x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

My Car: 1997 Nissan Patrol

A Dubai resident finds his motoring priorities change after thugs wreck his beloved Chevrolet Avalanche.

Raad Haider is proud of his 1997 Nissan Patrol. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Raad Haider is proud of his 1997 Nissan Patrol. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

If it weren't for some local thugs armed with swords, Raad Haider would still be cruising the 'hood in his Chevrolet Avalanche.

But because of a terrifying late-night episode, the Dubai-based graphic designer has gone back to basics and is thrilled with his big luxury Chevy replacement, a 1997 Nissan Patrol.

"I was woken up in the middle of the night by a serious racket going on outside. I looked out of the window and I saw about eight guys with swords and bricks jumping all over the car and smashing it up. I dashed outside to stop them, but then they ran off. I don't think they've ever been caught," he recalls.

His neighbours had been involved in trouble with a local street gang and Haider, who had by then only owned the Avalanche for a couple of weeks, had that night unknowingly made the mistake of parking the car on the street for the first time.

"I guess they thought it belonged to my neighbours, and the trouble between the gangs had been going on for quite a while. When they saw it there, they wanted to mess it up.

"They were yelling and slashing the sides and plunging their swords into the roof. They had smashed every window and all the lights with bricks, and the car was obviously a complete wreck. I really loved that car."

After surveying the damage, he realised the Avalanche would never be the same. And at that moment, his priorities also changed.

"I realised that I didn't need to be so materialistic," Haider continues. "When I saw the car, I realised it was only really a shell; a possession. Then I understood that I needed to replace it with something that was all about personality."

After a brief flirtation with a Corvette C6, which reinforced his newfound view - "It was a great car and lots of fun, but it was still a car, not a character" - he saw the Patrol being sold privately on Dubizzle and snapped it up. What started out as somebody else's rage and violence has since transformed into a love story between Haider and the Nissan.

"What I really love about this car is how the interior is exactly the same as it was when it was new," he says. "The steering wheel is wooden and all the plastics are clean and flush throughout. It even has a fresh smell to it, and I like the size inside.

"The paintwork is perfect and it still has the original fuel can on the back, which looks brand new. The suspension might have been raised a couple of inches, but I think that's the only modification it's had. The V8 drives like a dream, and it's only done about 175,000km."

He gets offers for the car from people genuinely keen to buy it, and also general interest from many others, especially women. "My girlfriend loves being in the passenger seat, but other girls are always coming up to me and asking about it. You wouldn't think an old, square truck would be what they were looking for, but that's how it is. They love it. In fact, everyone seems to love it." Indeed, last week, it was captured for posterity through a video installation for Art Dubai.

Haider says his epiphany has held firm. For him, the character and personality of the car has more than made up for what it lacks in size, luxury and opulence. And this is from someone who has previously owned a Mercedes CL500, the Corvette and, many years ago, a big, boxy Volvo.

Haider no longer lives in the neighbourhood where the Avalanche met its demise and, in spite of its age and rugged appearance, the Patrol fits in well alongside a Quattroporte, a couple of S-Classes and an X5 on the street nearby. "I like to think there aren't any ninjas round here who are out to take a shot at the Patrol. And even if there are, there's no way I'm going to let them touch my wheels this time."