x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Chevrolet Impala: Restore and order

This Abu Dhabi car lover is totally dedicated when it comes to revitalising a classic car.

Marzooq al Mansoori won two awards at the Downtown Dubai Classic Car Show this year with his restored 1959 Chevrolet Impala.
Marzooq al Mansoori won two awards at the Downtown Dubai Classic Car Show this year with his restored 1959 Chevrolet Impala.

In 1959 the US saw some eventful changes. The Barbie doll was launched, Buddy Holly died in a plane crash and Alaska and Hawaii became the 49th and 50th States. However, it was also the year that this Emirati's own piece of Americana - the Chevrolet Impala - rolled off the production line in Detroit. Marzooq al Mansoori's second generation Impala hadn't fared too well over the years. As a classic car enthusiast and restorer, he has since put the sparkle back into the cat's eyes and the bite into the bat wings of this award-winning Chevy.

"Everyone should have a hobby," al Mansoori says standing proudly by the Impala, the second and most recent Chevy he has restored. "For me, I like classic cars. You can easily pay US$20,000 [Dh73,470] for a fully restored and maintained car, but that is no fun." Al Mansoori, who had earlier completed a restoration of a 1947 Chevy Thriftmaster in 2007, instantly fell in love with the Impala when he spotted it on the internet. "I like the design and its shaping," he says. "I like the chrome. It is a beautiful car. It is not like the later muscle cars. They have power but I don't like the design."

When he had it imported into the UAE in January 2009, it was far from a serious head-turner as he showed me the pictures of what the car looked like when it first arrived at his Mussafah workshop. The Impala's engine was barely working, the chrome skirts rusted, the fuel tank was rotting away and the bodywork a rather bland pale green. Inside, the upholstery of the seats was ripped. However, these days it is not as challenging to restore cars with genuine parts as al Mansoori reveals.

"Luckily you can find everything you need to order on the internet so you don't have to search for spare parts with any real difficulty. If you have a friend there too to check the parts, it helps. I tend to use many companies," al Mansoori says, showing me a file containing every invoice for both of his models, which he adds is useful if he is stopped by the police. In addition, he even owns the original manuals to both the Thriftmaster and the Impala.

He started his project by completely rebuilding the 3.9L Blue Flame inline six cylinder engine first, mounting it back on to the chassis. He then replaced the rotten fuel tank before renovating the bodywork and then spraying it, in his own trademark colour, a quite dazzling cherry red. Even inside, he matched the colour scheme on the dash and seats, while sitting there in pride of place is an original "seeking" radio unit.

But how does it drive? "It is an easy car to drive. I don't drive it above 100kph anyway, but that is because it is fine for cruising. I have driven it on occasions for more than 200km and it runs well," al Mansoori says, adding that he does use it often during the week. Amazingly, his second project was finished inside a year, in time for this year's Downtown Dubai Classic Car Show. "I worked on it nearly every day. You had to fight me to stop, because I wanted to finish it. It is a challenge," he says.

The hard work paid off. It blew the judges and public away, winning two awards; the Emaar Award and the Public Choice. "It is always the aim of starting these projects to win awards," he says. "Winning the Emaar Award was good, but it makes it all worthwhile when members of the public see what you have done and recognise the car." And it is little wonder why the public voted for al Mansoori. The sheer enthusiasm, and the dedication to documenting the progress of each project, he has towards his two Chevrolet's is incredible.

However, he doesn't have any plans in the near future to restore a new car. He hasn't quite finished with the Impala just yet as his next, albeit small, step is to put on the original window and check-list stickers - something most motorists take for granted. After the interview, al Mansoori kindly offered me a lift to my next appointment. Sadly though, the Impala remained under the covers. Instead he used his Toyota Land Cruiser.

After swiftly reversing past the Chevy, using the Cruiser's built-in rear camera and parking sensors, he quipped: "Now don't get me wrong. I do like technology in cars, sometimes. "When the temperature is 45°C, the Impala's a/c is not good, you have to be comfortable." He then checked the sat-nav and drove off leaving behind one of the most unique cars here in the UAE. motoring@thenational.ae