By Geoffrey Nyarota
HARARE – The Hummer H2 Limo Transformer may be the first vehicle of its kind in Zimbabwe, but it most certainly is not the first one in the world, contrary to claims to that effect by the vehicle’s importer, colourful Harare businessman, Phillip Chiyangwa.
The exotic behemoth, which Chiyangwa claims burnt a $500 000 hole in his pocket, graced the front page of Wednesday’s issue of NewsDay.
The spectacularly designed limousine imported by PC, as he calls himself in a video clip created to herald the event, arrived in the country a week ago. In today’s parlance the video has gone viral on the social networks.
“The Transformer is the first one in the world, the first one in Africa and the first one in Zimbabwe,” Chiyangwa boasts in the video.
A quick google-check reveals, however, that his claim cannot be sustained by the abundance of facts and pictures posted on the Internet over the years. There are dozens of various versions of this exclusive rental limo, popular with birthday, bachelors’ and wedding party revellers in places as far apart as California and Dubai. The following text accompanies the picture of one such Transformer posted on the net on Monday, October 10, 2011:
“Modified by a rent-a-limo service, this Hummer H2 Limo Transformer is most certainly a party on wheels.
The 24-seater is fitted with extra floor space, extra legroom and extra seating, three jet doors, disco floors and ceiling with stand up head space, a stripper pole and three plasma screens including a 50-inch display. Sounds better than most nightclubs.
“Also included in the H2 Limo is a smoke machine and a 3500W sound system,…with a rear outside patio providing extra party space. If you want to experience the tricked out inside of this super-sized limo, you’ll have to cough up the $2 400 rental fee. Or, you can settle for this video from Diamond Limo NY.”
Chiyangwa promptly resorted to his legendary bragging rights when I called him on Wednesday to congratulate him on his latest acquisition.
“It’s personal to me”, he said of his eight-wheel, triple-axle stretched SUV. “It’s my personal limo. It’s like my personal jet. At that cost I can’t let it out to other people.” Chiyangwa said he had purchased his vehicle from Exotic Limo in the United States. A marketing person at Exotic Limo Builders, in Fairfield, Ohio, said yesterday that such stretched limos, sitting up to 50 people, were normally sold to the highly profitable limousine rental sector for hiring out to parties and weddings.
The American said H2 Limo Transformers were no longer being built. General Motors had discontinued production of the Hummer. The only way a Transformer could be built now was in circumstances where a client purchased a used Hummer H2 and brought it in for stretching and customising.
He said such used Hummer would cost between $25 000 and $40 000. Stretching and customising would entail an additional $100 000 to $150 000. If this was the route followed by Chiyangwa, shipping and customs duty would have brought the total cost of importing his vehicle to about $500 000 the only alternative would have been to buy secondhand.
“If you see my Transformer passing in the opposite direction at night, you will make a U-turn to find out what just passed by”, says Phillip Chiyangwa, a man not usually given to modesty, to describe the outlandish personal car that adorned the front page of Wednesday’s NewsDay.“The car has everything,” he said, “It’s a moving disco.”To prove his point Chiyangwa immediately emailed the invoice for the purchase of his Transformer. While the purchase price is not indicated the invoice features the finer points of the lavishly appointed vehicle, along the same lines as the New York-based Diamond Limo Transformer earlier cited.
Chiyangwa already boasts of ownership of a Rolls Royce, a Bentley, an Aston Martin DBS, an exotic Lamborghini, with an even more exotic Bugatti Veyron said yesterday to be on the way, three Mercedes Benz, including an S600, a regular Hummer, BMWs and two Jeeps – “one for me, one for the wife”.
Back in 2001 or 2002 I was one of the lucky few people invited by Quest Motors to test-drive BMW’s first SUV, the X5 when it first arrived in Harare.
The franchise-holder had brought in six of the then ground-breaking BMW for demonstration purposes. I was paired with PC to drive one of them out to Lake Chiwero and back. I was then the Editor-in-Chief of The Daily News. Being a journalists I had conducted research on the Internet about BMW’s latest offering.
Sitting behind the wheel of the magnificent sport utility on the outward leg of the excursion I pumped Chiyangwa with details of the vehicle’s performance and specs. On the return journey I sensed that my co-driver was truly entranced by the performance of the Beemer.
On arrival back at Quest I disembarked from the car. Not so PC. He said he was driving the vehicle home to join his then incipient fleet. Chiyangwa’s many fine motorcars have turned heads wherever he drives them. His Transformer is destined to turn even more heads, but I have a feeling that it could be for totally different reasons! NewsDay