The original Range Rover is an undisputed design classic. When it was launched in 1970, it single-handedly invented a new genre of motoring: the luxury SUV and soon earned a place in the Louvre in Paris, displayed as an "exemplary display of industrial design". But to 28-year-old Emirati, Mohammed Al Baloushi, a 1976 model simply adds to his family's collection of classic Range Rovers used for their various adventures around the Emirates.
"We have a Range Rover group, my brothers, uncles and cousins are all part of it. We have different models and colours, and we all have them customised," says Al Baloushi. "We challenge ourselves within the group, especially in winter. It's a big group and we all gather to see who will reach the longest dune the fastest. We have many adventures within the group and these cars make the challenges better and more fun," he adds.
"Once we went to the desert and we were trapped in the sand, the only one that survived was my Range Rover and she helped rescue the others," recalls Al Baloushi, who works for the police force in Abu Dhabi yet hails from Sharjah.
Al Baloushi's says his older brother bought this car about a year ago, when one of his friends wanted to sell it for spare parts. "So we decided to get it instead," he says. "It is a two-door model and very rare for this region. This car especially is my main car. It is a manual classic and I love hearing the almost musical tone of the engine."
He installed a new sound system, re-upholstered the interior and added the missing Range Rover logo to the front of the car. But that was not all, as he explains: "I added a newer engine after the original one died. Finding the engine was a whole different story."
Other than this classic, Al Baloushi has another Range Rover and a new Lexus GS350, as well as a Chrysler 300. "My other Range Rover is a 1991 model, and I love it a bit more than this one. Only because the '76 is still new to me and I am not very attached to it," he admits. "I still did not reach an infatuation level, but I will get there. I think my father had the exact same Range Rover long ago. Maybe I got the love of these cars from him. Four of my brothers also have classic Range Rovers, all different colours and models. I am the only one with a two-door, though."
One of the main issues with classic cars in the UAE, as Al Baloushi states, is that they are hard to pass the renewal test for registration. "It is a big problem, there should be lessened regulations and specific standards for such cars. They are old and rare, and it is hard for us to take them to be tested when we know they will not pass," he sighs.
He recalls an old Range Rover that the family had, that did not pass the registration test. "It was a special customised car and had a refrigerator inside, which was unusual at that time. Its colour was also very distinctive, almost milky white.
"She was a beauty, and she was great but we had to abandon it and the reason was the registration. She was flawed and we gave it away to a farm owner who turned it into a convertible for his farm supplies," says Al Baloushi.
Another issue for him is the wind noise in the car, which he drives to work in Abu Dhabi from Sharjah, were he lives. He says the noise creates an "uncomfortable whooshing distraction" to him.
"It's an old car, its expected," he admits. "But other than that it is very comfortable. And I had a lot of people wanting to buy it but I always refuse. Its rare and I won't find one like it, not in a million years."
* Ayesha Al Khoori
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