x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

My Car: GMC Sierra 35 is an heirloom that has miles to go yet

The pickup truck belonged to his grandfather, and now Obeid al Muhaiby, a Dubai businessman, drives it every day.

Obeid Mohammed with his GMC 3.5 Sierra pickup truck in the Umm Suqeim neighbourhood. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Obeid Mohammed with his GMC 3.5 Sierra pickup truck in the Umm Suqeim neighbourhood. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

For Obeid al Muhaiby, life's a beach, but then he lives on one - or more accurately, just a few feet away. Everything about this Umm Suqeim Beach setting is cool, from the beachfront villas to the promenaders taking in the last few cool afternoons before the summer kicks in. However, perhaps the coolest thing on show right now is al Muhaiby's red 1979 GMC Sierra Classic 35.

The photographer asks its owner to take off his sunglasses for the shoot. "No, no, no, no, no," he retorts, gesturing a definitive negative to this request. "I look cool, just like the car. It is a classic style."

All the way down to the chassis number of 3,500 - matching the 35 in the car's name - everything about this imposing piece of Americana fights to be seen and heard. Although he has other vehicles, including a 1975 Land Rover Defender, which is currently off the road needing repairs, this is al Muhaiby's baby and he loves it being the centre of attention. Indeed, we first tracked him down while he was burning some serious rubber at a set of traffic lights in Dubai.

"My friends all love it, and so do I. It was originally my grandfather's, and he bought it new. But I kept telling him that I loved it and would do anything to have it, and eventually, 10 years ago, he gave it to me. I've had it ever since and I drive it every day, sometimes in the morning, sometimes at night, but I won't go a day without driving it."

The 454-cubic-inch big-block engine - that's a 7.8L monster in modern currency - sounds exactly the same as it does whenever you hear it in 1970s films and television. The slow-paced dun-dun-dun is mesmeric as the engine idles, but turns into a scattergun pop-pop-pop-pop as the truck pulls away.

Al Muhaiby doesn't only use the car for urban pleasures, such as cruising the roads and streets around his Jumeirah home, he also uses it to take him for camping weekends with friends in the desert. "I usually tow my Raptor Banshee [quad bike] with this car," he says. "And there's room for five of my friends on the back tray, but occasionally I put my Raptor there when the trailer is broken."

He has done very little in terms of repairs to the Sierra. Apart from a new carburettor, the engine is the same as it was in 1979, and so is all the bodywork, right down to the wooden floorboards in the bed. Inside, all the fabric and fittings are original, although some tears in the seats mean it will have to be replaced sometime in the near future.

Now a 30-year-old businessman involved in buying and selling cars for his family company, he is married with two children and uses a Nissan Patrol for the daily grind. "But all of my family loves this car. Even my four-year-old doesn't want me to get a new car because he likes classic ones.

"Which classic car do I want next? I want every car, but I will stay with this one for a while longer."