El Coche Alteño

24 Mar, 2015 | Oliver Neal

Social issues and Enterprise & Industry

A Car from the rubble

El Alto, a place of wonder and endless opportunities to buy an array of products at cheap prices. I’ve seen nothing of the sort before. As I wander past the range of car parts on sale I ask myself: could I find everything I need here to make my own car? Am I up for the challenge? Let’s call it El Coche Alteño. 

Almost everything you’d need is on the greasy streets of the spare parts market in El Alto. You can find four doors for $100 altogether; seats at $20 each; shock absorbers at $45; wheels at $140 for four; and even an engine bed for only $30. The only thing you’d have trouble spotting is the chassis, as it turns out I may be the only person considering building a car from scratch here.
“You will struggle,” one mechanic told me. “We don’t have many chassis here. People mainly use this market to replace broken parts.”
The challenge appeared beyond me until I stumbled across a small garage called Osaka Motors. The chief mechanic, Victor Alanoca, told me; “We sell parts for Japanese cars – you can find almost everything in here, somewhere. It would take a long time. It would be difficult. But it would be possible.” 

Victor showed me into his garage and escorted me into a dimly lit space stuffed full of car parts. A sole pathway helped us move around, engulfed by hanging taillights and the smell of oil. I suspect there was some kind of order to it, secret to anyone but Victor. To me, the garage looked like piles of metal parts that were overflowing, but Victor says he can find almost anything in the heaps that were in front of me.
Parts for Hyundais, Nissans and Toyotas mix together. No-one is working inside. It’s more of a store for car parts than a garage per say - just what you would need to build El Coche Alteño .  

As Victor explains, “The difficult task would be making the pieces you find actually fit together. But many places don’t even know what parts they have.” This seems pretty clear from the way his garage is laid out.
Even if you succeed in the hunt, there is no guarantee that constructing your own car in El Alto would be cheaper than simply buying one. It would certainly be more time consuming and, if done wrong, potentially far less reliable than purchasing a complete car on the market.
El Coche Alteño [Italics], from the bodywork of the car to the engine, all the way to the smallest screws and washers, would cost between $7000 and $8000--depending on what sort of car you wanted. But the amazing thing is that by walking along one street in this city you have everything you’d need to make your Andean car vision a reality.
Or, alternatively, you can buy Victor’s tractor for $3000.


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