x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

My Car: Jeep and cheerful, if you don't mind dirty hands

Yasin Mohammed, a Sharjah-based designer, inherited her Cherokee and has quickly become fond of the temperamental vehicle.

Yasmin Mohammed has always loved tinkering with cars. Good thing, considering the troubles she's had with her Jeep Cherokee. Pawan Singh / The National
Yasmin Mohammed has always loved tinkering with cars. Good thing, considering the troubles she's had with her Jeep Cherokee. Pawan Singh / The National

If there was such a thing as a typical female car owner, Yasmin Mohammed wouldn't be one of them.

She's not really interested in a smooth ride, or a sexy convertible, and certainly not pink wing mirrors or rhinestone trim, for that matter. No, for this Sharjah-based designer, function is more important than fashion.

"I'm not one to care about accessorising, or making the car look pretty. To me, it's perfect when it's clean and neat," says Mohammed.

The problem with her current ride, a 2004 Jeep Cherokee, is that it has failed more than once in the function department since she started driving it last April.

"The original owner, who is a friend of mine, bought the car second hand in Oman for around Dh35,000," says the 29-year-old. "I'm not sure if it was a good deal or not, but if it came to my honest opinion, she got ripped off."

Mohammed's friend, after changing her mind about settling in Oman, came back to the UAE, and had to leave again, and ended up leaving her Jeep with Mohammed so that it can be used and taken care of.

"I needed a car at the time as well, so it seemed to work out pretty fine, and I've been driving it since," says Mohammed.

It's only when the car came into Mohammed's possession did she realise what a handful - mechanically - it was going to be.

"It needed an extreme makeover," she says.

"The first issue I came across was an overheating problem. The engine seemed to overheat pretty fast, so I took it to a garage and got it fixed.

"A portion of the radiator was cracked and the fan clutch was broken, so I had to take care of that as well," she adds.

With time, more problems persistently kept on emerging. It was the battery next, though Mohammed took a more hands-on approach this time.

"I didn't feel the need to take the car all the way to a garage to do that, so I went in myself, bought a car battery and installed it," Mohammed says.

"I've grown quite fond of it in the brief time it has been in my custody. It's not a smooth ride at all, and I think that's what I like about it.

"My father owns a 2008 Toyota Avalon, and my mother owns a Nissan Tiida, and having the option to drive any of these cars at any given day, I'd choose the Jeep," she adds.

She may like driving the Cherokee, but the ever-practical Mohammed is prepared for almost any eventuality.

"What's important to me is safety. I get the car serviced at every 3,000km checkpoint. I make sure I have stuff like jump-start cables, first aid kit, tow ropes - I even keep a five-litre bottle of water after having learnt my lesson from the overheating incidence," she adds.

Mohammed's love for both driving and working on cars was clear to her family from a young age, especially to her father, who used to let her practice on her mother's Fiat.

"Even my grandfather, who is in his eighties, knows his cars very well.

"He's the kind of person who you'd be driving with in a car, and he'd hear a sound coming from the engine, and he'd know exactly what's wrong with the car before popping up the hood and looking at anything. He still drives his 35-plus-year-old Renault," she recalls.

But as much as she now loves the Jeep, Mohammed's heart belongs to another. She seems to have a special admiration for 1970s vintage Volkswagen camper vans.

"Whenever I look at pictures on websites about what these cars used to look like, it aches that they don't make them like that anymore," she says.

"They do resell them though, after a lot of work gets done on them to get updated. Unfortunately, this country doesn't have the luxury of offering those types of vehicles for sale. Their servicing is hard to get at garages here, and if those cars happened to get shipped here for some reason, they'd be custom made and would cost a ridiculous amount of money," she adds.

She also has a special interest in large pickup trucks.

"There is something about American pickup trucks like the Ford or Dodge that I seem to find curiously fascinating. The Ford F450 pickup truck, for instance, I can totally see myself driving that," she says.

Mohammed plans to take her passion for cars to the next level.

"I want learn my way around cars as much as I can. I have been toying with the notion of acquiring an internship at a car garage, and granted I find a safe, trusted place, I would actually go through with it," says Mohammed.

"I'd hate to be the person who gets stuck in the middle of the road with a problem in my car, and would have to wait and call the police and have them tow it or something."