A 67-year-old retired bus driver in Greater Tainan has found a second career late in life: transforming unused oxcarts, a vehicle traditionally used by rice farmers, into vintage-style rickshaws that have attracted scores of enthusiasts and tour operators eager to place an order.
Chang Wen-fu (張文福), a former tour bus and truck driver, said he retired at the age of 50 when he felt his physical responses had started to slow down.
Shortly after his retirement, Chang established an automobile repair shop, but after about five years, he shut it down because it was costing him more money than he was earning.
At the time, traditional oxcarts were gradually being substituted by mechanical farm equipment and automobiles, and many of the now outdated carts stood idle by the roadside.
Chang started off his new career by getting unused vehicles from farmers and selling them to recycling stations as scrap iron for a small profit. Then, a convenience store chain operator walked past Chang’s collection of oxcarts and asked the former driver if he could convert one of the carts into a rickshaw for tourists to ride on.
Despite not knowing anything about design, Chang worked out a way to stylize the cart into what the man had requested.
“The human mind works better when the body is hungry,” he joked.
Chang’s work has not only won the approval of his first customer, but has also led to more orders from his community, the cinema industry and tourism businesses. He once sold four converted carts in one month.
Chang used to earn about NT$1,000 (US$33) for each car he modified in his former car business, which he said was not much, but enough for him and his 60-year-old wife to make ends meet.
However, with oxcarts become increasingly difficult to come by, it in turn pushes up the cost of the converted rickshaws, he said. The delivery times for his product now depend on the availability of the carts, he added.
“When there are no oxcarts left for me to buy, then I will be forced out of business,” Chang said.