself. There are a lot of Kenyans who pimp and modify cars but you have to understand your niche. 

“My main ambition in life is to show that creativity pays and to inspire those who are unable to go to school to understand that they can do a lot more with their life. We have creative minds in this country, but who believe that motorsport and building cars are for foreigners. I want to be driving on the Kenyan roads and see locally made creative cars ruling the highways,” he wished. 

Calvin added that he aspires to launch his own company and compete with Tanzanians and Ugandans who, he stated, are also experimenting with new techniques and modifications. 

“We were to showcase over 19 cars at the Concours d'Elegance 2020 and 2021 but the events were suspended when the pandemic broke out,” he stated. 

The 38-year-old further clarified that he was not related to media personality Eve D'Souza. “I get asked that a lot and always wonder if people ask her if she is related to me too."

Watch Calvin driving his hot rod 

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