x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Edd China's weird, wonderful and road-worthy creations cause a stir

A street-legal lounge chair is one of the weird and wonderful examples from a rather different fleet of vehicles in the UK.

The leopard-print Casual Lofa, the brainchild of Edd China, has been turning heads since 1999. It has a top speed of 140kph.
The leopard-print Casual Lofa, the brainchild of Edd China, has been turning heads since 1999. It has a top speed of 140kph.
It's generally accepted as a good thing if your car turns some heads, especially in the UAE. If you're driving down the road, and people look up and stare, chances are that you either need a tune-up or you've spent quite a lot on your car. Perhaps you drive the new Nissan GT-R, for example. That's millions, perhaps even billions of dollars of development, or maybe trillions of yen, all honed into one remarkable machine. Truly something to be proud of.
I have never driven a GT-R, but then again, I have never driven a car that has caused more stares than the leopard-print sofa on wheels. And unlike a GT-R, I can't imagine that billions went into researching this beauty, dubbed by its creator as the Casual Lofa. I came to be driving the Casual Lofa back in 2004 when I was involved in the filming of a rather staged prank show called Masaka No Mystery for Nihon TV, a Japanese TV channel.
Driving at a fairly sedate 50kph, I was honked at, flashed at, smiled and pointed at by children, and everyone seemed to be most entertained at the sight before them. The wind rushed through my hair with no way to stop it. And then it started to drizzle a bit and I was not entirely sure what to do without a roof over my head, such are the joys of driving a motorised lounge. With the Guiness World Record for "fastest furniture" at a chart-topping 140kph, the Casual Lofa is the speediest three-seater-sofa in the world. It sports a carefully hand-crafted Mars Bar handbrake, pizza-tray steering wheel, and neat little flower pots that serve as indicators.
Under the bonnet - or at least under the cushions - is an A-series Mini engine. But to the people like me who don't know a lot about engines, it just looks like a leopard-print sofa that's going rather faster than sofas usually do. The Casual Lofa is still on the road to this day. It is the brainchild of Edd China, who has made head-turning vehicles for almost a decade now, with the fine leopard-print lounge first hitting the streets in 1999.
He has parlayed his talent at turning traditionally non-roadworthy objects into vehicles into a business curiously named Cummfy Banana. I'm not sure which one of his bizarre fleet you could call your city runaround or your country vehicle. You have the choice of a shopping trolley that's about the height of a double-decker bus; a nice, comfortable four-poster-bed so you really can go to sleep at the wheel; or a toilet that you can sit on and happily drive along in full view of everybody.
I suppose a loo-on-wheels would make those lengthy traffic jams a little easier to deal with. When I was filming the Japanese TV show, we drove the motorised bed as well as the Casual Lofa around London's Piccadilly Circus. When the sofa broke down, it was a rather off-the-wall call for roadside assistance to the Automobile Association and we had the misfortune of being attended to by a mechanic who was devoid of a sense of humour.
Although fully road-legal in the UK, Edd is, perhaps understandably, frequently stopped by police. "My record is 12 times in a day," he says. Still this is no surprise - the police must do a double-take when something from their sitting room speeds by. Convincing Her Majesty's Constabulary that you aren't a loon who's a danger to the public can be a bit of a challenge, especially if you're sitting on a toilet in the middle of the a motorway.
Edd has no plans to bring any of his novelty vehicles over here to the Middle East. But I would pay good money to watch the friendly people at the RTA decide whether a four-poster-bed was safe for Sheikh Zayed Road. Forty winks down Emirates Road, anyone?
motoring@thenational.ae