Success and innovation sometimes come in small packages

This column published as "Size Doesn't Matter" in July/August 2021 issue

David Matthews / July 07, 2021 / 3 minute read
David Matthews

Model Linda Evangelista famously declared that when it comes to fashion supermodels, “We don’t wake up for less than $10,000 a day.”

Car modeling has never been that lucrative, but now a new breakout star is looking to rival those eye-popping numbers, at least on a pound-for-pound basis.

Her name is Mao Mao, and while she’s known for being catty, experts say they’ve never seen a more natural cat walk.

That’s because Mao Mao is a British Shorthair cat.

Her owner, who works in the Chinese automotive industry, came up with the idea to place Mao Mao on a vehicle he was displaying at a car show to create buzz. A crowd quickly swarmed, taking photos to share on social media, which also increased exposure for the vehicle.

Realizing that he was on to something, her owner began promoting Mao Mao as a car model. Today she’s a household name at auto shows, where her pouty face, nonchalant attitude, and extensive wardrobe allow her to earn up to $1,500 per day while barely lifting a paw.

Like any successful model, Mao Mao demands a certain level of pampering. She eats only the finest cat food, has four different beds and five scratching boards, and her wardrobe is entirely custom—nothing off the shelf.

Outlaw duo

What’s cute and adorable posed on top of a car can be terrifying behind the wheel.

This past June, two sisters woke up early on a Wednesday morning and agreed that it was time for a vacation. Today would be the day that they’d swim with the dolphins in the ocean.

The only problem was that the girls lived in West Jordan, Utah, about 900 miles from the ocean. And they were only 9 and 4 years old.

Undaunted, the girls got to work.

First they had to snatch the family car keys, which were hung in a place their parents believed was out of reach.

Next they had to sneak out through the basement using the only door in the house without a protective latch, and without waking their parents.

Finally, they had to figure out how to work the car, which proved the biggest challenge of all. Police believe they struggled for 90 minutes to get the car started, but they finally did shortly before 5 a.m.

With the 9-year-old behind the wheel and the 4-year-old in the passenger seat, the pair headed off like a tiny Thelma and Louise.

The girls managed to travel about 10 miles before driving over a median, sideswiping another vehicle, and then crashing into a semi.

Fortunately, the one good decision the girls made that morning was buckling up. Despite nearly totaling their parents’ car, no one was injured in the accident, but now the 9-year-old is on the police’s radar.

“This is a girl to watch,” police detective Scott List told NBC News. “When she’s motivated, she figures out a way, so it will be interesting to see what her future is like.”

Something new under the sun

Another motivated young person to watch is Emmanuel Mansaray, a 24-year-old college student in Sierra Leone.

Mansaray is concerned about the unsafe levels of air pollution in his home country, which increase the risk of asthma, heart disease, and even cancer.

So the self-taught engineer and inventor decided to do something about it.

For the past three years, Mansaray has been building a solar-powered zero-emission car made entirely from trash. He calls it the “Imagination Solar Car.”

Resembling a miniature milk truck, the vehicle’s body is built with woven bamboo and includes swinging doors, headlights, turn signals, rear view mirrors, and even a horn.

Mansaray made the engine himself with three gears for both forward and reverse movement. And powering the vehicle is a solar panel which doubles as the roof.

It wasn’t an easy road for Mansaray, who told the Salone Messenger that he struggled to find funding and raw materials, and was forced to scour the trash and repurpose his lunch money to get parts.

Mansaray hopes his sacrifice will inspire further innovation in Sierra Leone and give a boost to the economy.

Now he just has to be sure to keep the keys in a safe place.

About the Author

Matthews has been chronicling the unexpectedly humorous side of transportation news since 2000. The stories are all true.

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