x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Grown like the master

Sixteen years of modification have turned an ordinary Honda Integra into a super car for Anura Kannangara, a Sri Lankan human resource professional.

Back in 1994, Anura bought an ordinary Honda Integra and worked on it to improve its look and performance ever since.
Back in 1994, Anura bought an ordinary Honda Integra and worked on it to improve its look and performance ever since.

Tall oaks from little acorns grow, thus goes the saying, and no one knows this better than Anura Kannangara, the Khor Fakkan-based human resource professional. Anura moved to the UAE from Sri Lanka about 24 years ago, when he landed a waiter's job at a hotel in Dubai. He is currently the human resource director at Le Meridien Al Aqah, one of Fujairah's most popular five star hotels.

"Not a bad going, isn't it?" he chortles. "I came to the UAE in 1986. At that time I was working as a waiter, but gradually, little by little, I managed to work my way up the ladder." After 20 years in Dubai and a three-year stint in Abu Dhabi, Anura decided to withdraw from the rat race and make the move to Khor Fakkan. "The job opportunity came up, which was great, but I was also keen to make the move because I love the area," he says. "It's beautiful, the people are wonderful and it's so calm. What more could you want?"

While Anura says he likes the serenity of the east coast, he has a somewhat different outlook when it comes to cars: he prefers something different - and flashy. It's not surprising then that Anura has spent the past 16 years modifying his Honda Integra, which he bought in 1994. "As soon as I saw it in the showroom I knew it was for me," Anura says. "I've always been a big fan of sporty cars and I read sports magazines. Back in the nineties, when I bought the car, Honda Integras were the big thing and a lot of people were modifying them."

Anura followed suit, making a number of modifications to turn his standard stock car into a powerful super car. The first thing to get an overhaul was the engine. Added to that an extra large exhaust pipe and the car makes its presence felt. "I love the sound of my Integra," says Anura. "When I start it up it sounds like a real muscle car." As well as upgrading the engine, Anura has made a number of other changes to his car. "I added a Momo steering wheel, which is traditionally associated with race cars," he says. "I'd always wanted one as they're smaller in diameter than most normal wheels, so it makes the car easier to drive." After that, Anura had aluminium floorboards installed in it. "They're great because in the absence of a carpet, your feet don't slip when you're driving fast and changing gears quickly," Anura says. "I've also had Recaro racing seats installed and now it has a fibreglass body kit, which makes it a super light vehicle."

The results are exactly what Anura is looking for. "I must admit I do like the speed of this vehicle. The meter goes up to 220kph and I can touch full without a problem." But Anura points out that he saves those speeds for the racetrack. "I like to occasionally hit the track, when I have time." And what about off-road driving? Living in one of the most picturesque parts of the country where rough terrain driving is a popular pastime, does he feel he is missing out on smooth roads? "I've always preferred flat-road driving to wadi and dune bashing," Anura says. "That said, my wife has a Ford Explorer, so if we do feel like taking off for a drive in the Hajar Mountains, we have the option."

So, from stock saloon to muscle car, the Honda Integra, like its owner, has been on an incredible journey of advancement. But given the choice, would Anura trade it for something different? "It would take a lot for me to sell this car," he muses. "Often when I'm at the traffic lights, drivers wind down their windows and make me offers on the spot. I always tell them the same thing: I'm not interested. A lot of time and effort has gone into this car, and I couldn't imagine parting with it.

"That said, if someone offered to trade me for a Maserati, I'd definitely give it some consideration." * Kate D'Acy