Next Story

Part by part: Building a car enthusiast’s dream

Sultan Ka Khoo is one of the largest auto-parts marketplace in Pakistan and ‘the spot’ for car enthusiasts

By Khizer Asif |
PHOTO: Khizer Asif
facebook whatsup linkded
PUBLISHED February 06, 2022

There are well over 700 shops conducting business in Sultan Ka Khoo, offering every car part from shocks, engines and even car bodies themselves. No brochure can guide someone in finding the exact part they're looking for; this market is for the ambitious--borderline desperate. There is nothing that this marketplace can't provide, where the pieces range from the 1960s to the 2000s.

Chaklala, Glass Factory and Rawal Roads (there are way more), within these streets. You will hear chopping, serration and the heated bargaining between customer and sellers. The market is ubiquitous, with auto-parts hung all around the shops. So packed are these shops with auto parts, that it could fool a person into believing that the buildings were also constructed of them. Throughout the market, there are car bodies laid out. They are rusted and powdered with dust; these cars stay planted outside of shops like monuments. If this were a game of GeoGuessr, where you must guess your location after being dropped randomly in the world, it wouldn’t take long to discern that this is Sultan Ka Khoo.

The Humility in Sales

Sellers from Safi Market, a small section of the gigantic Sultan Ka Khoo, are tight-knit and friendly, even though they are business competitors. Waqar and Ahmed are attached to the hip; both sellers talked about their issues dealing with customers and the fluctuation of prices. Waqar has owned and worked in his shop for just over a year, but he has been working as a mechanic and auto-seller for the last 10 years. Ahmed and Waqar then talked about how Safi Market has been here for about four years, and throughout that time, they have been satisfied with the number of customers pouring into the marketplace. Yet constant change in prices of various parts, is their daily struggle. They share how a part could cost Rs150 to Rs350 — sometimes on the same day. This, coupled with the haggling from customers, worries both Waqar and Ahmed as they are dependent on making a profit from selling their services (parts and inspections), and breaking even on sales only worsens their concerns.

Muhammad Bilal is another mechanic and auto-part seller whose friends and business competitors are still cheerful about his recent wedding. His business hasn't been serving many customers lately, yet he perseveres. The shop once belonged to his father, who passed it onto his uncle, who then passed it onto Muhammad. Muhammad affirms that plenty of customers come through the market daily, and no one is deterred because of Covid-19 (nor taking any safety precautions) or the inflated prices. To him, these issues are part of the industry, and wishing for something else is pointless.

Abdul Muneer, a reserved seller at Safi Market, provides inspections, shocks and engines with an experience that is well over 19 years. Muneer started his career by being mentored in Pakistan. He then moved to Saudi Arabia, worked there for about 16 years and finally returned to Safi Market and has been here for four years. As with all the sellers of Safi Market, inflation has put a weight on their shoulders, including Muneer. Among the rest of the market sellers, he is more troubled with the low prices from customers, which barely breaks even. For Muneer, all the sellers in Sultan Ka Khoo are hard at work from 8 am to 9 pm, 12 hours a day, except on Fridays where they are closed or close early.

Going Beyond ‘Just a Car’


This market is like a playground for car enthusiasts. Every part they can think of is offered here dirt cheap. In Chor Gulley, childhood friends and buyers Shayan and Bilal are searching for parts for Shayan’s 1977 Datsun B2-10. The Datsun is their restoration project which, before becoming a project was parked outside, rusting and non-functional for the last 15 years. They've already installed a Toyota Supra gearbox and a Toyota 2ZZ engine with 200 horsepower.

Shayan, who proudly drove his multi-coloured 1969 Volkswagen Beetle, made the trip to Sultan Ka Khoo as his last bet in finding the parts he needed for his Datsun. Shayan felt confident that he, and any other buyers of 1980s car parts, will find what they're looking for in Sultan Ka Khoo. “Not only serving the markets of Islamabad and Rawalpindi, but this market actually serves the car demands of the whole of Pakistan. Especially the northern areas,” he says. “These sellers buy masses of these parts at low prices, which provides buyers, like myself, an opportunity to purchase these products at a low cost.”

For Bilal, this isn't his first visit to Sultan Ka Khoo, for he has been coming here for a long time, where his first visit was in 2003—19 years ago. He recounts his first visit was with his father, who was the reason behind Bilal’s joy for cars and subsequent development of his hobby: restoring and modifying cars. His first project on modifying cars was with his family’s 1995 Honda Civic, adding a D15B Dual V-Tec engine and other things, all coming from Sultan Ka Khoo.

The Sultan Ka Khoo that they’ll see now is nothing like it used to be in the beginning. Rumour has it that this auto marketplace started at Chor Gulley and that only a handful of shops were there—although still very crowded. In relation to the openings of new shops, he continues that the experience has also changed in this day and age of the internet. The inclusion of the internet allowed buyers, such as Bilal and Shayan, a vast amount of information to educate themselves on car parts; however, this was also a double-edged sword, for the sellers have also utilised such information when bargaining for their parts. Bilal vents his frustration with how, as a buyer, it becomes almost impossible to convince the sellers for a lower price on rare parts. “They aren’t desperate anymore,” is what both Bilal and Shayan’s view on the sellers of Sultan Ka Khoo, that they seem content with holding onto these rare parts knowing that one day someone will be desperate enough to pay for the market value.

