x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

My Car: 1976 Chevrolet Camaro LT makes businessman feel young at heart

Having grown up in Texas, where muscle cars are idolised, Dubai-based Faruk Bhagani already feels years younger after owning his 1976 Chevrolet Camaro LT for just five months.

Faruk Bhagani, of Dubai, loves his 1976 Chevrolet Camaro, but it's another classic muscle car that is his ultimate dream drive. Christopher Pike / The National
Faruk Bhagani, of Dubai, loves his 1976 Chevrolet Camaro, but it's another classic muscle car that is his ultimate dream drive. Christopher Pike / The National

Pakistani-American Faruk Bhagani drives a 1976 Chevrolet Camaro LT, which he bought for around US$20,000 (Dh73,500) last September, in a self-confessed bid to relive his teenage years. Having only driven a mere 1,000km over the past five months, the managing director of a resource acquisition company in Dubai feels the old Chevy has already stripped years off him. He's already spent a fair bit of time and money ensuring the 36-year-old classic is in good shape, adding new wheels, interior suspension and some engine tuning to help ensure the car doesn't begin acting its age.

"I absolutely love my American weekend cruiser," says the 44-year-old. "It's fast enough and attracts a lot of attention with its classical good looks, to the extent that I believe it's now worth way more than I paid for it and I would only sell it to someone who would really appreciate it and pay for the privilege of owning this beauty."

Having grown up in Texas - a hotbed of muscle cars - Bhagani has been a big Mustang fan since the late 1960s, when the Boss and Cobra were his dream cars. In fact, Bhagani had quite a special first car - a 1974 Camaro. "At the time it was a bit of a junker that cost me just over Dh5,000, with a deteriorated interior and a body in not much better shape," he recalls. "However, it was sold to me by a mechanic who had spent a lot of time on the engine, so it could really shift."

"My fondest memory of my old Camaro was being an excited 16-year-old who wanted to race other cars up and down the main street in my neighbourhood," he reminisces. "However, I wasn't quite as cool as you may think, as I had to push the car as far away as possible from my house down the street before starting it on late evenings, or my parents - and the rest of the street - would hear the 5.7L V8 growl into action. As it turns out, my mum loves recalling how they'd always know when I was coming and going, which is no surprise, as I'd have needed to push it half a kilometre away to evade detection," he laughs.

More than a quarter of a decade later, Bhagani bought his '76 Camaro, which is only two years younger than his childhood charge. It was discovered by his friend in Iran, who arranged for it to be shipped to Dubai. Having already made various upgrades to the car, Bhagani still has plenty in store for his blast from his past. "Despite the headers ensuring the car sounds good, there isn't quite enough horsepower to make the wheels spin, but I'm looking at buying a carburettor and intake to get the tyres smoking," he enthuses.

A stunning deep red colour, the Camaro attracts attention wherever Bhagani goes and his family are among its biggest fans, with his wife regularly encouraging Bhagani to get the interior renovated. "People here are such big car fans, it's a thrill to find notes on the windscreen complimenting the car, or answering the incessant questions from genuinely interested enthusiasts - especially when cruising along JBR with the other classic and supercars of Dubai," he says. And he sometimes gets in touch with the Jebel Ali Cool Car Klub, which he describes as a helpful bunch guys who love decent cars. "We meet at Ibn Battuta and catch up on car stuff and parts or service issues, then drive to a restaurant and have a meal together - it's fun," he adds.

"I have to confess that my daily driver is a Porsche Panamera, which also keeps me young in its own way, and I love the ride and high performance it offers. However, my dream car is the 1967 Shelby Mustang GT500. I love that car so much, I've watched Gone in 60 Seconds countless times just to see it in action - so if anyone owns one in Dubai, please let me know as I'd love to see it," Bhagani concludes.