"I get stopped all the time by people wanting to buy the car or just talk about it because it's so unusual," says Zoe Moore, a British graphic designer. "That's probably the main drawback of driving such a noticeable vehicle. You can't really miss a hot pink car on the roads." Zoe arrived in Dubai in 2004, and like many new residents, struggled to find a car within her budget. "I ended up looking in all the classifieds and being frustrated by all the promises of cars 'in excellent condition.' I wanted something I could go off-roading in, and in the end, I guess I just went for this one because I spent ages arranging to meet the owner - it was definitely an impulse buy."
The car cost her just Dh8,000, (including a spare, flat tyre) but since owning Rocky, as Zoe calls her car, she's invested more than Dh40,000 transforming the previously unassuming vehicle into a quirky head-turner. "I decided to do something with it on a bit of a whim after I had a small prang and it needed to be re-sprayed. "A friend had said how awesome it would be to buy a Jeep Wrangler and spray it pink, so I decided to do the same to Rocky. I'm not very good at having things the same as everyone else."
The car was first spray-painted candyfloss pink all over, a process which took about a week. "I went away on holiday to America the owner of a white car, and came back to a Barbie-pink car. The next thing was to replace the old tyres." Zoe spent around Dh5,000 on special desert tyres with alloys and then decided that what would really transform the car would be to turn it into a convertible. A roll cage, "part Wrangler, and part custom," was added for safety. "We removed the hard cover and got a custom canvas roof put in, then took out the back seats and replaced them with a Wrangler bench seat and covered the front seats in blue army camouflage canvas." The entire transformation took around six weeks from start to finish - a de rigueur set of fluffy pink dice on the front mirror was the finishing touch.
Almost immediately, the car started receiving attention. "Aside from people on the street, I also had interest from car magazines, who wanted to feature it. Also, I started getting business cards left on my windscreen and that still happens all the time. But I'm not surprised - it's such a fun car to drive and it looks the part, but with only a 1.6-litre engine and a max speed of 120kph, it's definitely a cruising car rather than something to drive fast in. That does make it very economical on speeding fines though!"
Over time, Zoe has had the engine and gear box reconditioned and a new starter motor put in, but her creative efforts were nearly thwarted when she realised she'd unwittingly broken the law. "I didn't realise at the time that you have to get permission from the RTA before changing the appearance of the car. I was driving it around for a while until it was time to renew theregistration, and of course they refused."
Luckily, after some tactful negotiation, the inspectors at the RTA granted the permission retrospectively. "They actually laughed when they saw what I'd done to the car." And it seems that Zoe's not the only unlikely fan of the Daihatsu Rocky. A friend in Hong Kong, who is a well-known car collector, also has one in his collection. "He's got Lamborginis, Ferraris, Porsches and other supercars. And a Rocky. It was his first car and he says they last forever."
But while Zoe's Rocky may live on for many years, it is with a heavy heart that she is selling her car. Her partner has just been given a company car with his job and she is taking over the wheel of his car, a 2005 Nissan Patrol. It is a matter of simple economics and practicality over sentimentality but Zoe will always have the memories of many an adventure in eye-catching pink machine. email@example.com