Rugged Rangcar buggies

Rangcar buggies come in several colours
Born in Penang, Hassan Embi, the youngest of 12 siblings, lived several years in Canada to further his studies.  

On his return, he started a food business in Penang but decided to move to Johor Baru in 1995 to join his sister who had a successful bakery business in Taman Molek.  At that time, his son Muhammad Zulfaquar, now 18, was 3 years old.

Looking back, Hassan, 40, realized that he was living quite aimlessly probably due to his upbringing and family background. 

Their family home was not far from where the late P. Ramlee lived and his mother, Azizah, is believed to be the inspiration that moved P. Ramlee to write these lyrics: “Rupa kamu yang cantik, mata kamu yang bulat, membikin pemuda jadilah gembira…” in his song “Azizah.”  This song was immortalized in P. Ramlee’s first movie, Penarik Beca, “The Trishaw Man” in 1955.

In 2001 Hassan was introduced to the joys of riding Scrambler motorcycles and he discovered an avid interest in off-road adventure.  This started him on a hobby in buying and restoring second-hand Scramblers and at one time, he had 8 Scramblers parked in his house compound.  From baking cakes and cookies through hands-on learning, Hassan had quickly moved on to pick up skills in repairing and refurbishing Scramblers.

Buggy enthusiast test-driving a Rangcar buggy
Around this time he walked passed a motor exhaust shop in Taman Johor Jaya and saw what he described as quite an ugly contraption but it piqued his curiosity.  As he paused to look closer, he learnt that it was a buggy offered for sale at RM15,000.  Already keen on off-road adventure, Hassan wanted to buy it for his son and after calculating what he could afford, he made a cash payment offer of RM8,500 for the buggy.

The dealer not only turned down his offer but also threw him a challenge, saying: “Awak gila.  Pergi bekin sendiri!” (You’re mad.  Go make one yourself!)  With off-road adventure already coursing through his veins, he was resolute about rising to the challenge even though he had zero knowledge about automobiles.  So he approached his brother-in-law, a retired welding engineer with the Navy, who finally agreed to help him with his welding skills. 

Hassan Embi fitting seat into frame that's protected
by a layer of powder coating
Over the next 15 months, he worked with his brother-in-law in the latter’s workshop attached to the side of his house to build a buggy from his own design.  

With relentless determination, they worked together for up to 6 hours per week to complete his first buggy.  When he went on the first test-drive, Hassan was so full of pride that he described it as an incredible, out-of-this-world feeling!

He took out an ad in Motor Trader, a weekly buying and selling guide for new, used vehicles and accessories and received many enquiries. 

Finally he sold it to a foreigner residing in Malacca at only RM8,500 – the exact offer price he gave to the dealer for that buggy he wanted to buy for his son and which started him on this challenge!

This early success simply spurred them on to build and sell more buggies.  With some experienced under their belt, now it took only about 3 months to complete one unit.  Since selling that first buggy, they sold another 14 units in the next few years.

Rangcar buggies displayed at Hassan's workshop
One day Hassan discovered from the internet that buggy building is a viable industry because one unit of mini off-road buggy imported from Australia can cost between RM40,000 to RM50,000 per unit.  

He realised that if he cannot afford to buy one unit from abroad, other off-road enthusiasts would also have the same predicament.  This realization helped him to arrive at a decision to start a buggy building business so that more locals could share the opportunity to enjoy the pleasures of off-road adventures.

Kerangka” or “rangka” is the Malay word for ‘framework’ while the buggy is described as “kereta rangka” or ‘framework car’ so Hassan aptly named his product, “Rangcar.”  His business is registered as Perusahaan Otomobil Lasak which he fondly refers to in short as ‘Protol.’

Muhammad Zulfaquar showing the difference
between front and rear tyres
After more research, Hassan modified his buggy designs in a range of Rangcar buggy models that use imported tyres and Daihatsu engine and parts.  To preserve and protect the framework for all-weather use, it undergoes a protective powder coating process.  Now he and his team have shortened the production time to only 2 weeks for one buggy. 

“It’s so satisfying to see my dream turn into reality,” declared Hassan who believes that he’s the first, full-time registered buggy builder in the nation.  Since May this year, he has produced and sold several Rangcar Standard r660t buggies.  Now his 100% custom-made prototype Rangcar Standard r660t comes in a choice of yellow, red, blue and green colours for its body and bucket seats. 

“I hope to see Malaysia have its own off-road buggy manufacturer and in 5 years time, we can have road-legal Rangcar buggies,” said Hassan as he discussed his ultimate hope to supply to uniform groups for training purposes and possibly exporting to Third World countries.  To view Rangcar buggies, visit Perusahaan Otomobil Lasak located at No. 359 Jalan Kenanga 29/9, Taman Indahpura, 81000 Kulai.  For trade and retail enquiries, Tel: 012 – 4500 285.

A version of this article was first published in The New Straits Times, Johor Streets on 21 September 2010

More about Rangcar Buggies:

This was my view from the front seat of a Rangcar buggy
as Hassan took me on an adrenalin-pumping test-drive!


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