From backyard grease monkeys through to sleek, professional car customising companies, the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre was filled with anticipation as to whose ride would be judged the best. The collected petrolheads, chrome addicts and paint job obsessives had gathered in the capital for the Barbican Turbo festival. A total of 125 customised cars were in hotted-up competition for an assortment of prizes. It was tough for the judges to distinguish between the efforts of those who fund their car customising from their own pockets and the big companies.
As well as a wide range of trophies and honourable mention certificates, there were two ultimate winners - a professional "Car of the Festival" winner as well as a prize for the best amateur. Although, as show organiser Dan Anslow said at the prize-giving ceremony, there was nothing amateur about any of the cars on show. The winner of the pro section was Liberty Motor Sports, a firm of customisers based in Sharjah, with a pearly orange Cadillac Escalade featuring an interior tricked up with plenty of orange crocodile leather. In a nation overrun with indistinguishable SUVs, the orange Escalade is one that would certainly stand out on the school run.
The winning car among the non-pros was a rich red Ford Mustang GT owned by Ahmed Zayed. The judges were impressed by the retro-styling of the 4.6-litre GT with Anslow saying this machine "ticks all the right boxes." There were plenty of prizes awarded to other cars that were talking points among the crowd and judges alike. Perhaps the only rightful winner of the "Craziest Modification" prize was a chop-topped Hummer H2. This beast is a testament to the region's love of bling - the badges were decked out in crystals and the seats were upholstered in an eye-popping combination of tangerine suede and Louis Vuitton branded leather. The logomania extended to the Louis Vuitton print finding its way to the dashboard, steering wheel and gear selector as well as the seats. Despite the obvious attention lavished on this car, one passer-by wasn't impressed. "Are they diamonds? No! They're fake!" he declared when he spotted the crystal-festooned badge and quickly moved on.