Born and raised in Dubai to parents from Mumbai, India, 28-year-old Abhay Potdar clearly has the desert in his blood, having worked as a professional dune basher to the delight of hundreds of shrieking tourists. Abhay's passion for driving began when he worked as an Arabian Adventures safari guide for two years. He jumped at the opportunity to try out for the position and enrolled in a week's training, where only some of the drivers had the skill to pass the test.
"I was quite nervous on the first day and completed the drive OK, but then I got lost on the way out of the desert," he recalls. "Thankfully we had a landmark - yes, a landmark in the desert. We followed the blinking light on the telephone tower and kept the fence to our right and, thankfully, got back onto the main road."
Claiming he has never had a bad experience while off-roading, Abhay does recollect a very near miss. "There was one incident when a car was stuck in front of me on a blind spot and, when I swerved to avoid it, we fell into a deep sand pocket and another car stopped only inches from my car," he says.
Like many non-Emiratis brought up in the UAE, the now exhibition sales manager has a heartfelt appreciation for the country, with his main interests being taking long drives, camping and off-roading. Of course, Abhay has also picked up another great UAE passion - for cars - and, in particular, the 1980 Camaro Z28 he bought last month.
"I've always had a thing for retro American muscle cars and I'd been looking around for one for several months when I stumbled across the Camaro - I was stunned at first sight. The previous owner asked me to come and meet him at a location near Sharjah Airport to see the car. I had been hanging around there for 20 minutes when the car drove into the parking lot and I couldn't believe that a car older than me was so well maintained," he explains enthusiastically.
Having found his dream car with a relatively low 200,000km on the clock, Abhay has been driving it sparingly, clocking only a few hundred kilometres since buying it as he uses his Mitsubishi Pajero as his daily driver. "The Camaro has really made an impression on my work colleagues, as every Thursday they look forward to getting a look at the car since this is the only day I drive it to work," he says proudly.
And Abhay enjoys the attention the classic Camaro receives from friends and strangers. "When my friends first saw it they wouldn't believe I had actually bought this car, with some hanging around the car for a good hour, admiring it inside and out. People are always taking pictures of the car on the street, which is funny as I remember in my younger days doing exactly the same thing," he says.
The first day Abhay showed his new car to friends in Karama, some Emiratis began asking him how much he would sell it for. "I was like - hang on guys, I just bought it," he laughs.
"Since buying the Camaro, I'm now looking forward to parades and meets to discuss more about cars from the generation. Last Friday was my first parade with Jebel Ali Cool Car Klub (JACCK) and it was a great experience to be among other car enthusiasts," he adds.
When not showing off his Camaro, Abhay still arranges regular trips to the desert to spend quality time with his friends and partake in outdoor activities.
"Having worked as a desert safari guide I really developed a close relationship with the desert and regularly take the initiative to arrange off-road trips with my friends," he says.
Abhay's first car was a Chevrolet Cavalier, followed by a manual 1995 Honda Accord, then a 2008 Altima, so the enthusiasm for the Camaro and desire to protect it is understandable. "I haven't taken it out of Dubai yet and try to avoid gravel roads and speed bumps as much as possible. The fastest I've driven it so far is 160kph - but I'm sure it can do much better," he says.