x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Former farmer holds onto his roots with Land Rover LR3 V8

My Car Scotsman Sandy Stirling has driven his share of expensive performance machines – and we don't mean Ferraris – but reliability and safety drew him to the Land Rover.

Sandy Stirling wrote off two cars on his first solo drive after passing his test as a youngster, so his father had good reason to not let him near his Daimler Vanden Plas V12. Satish Kumar / The National
Sandy Stirling wrote off two cars on his first solo drive after passing his test as a youngster, so his father had good reason to not let him near his Daimler Vanden Plas V12. Satish Kumar / The National

Having swapped rural life in the cold and bleak north-east coast of Scotland for the sun-bleached shores of the UAE, some might think former farmer Sandy Stirling would be experiencing both a climate and culture shock. However, the big man from the stormy fields of Arbikie Farm, just outside Arbroath, Angus, is thriving. He works across the emirates as business development manager for commercial fit-out company The Interiors Group, though he still retains a little piece of his farming home with the car he drives: a Land Rover LR3 V8.

Stirling bought the LR3 for reliability and safety, rather than passion, as his heart lies with something sportier (his favourite car is an Aston Martin). "We have offices in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, so I need a reliable 4x4 with good visibility for the commute. I'd much rather have something smaller, but I feel it's too dangerous here," he says. "I guess my choice in some ways reflects my 12 years farming. I grew up with Land Rovers and Range Rovers, but also surrounded by sports cars my dad wouldn't let me drive, including a Lotus and a 5.3L Daimler Vanden Plas V12, which went like a bomb."

As it transpires, Stirling's father had good reason to keep his son away from his favourite toys, as Stirling wrote off two cars on his first journey after being handed his licence. "I passed my test and borrowed my eldest brother's car to drive out of the farm on my first solo run," he recalls. "I pulled out from a junction located near a bad corner in the road where we used to bring the cows in from the fields for milking. A car came around the corner at the worst time and I jammed on the brakes but it skidded across the wet road and careered into the oncoming car, smashing a huge 'V' in the front of it and leaving both vehicles beyond repair. Fortunately, the other driver was on the farm hoping to sell something to my dad and he didn't call the police. In the end it was an accident - no one was hurt and my father sorted everything out financially as part of the deal. Really, I believe he bailed me out as he found it so funny."

The gregarious 39-year old sports enthusiast isn't overly impressed by the proliferation of supercars on the UAE roads, having grown up driving Dh2 million vehicles on his father's farm. "I used to operate combine harvesters, which really are incredible machines - just imagine having such valuable vehicles sitting unused the entire year, to be brought out only once during the harvest. It's comparable to owning two Ferraris and only using them for six weeks of the year," he laughs. "The only problem was that I would sometimes work from 7am until 3am the next day in order to get the crops cut - staying awake was a real test of character," he adds.

You would think the UAE, with its excellent off-road driving, would be the perfect terrain for a man from farming stock - who used to milk 250 cows at 3am to cover his staff's holidays and who grew 30,000 tonnes of crops each year - to put an LR3 through its paces. However, when asked whether he takes it off-road, he replies with his quick wit: "Why would I take her off road? I'm Sandy enough."

Stirling proceeds to explain the roughest treatment his LR3 receives is when he throws his sweaty rugby gear in the back. "I love playing rugby and it's the most brutal sport I have played. I even have one international cap for rugby - turning out for Turks and Caicos, which is in the Bahamas, when we played against the US rugby team in Fort Lauderdale.

"My brother was living over there and, basically, I left Glasgow at 10 degrees Celsius to visit him and, the next day, I was playing at 33 degrees and 80 per cent humidity as they were short of players," he proudly announces.

It's likely this burly, ex-farming salesman could talk his way into just about any team.