After parking next to Wesley Snipes, this Dubai hotel operations manager knew his dream car.
Rough and loud
The end has come for Hummer. China wouldn't save the behemoth SUV maker from oblivion in the wake of General Motors' cost-cutting and recession-induced rationalisation. But this does not diminish the love Sebastien Noat has for his high-rolling Hummer H2. "The car has a three-inch lowering kit," says Noat, the operations manager of Dubai's Media One Hotel. "It also has extra slim Pirelli tyres, DUB 24-inch rims, a Xenon body kit, side skirts, and additional xenon lights. The inside has been kitted out in black alcantara with all the speakers spray-painted black. All accessories, from the door handles to the light covers, are customised in triple-layered chrome. It's also got three DVD screens with USB points."
Noat confesses that the reason for many of these high-octane alterations boils down to his penchant for cars that look a little suspect. "I love cars that look mean, that look a bit gangster," says Noat. "It [the Hummer H2] is a very rough car, powerful and impulsive, yet you can get away with it at a black-tie dinner. It's in your face, rough and loud, but reliable." He fell in love with the Hummer H2 when he moved to Dubai four years ago. Then, his budget stretched only to a problem-ridden, second-hand model. This time around, he invested in a top of the range, brand-new version, resplendent with high-end modifications, including the all-important body lowering, which he claims will give the vehicle instant "street" cachet.
The makeover is courtesy of Liberty Motorsports and, while Noat won't reveal how much he's spending, he admits the figure is in the region of Dh50,000. "With a Hummer customisation, you can start from Dh1,000 for something basic and, of course, the sky's the limit if you start plating things with gold." Noat is instead opting for a special screen coating on the windows that he hopes will reduce the temperature inside the car by up to 30 per cent.
Noat, who is originally from Monte Carlo, admits he was a boy racer in his youth, to the point that he found it hard to get car insurance while studying in Switzerland after crashing two cars in three years. "I have grown wiser and much more careful as the years have gone by, though," he says. His career within the hotel industry has taken him to some of the world's most glamorous destinations and he has tales to tell from the roads of every place where has lived. One of his first assignments was at the Ritz-Carlton, on the Caribbean island of St Thomas.
"One of the most memorable aspects of my life there were my road trips to the neighbouring island of St John. I used to rent an open-top Jeep Wrangler and cruise across steep hills, muddy roads and river crossings. On one trip, I got caught - with no roof - in torrential rain in a remote part of the island. In the Caribbean, brief showers don't exist, it's either storm or sun, and that particular one lasted four hours. That was when I knew that I wanted to have a closed-top SUV."
When he lived in the US, Noat rented a Mustang convertible and indulged his passion for road trips. A favourite route was following the Pacific Coast Highway along the beaches of Malibu and Venice to Carmel and Monterey. In Malaysia, Noat rented a Bufori, a Malaysian-made Bugatti replica with a Lotus engine. He remembers an incident when he took the car on a long, picturesque drive from Kuala Lumpur to Penang Island. "After the first 100 miles, the radiator was overheating. As I entered Penang, it blew. I managed to get a lift to our hotel and ran into my corporate director just in time to see him getting my car towed. To cap it all, after the rental company replaced the car, I got to push the Lotus engine again and experienced my first encounter with the Malaysian Highway Patrol."
When Noat relocated to Dubai, he admits that his decision to buy a Hummer was partially inspired by an attack of celebrity envy. "In LA, I had a two-door Sport Explorer. It was in a racing green colour with cream interiors and had an upgraded engine. By most standards, a nice car. One day, I went to the Mondrian [the West Hollywood hotel] and there was a Hummer parked next to it with Wesley Snipes and my car suddenly felt like a Jet Ski parked next to a yacht. It was a mean and aggressive car with fully tinted windows, it was intimidating. I fell in love instantly."