Omar al Messery wasn't intending to buy his limited edition Dodge Challenger SRT8. The thought of owning a prime piece of Americana hadn't entered his head until a car dealer friend called him one day and said: "I've got the perfect car for you. You simply have to take a look at it." In fact, until he gave in to the Challenger's considerable charms, Omar, 19, had a very Germanic car history. He had been driving a Porsche 911 for a couple of months which was "an amazing car, it handled like a dream," he said. And prior to the 911 he'd also owned a Cayenne and a BMW X5, as well as a high-spec 7-Series saloon.
"I wasn't thinking about changing my car and then I got this call and I went to my friend's shop and I saw this big orange Challenger parked next to these BMWs. "To be honest I was actually looking for a BMW M5. Then I saw the Challenger and I just wanted that timeless shape and the 6.1-litre Hemi V8. It just makes the other cars look really dull and boring," he said. The Challenger which Omar would subsequently call his own is a limited edition SRT8.
Only 6,400 models were produced by Dodge in 2008 and each is equipped with huge 20-inch wheels, bright red Brembo brake callipers, keyless entry and a full leather interior. All were snapped up in a matter of days when they were released in the US and Omar's Hemi Orange coloured example is number 1,493 of that limited run, according to the official plaque residing on the Challenger's dashboard. "So, I took the Challenger out for a test and it just scared me. All that power was crazy, the rear wheels were just spinning everywhere. I was completely shocked."
While out on his test-drive Omar, a finance student at the Canadian University of Dubai who splits his week between his studies and catching up with his friends and family in Abu Dhabi at the weekend, had a brief encounter with a Porsche. "This Boxster S came up alongside me and wanted to race me. We did and it was like he was in a Corolla," he says of the incident. However, despite winning that impromptu duel, Omar is more than aware that the Challenger needs to be handled with care.
"If you put your foot down you can be stuck, spinning your wheels, smoke everywhere. You have to launch it properly. The difference between this and a 911 is that the Porsche is a precision tool. "You can have a lot of fun with it on a track, but for just having fun around the city in a car that really gets your heart beating, you cannot compare anything to the Challenger," says Omar. And that is the attraction of the SRT8. While there may be better, more competent cars on the road, very few have the magnetic appeal of a true, thoroughbred American muscle car.
"The first day I got it I was driving to university and Land Cruisers and BMWs were flashing me to pull over and look at the car. It catches everyone's excitement. "Everyone wants to stop you and ask you about it. Other cars might have a better engine or more precision but the Challenger scares other road users. It just looks really evil. When I'm on the highway I just flick cruise control on at 120kph and I'll find all the cars in front of me just moving to get out of my way."
And while Chevrolet's latest muscle car and an updated Mustang are on their way to the GCC, Omar says he is unlikely to trade his pony car for any other. "I don't like the new Camaro - it looks way too modern. I never really liked the Mustang, except the Shelby GT500 - that car is just dangerous. I'm definitely more of a Challenger guy." email@example.com