Yet, both Shayan and Bilal agree that Sultan Ka Khoo is the best place for any restorer to find the exact part for their cars. Bilal expounds on the marketplace, saying that it is separated by the types of parts sold and based on their make (the year they were made). Chor Gulley caters for the 1980s make and models while places like Kacha Stop provides parts for 4x4 cars. The other sections of Sultan Ka Khoo have parts for vehicles made in the 1990s, 1970s and 1960s and the occasional 2000s. With the increased interest in restoring old cars, the prices have effectively increased too. So finding parts, such as for the Toyota Corolla KE70, Shayan and Bilal attest that it is popular among young drivers, having become scarcer to find with the right price. Shayan mentions how on the marketplace app, OLX would sell a working KE70 for around 4 lakh, but if a person spends the time to scour this marketplace, they could build the car from scratch for Rs200,000. It isn't a matter of if they have the part, but how much it'll cost—for most of these shops—the items on display are not all that the shopkeeper has to offer as it is likely they have a warehouse filled with more. With this reality, Bilal and Shayan advice for aspiring restorers is to research their project properly. If they have the funds to venture into this hobby, they will find any part they desire here in Sultan Ka Khoo.

Abdullah, another car enthusiast and restorer, has modifying cars since 1995, and his current project is a 2004 Mark II Grande. His first project, however, was on his first car, a Suzuki Cultus for which he altered the engine (he upgraded it to a G15 engine), the air intake and the interior; this car is still being used by him. When it comes to fixing his cars, while he likes to be hands-on with them, he also goes to Sultan Ka Khoo to have a mechanic deal with the more labour-intensive tasks. His goal with the Mark II is to treat it as a fun car by adding a 1UR FSE engine which was, in his words, “A big headache to source,” and now that the ‘fun side’ of his car project is complete, he’s looking to enhance the aesthetics.


Abdullah then talks about his version of Sultan Ka Khoo's history, saying that the first place of selling auto parts was on Factory Road, which (as the name describes) had a factory that specialised in auto parts manufacturing. Abdullah then talks about how Chor Gulley was at first an illegal chopshop that took stolen vehicles and dismantled them, then resold them. This reselling, Abdullah emphasised, was how the whole market started, and noticing the sale of auto-parts other people started businesses around Chor Gulley, growing into the giant it is now.

When asked about aspiring hobbyists wanting to get into car modifications, like every other veteran, he said they first need to do their homework. Just knowing the price is not enough, but knowing whether the part can actually fit into the car body that you’re adding it into. He also said to make sure that there is an invoice, an assurance that the part is not stolen and if any issues and that the part could be returned. A person should also avoid buying overused parts, no matter how cheap, it being overused may overshadow the benefit of the cheap price. Abdullah concludes his interview by saying, “The government needs to regulate the [overused] parts in this market, it puts people’s lives at stake. Using substandard parts while driving on the road and if those parts fail someone might lose their life,” he said.

Someone who focuses their hobby on a more competitive platform is Hamza S. (he requested his last name be initialled). Hamza has, for the last five years, been working in a racing team (not in a racing club) called Stance Crew. Where they have been working on a Toyota Supra, giving a list of parts that they have already equipped the vehicle with, such as a turbo, racing tires, an octane booster (assembled in Sultan Ka Khoo) and a 2JZ engine. Hamza's racing team only competes with other teams and friends, as there is no racing organisation that could facilitate their competitions. He discovered his passion for cars through his cousins, who are also part of Stance Crew, saying that their passion for cars resonated with him, which is why he also wanted to modify cars and race in them too. His crew and himself source their parts mostly from Sultan Ka Khoo and suggest that people be prepared before entering the place, as the sellers will know the market value for each item. It is also essential to know the people you are dealing with. Building relationships with the mechanics and sellers will help you get information on rare and obscure parts. Hamza is in a privileged position since his team are constructing the cars themselves, and that is through their collective experience.

Visit! –Undauntedly

The buyers and sellers here in Sultan Ka Khoo are passionate about their work, which may seem overwhelming at first, and the liveliness of the market can be confused with chaos. On the other hand, going beyond the face-value, this market isn’t just made of people there for necessity; instead, it attracts people who love cars that go beyond considering these vehicles as a simple machine. It is true that the market has had issues with dealing with stolen parts, yet this shouldn’t deter someone from visiting the place—if they take the proper precautions (like asking for an invoice). This market is not just a place for fixing that small dent on the side of your car, but it is an opportunity to enjoy more from what you already have. Sultan Ka Khoo is here to stay and will serve more and more people as it goes on. It takes a good eye to see beyond the rust and dirt, and any metal is shiny—you just need to buff out the rust to reveal its true value.