x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

The Corvette collector

While some choose stamps, this man opts for Corvettes: eight so far, and his favourite - The Black Knight.

Elie Deeb is the president of Corvette Arabia with his
Elie Deeb is the president of Corvette Arabia with his "Black Knight" 1999 Corvette. Among his collection is the 1988 Z4 Corvette he learnt to drive in.

Elie Deeb is a second generation Corvette lover, an automotive obsession passed down to him by his father, who has 20 Corvettes in his garage. Elie, however, is catching up - he is the proud owner of eight Corvettes, but his black 1999 hardtop, nicknamed "The Black Knight", is his daily drive. "All my other Corvettes are classics so I don't drive them so much," he says of a high-powered collection where his oldest car is 31 years old. But his black beauty is not your typical daily commuter car, standing out in the traffic in a sea of SUVs and rentals.

"It has been fully modified," he says. "It has Lambo doors [vertical doors] and chrome wheels, a manual transmission with six speeds, it has 500-plus horsepower, it can do 0-100kph in around 3.8 seconds and it has a top speed of 320kph." At the age of 16, Elie learnt to drive in the UAE in his first Corvette, a 1988 Z4. "I still have it," he says. "I'll never sell it. It is too special to me, my first car."

The Z4 is in the process of being upgraded. "It is in the garage being modified - I've changed the engine and it should be able to reach 700hp." He describes Corvettes as excellent for "sport and speed" without the excessive price tag of a Lamborghini or Ferrari. The Corvette obsession has also been passed on to his wife and he encourages more women to get behind the wheel of these all-American sports cars. "My wife has a Corvette and she loves it," he says. "The ladies enjoy seeing one another in the cars and more [women] are becoming interested."

Elie says anyone can join Corvette Arabia, whether they own a Corvette or not. "We have fans as well as owners in the club, there are about 95 active members and about 472 people on our contact list." His 1999 car had its most recent public outing in a drive along Abu Dhabi Corniche earlier this month. It was a rally organised by Corvette Arabia, the UAE-based Corvette club of which Elie has been president for nearly two years.

He drove the 1999 black Corvette and his other cars were also involved in the rally, driven by his mother, father, wife, sister, brother and a friend. Elie has two more big public appearances planned for his pride and joy in the next few weeks, one being just for fun while the other is for a worthy cause. "The next big event is on March 26, it'll be a road trip to Khorfakkan with Corvette Arabia - we'll drive to Khorfakkan and then there'll be a beach party at one of the five-star hotels there," says Elie.

But much closer to his heart is the annual "Lap with SNAP" event that will be held at Dubai Autodrome on April 3. Every year, members of different car clubs get together as part of the Special Needs Awareness Programme to offer special needs children laps around the Autodrome track in cars such as Corvettes, Ferraris and BMWs as well as professional race cars. It is endorsed by Mohammed Bin Sulayem, president of the UAE's Automobile and Touring Car club and the country's most successful racing driver.

"It is a charity event so all the clubs co-operate together, it is a good thing to do," says Elie. In the meantime though, he will be diligently promoting Corvette Arabia's events via a busy website and Facebook group - and making sure the Black Knight keeps ticking over. motoring@thenational.ae