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Mаry Mamyan

Built on His Balcony, Henrik Matevosyan's Award-Winning Homemade Car Still Going Strong After 30 Years

Henrik Matevosyan has been building cars for over 40 years. He has participated in several shows and tournaments and won on several occasions. Though he no longer builds new cars, he works on his award-winning automobiles and continues to participate in car shows around the world. 

The idea to build cars came after he visited the house of a friend who collects cars. He liked one of the models his friend had, took it, and decided to build the real life-size version. Though developing the design takes 4 months, he built the car in 2 years, naming it The Oror ("gull") because when its doors are open it looks like a bird. 

Mateovsyan's wife, Olga Davtyan, shows the covered balcony where the car was built and fondly recalls the years when their two sons were still young and her husband and his friends covered in dust and oil were trying out different car parts. 

Matevosyan doesn't like to talk a lot, but when he does, he doesn't digress from the topic of cars. He points to his wife and says, "Write an article about her, that she's withstood me for so long." Davtyan says she tried as much as possible not to interrupt his work and not to burden him with domestic concerns so that he could completely devote himself to his favorite task. 

Matevosyan built The Oror in 1981 on his balcony. He even kept the photos showing how the finished car was lowered from the balcony. In 1983, however, he renamed the car "Zangezur" because he was born there. Over the years, the colors of the car changed: it went from white to silver then green then black. Now it's red. Matevosyan is convinced that every color suits his car. From the day it was built, the car has driven more than 2 million km. During the Soviet years, Zangezur took part in nearly all automobile tournaments and won on several occasions. Matevosyan is a speed junkie and confesses that he would drive fast now too, it's just that he's "not allowed". His wife says he was a fan of speed in his youth as well, but now she is concerned about his health. 

By profession, Matevosyan is a mechanical engineer. He graduated from the State Engineering University of Armenia in 1975, and built his first car in 1970, which he named Vilso in honor of (Vladimir Ilyich) Lenin's 100th birthday. Prior to pursuing his studies, he built motorcycles. Asked if they rode a motorcycle together, Davtyan, who is from Karabakh, smiles and says: "I wasn't in the picture during the motorcycle years." Then her husband adds: "Their village was somewhere else; ours, elsewhere."

In 1985, Matevosyan began the work of building his last car. But because of problems, he continued the work only after 2009. He calls this car, which is also red, "Hodo" — a shortened version of his name. 

"Now there are so many things that you don't get as happy from anything. But at the time, those sort of small things brought happiness," says Davtyan. 

Along with all the medals and honors, Davtyan has kept all the letters that her husband received at one time. The boys who wrote to him were interested in the car, while the girls — also with the owner of the car. Davtyan says that though her husband often toured, she was never jealous: she was only happy that he was successful from what he himself made.

"What's the success in this? It's just a car," Matevoysan said modestly.

The busiest period of tours and successes with The Oror was between 1981 and 1989. Then, when the Nagorno-Karabakh War began, Matevosyan along with his colleagues begin to build buggies to send to the battlefield. First Defense Minister and later Prime Minister of Armenia Vazgen Sargsyan and former Minister of Internal Affairs of Armenia Vano Siradeghyan came to test the first cars. At one time, Matevosyan wanted to build airplanes as well, but he didn't get permission from the Soviet authorities.

Now Matevosyan is a pensioner, but he continues to spend most of his day in his workshop. Zangezur is parked there, but, unlike in the past, he rarely drives. Mateovsyan periodically works on other cars, while also thinking about improving his own car, making it more modern. But he no longer thinks about building a new car — "It's enough." In the past, there were fewer number and types of cars. Those who built cars had the advantage: they acquired a car and built it to their taste. 

In Matevosyan's opinion, the interest toward homemade cars that existed in the past has reduced greatly. At the time, it was a novelty, but then so many new and technically equipped cars were built that it's hard to amaze people with a homemade car. When Matevosyan took part in the 17th international exhibit Auto Exotica 2013 in the fall of 2013 in Moscow, there were only two homemade cars among all the cars on display, one of which was The Oror (now Zangezur). He's had many offers to purchase Zangezur, but he refuses to part with his creation. He now has an invitation to participate in the car parade in Abu Dhabi in 2020.

"It only remains for us to live that long," he says.


Comments (2)

Սամվել Ալեքսանյան Պ
Սիրում և շատ եմ հարգում նման ստեղծագործ ու ճկուն միտք ունեցող մարդկանց: Նամանավանդ, որ Հենրիկ Մաթևոսյանը մեքենաները ստեղծել է խորհրդային տարիներին:
I truly enjoy Hetq's English section. The articles are interesting and the language is lively and engaging. A cut above the rest of the press in Armenia.

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