We would like to properly introduce you Henri Mikkor or Panda, the super mechanic for Slowball. A little modest at times, he knows his Slowball cars well. Knows where to find them (the buying), knows how to prep them for the road and knows how to fix them when they break down on the road. He fixes the cars in a little town of Rapla. He moved there because he prefers the peace and quiet of a small town. One day, we invited him to the office to have a little chat with him, so that we all could learn a bit more about him and Slowball. This is what we asked from him.
Before we even get to Slowball questions … Why does everybody call you Panda?
(Lauging) It was a long time ago. When I still worked in Taxify. I worked there for a year.
What is your main job? I mean, in addition to being a mechanic for Slowball.
I install ventilation systems. I work from 9 AM to 4 PM. So, I have time to do other things, like Slowball.
What exactly do you do at Slowball? And do you participate in 2017 road trip?
I manage the cars. It means that I buy them, I fix them and also take care of the relevant paper work (car purchase agreements, registrations etc.). If there is a problem with the car, call Panda.
My main goal is to get the cars in sufficient conditions, so that they are able to run for the next 2000 kilometres. I often go to auto dismantling yards to find necessary spare parts. Also, Youtube tutorial videos help a lot in fixing the cars.
It is actually quite difficult to find such cars that are suitable for Slowball. Sometimes, I have had to race to the seller in order to get the car. I have even had speeding tickets for it.
I think the most fun part of my Slowball work is bargaining the car prizes. Only once, I wasn’t able to get the price down. The seller was from South- Estonia.
And, of course, I will participate in Slowball 2017.
How did you end up working for Slowball?
It all started with the friendship (edit: between him and Franke). I met Franke when we both worked for Taxify. Occasionally, I saw him driving Slowball cars. I became curious and asked about these cars. We started talking. Later, whenever Franke had a mechanical problem with a car, he came to me for advice. So, it ended up me joining Slowball in 2015. It was a kind of “friends’ deal” between me and Franke. Before my time, Ott Kartau did the work.
Is Franke a good friend?
He is a fun guy, indeed. Fun to work with. I haven’t yet understood if the guy (Franke) sleeps at all (laughing). Knowing Franke means that, sometimes, your personal life has to wait. Forget weekends when Slowball is coming.
What do you think about art and crappy cars?
They match very well. An old car can be very ugly. But if you combine the two, mighty things start happening. I like it. In the city, Slowball cars turn heads – they draw attention.
In general, I have heard many opinions about the cars. Some have been negative. However, we can’t expect everyone to like the concept. It is all right.
There has been “crazy” people who try to stop the car in the middle of the road, in order to take a photo. Also, there has been many friendly light flashing and thumb-ups from passing cars.
Is Slowball your passion?
I don’t view it as work. It is more like a project to me. I try and work on Slowball as much as I can. Mostly in the weekends.
It is a hobby, an interesting one. Never a boring moment, something is always happening. There are some tough days, of course. But when these hard days are over, only good memories remain.
What is the funniest thing that has happened to the cars during Slowball trip?
Exhaust pipes fall down, heaters explode, pipes break, oil leaks … I remember a Saab that was blowing smoke throughout the whole trip but it survived till the end.
What is the funniest story about buying a car?
Well, at first, Franke was the one who went to buy the cars. Once, it happened so that a seller spoke perfect Swedish, so the whole deal was done in Swedish and Franke did not need any help with it (edit: Franke does not speak any Estonian).
Also, I have noticed that older people do not seem to trust young car purchasers. They look at me kind of suspiciously. Like expecting me to deceive them or something.
I have also had trouble with dogs. When a seller lives in private house …
Also, some cars come with huge piles of papers, like when the cars have had several owners etc. And once, I could not buy a car that I wanted because the owner had died. Legal inheritance issues blocked the whole deal. I learned from the experience, so now I know how to deal with this kind of hurdles.
I have also had a rather lucky police encounter. Namely, I was driving a Slowball car. A police officer stopped me. Luckily, he did not ask to see car documents (edit: not 100% in order yet). Instead, he became interested in Slowball project, so we started chatting about the car and art.