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Workers in Ghana bring car back to life

Wrecked cars litter a neighborhood of Accra, capital of Ghana.

Any mumble – the local work for crash damage – can be stretched, hammered, straightened, cut away, molded, welded, ground, filled and sprayed. A special media report on the Internet reports from Ghana about local people’s efforts t recycle damaged cars. Call it recycling, call it ingenuity. Even if the passengers couldn’t be saved, the car always can be. “Whatever happens to the car, we’ll be able to do it,” says Foley, 50, a veteran “straightener.”

The Odawna neighborhood where the motor repairmen work looks like a giant graveyard for cars, stretching as far as the eye can see. Ancient, crumpled autos – lights smashed, paint rusted, bumpers falling off, tires flat – are crammed together waiting for attention like a mob of patient cows.

Foley’s shop consists of a shed and a bunch of guys with hammers and chisels, some welding equipment and a couple of power tools.

One glance at the hopelessly broken cars and the buys with hammers, and the whole venture looks wildly optimistic.

But the sprawling neighborhood of the Ghanaian capital, Accra, teems with industry and purpose. Somewhere, a relentless tinny hammering rises. Shrieks of grinding metal shatter the air.

A curlicue of acrid smoke spirals lazily as a worker melts a plastic Japanese bumper using a heated chisel, smoothing the surface as carefully as a mother frosting a birthday cake.
In the paint shop next to Foley’s shed, a worker painstakingly covers the window and trim of a 20-years-old car with paper and tape. He has given the hood a shiny glaze of garish orange.

“There’s no car we can’t fix,” says Buckman, 58, who’s been in the business 35 years and has trained so many apprentices he’s lost count. After fixing the damage he “sparks” the engine, or starts it up. “I like the job. That’s the reason way I wake up early and come here to work on cars. When the engine gets spoiled, we dismantle it and fix it and put it together. When we spark it, I like that I have done a good hob.

With his round face, permanent smile and protruding belly, Foley says he’s a happy man.
Stumble into his yard and you find him lying next to a car with a welding torch in his hand. He leaps to his feet and drops everything to welcome a visitor.