A big part of the local automotive experience in Dhaka are the car decoration shops spread out all over the city but localized at Bangla Motor. They play a significant role, but the question is, should they? For someone who knows what he is doing, walking into the average car decoration shop in Bangla Motor is an unnerving experience, being surrounded by so many useless trinkets with ridiculous price tags and full of customer swindling potential. A house of horrors, these shops are nonetheless very popular among the uninformed and the unaware.
Why are they so popular? It’s nearly impossible to find space immediately where your car can be worked on comfortably, so how is something that is nearly universally shunned by “those who know” this in demand?
It mostly has to do with what most owners want to do to their cars after purchasing them. Whether bought brand new off a gleaming show-room floor or after a grueling haggling process via Bikroy, any new owner of a car wants to give it a personal touch to make it stand out of the crowd. It might have something to do with Bangladeshis’ preference for dull, silver, basic Toyota‘s, but it’s generally true that most owners will take their cars to Bangla Motor or any other “car decoration” shop immediately after purchasing a vehicle.
Everything goes downhill from that moment on. Without access to properly designed parts and tasteful options, the owners say yes to pretty much everything the shop tries to push their way. From useless trinkets such as chromed out signal light covers to wing mirror covers to tacky plastic spoilers for the roof and bootlid, literally anything and everything goes. Neons? Sure, why not, let’s be transported to early 2000’s Hollywood, pretend to be Paul Walker in a riced out Mitsubishi Eclipse. Fake, Chinese, barely there speakers for your sound-system? Amplifiers that in reality, provide half the advertised power on the box? Halogen bulbs for your headlights which will melt and ruin your headlight casing after a hot day? Or maybe you’d like some fake brake caliper covers so your car’s brakes can melt the plastic and make a mess of your hubs, bearings, calipers, and pretty much anything that moves down there.
It’s not all bad.
Bangla Motor has certain places, which if you take the time to explore properly, will yield some surprises. Avoid the glittery shops with all the crowded fronts, they’re the scammers – head to the back alleys of Bangla Motor and you’ll find the guy who will fix any of your electrical work and help you keep your original equipment running forever. Want an aftermarket sound system? Buy it abroad or order online, bring in the parts yourself, and fit it with the help of the bargain dealers. If you need to re-do your car’s entire interior, you’ll find the master craftsmen who do work fitting for high quality classic car restoration jobs in Dhaka, so they can probably tackle pretty much anything you throw at them. These people will do the work for cheap, but provide the highest quality you’ll get in Bangla Motor. If you DO need to spend money on your car at Bangla Motor, scope out these people and these deals and avoid the mainstream shops who’ll sell you a plastic can with some paper stuck inside it as an “ishports air philtar” for 3,500 Taka. If you must interact with these people, do nothing more than getting your windows tinted – the most amount of work these shops can handle and execute properly.
Or, better yet, do these yourself. Youtube and online automotive forums have a huge cache of info you can dive into to learn how your car works and where everything is. With some basic training from the internet, you can wire your own speakers, install a reverse camera, do your own window tints or even fit that bootlid spoiler you’ve been dreaming of. It really doesn’t take all that effort and the margins of error are pretty slim with basic work like this. Plus, you’ll feel like you’ve accomplished something when you work on your own car and install something that works and you use regularly. You develop an emotional connection to the car, and that is priceless.