x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

The luxury barge

My car For the past two decades, Emil Khoury, a Dubai-based engineer, has owned the same three cars, one of which is his beloved 1984 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham which he drives almost on a daily basis.

Emil Khoury owns three 1980s American classics: a Chevrolet Camaro, a Caprice by the same car maker and his pride and joy, a Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham.
Emil Khoury owns three 1980s American classics: a Chevrolet Camaro, a Caprice by the same car maker and his pride and joy, a Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham.

Emil Khoury is a very loyal man. For the past two decades, he has owned the same three cars: a 1983 Chevrolet Camaro, a 1985 Caprice Classic and his beloved 1984 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham which he drives almost on a daily basis in Dubai. They all have their own stories to tell, but it's the 4.1-litre V8 Cadillac which is the most travelled and the closest to Emil's heart. "It's been a long time," he says. "I bought it in Los Angeles brand new from the showroom. It is pretty well loaded - gold-plated wire wheels, AC, which was quite new at the time, and cruise control."

Originally from Palestine, 69-year-old Emil, who works as a biomedical and chemical engineer, has seen much of the world throughout his education and career, from the American University of Beirut to Istanbul to King's College in London, where he gained his master's degree. From there, he worked for BP in Turkey and Kuwait until the mid-1970s, when he emigrated to the United States, becoming a US citizen in the early 1980s. That is when the Cadillac, as well as a Camaro, came on the scene.

"In the Los Angeles area, I used to go to Las Vegas a lot with my uncle and friends," Emil explains. "I have driven this car from the west coast to the east coast towards Canada. It has been all over the US." The Camaro currently resides in Denmark, where Emil also lived with his Danish wife, while the Caprice is still on its home turf in the States. But owning two American cars - one of them a Caddy - in Scandinavia in the 1990s meant instant kudos. "It was the only one of its type in Denmark. We lived in Sennel, a village of maybe 2,000 residents a few miles from Thisted - like the Beverly Hills of Denmark. I was known as Mr Cadillac. We used it for a wedding of a very close friend and for various graduations."

So why did he buy the Fleetwood Brougham in the first place? "I was a Cadillac fan, but this was the car I wanted. It was a toss up between the Fleetwood and the Seville." But it was the "state-of-the-art" features which really sold the car back then. "The front seats are electric. Each seat has an ashtray with a lighter. There is a fibre optic brake signal and fibre optics showing when the high beams are on.

"The best feature is the comfort, the silence. It has beautiful suspension." The back seats are also very luxurious and the all-original deep red leather interior is high quality; the perfect car for driving long distances. It even features a four-speed transmission with manual shift option, something that is seen by many as a recent innovation. "I don't think the new models are to the standard of the classics", Emil adds. "They are too big - they look pregnant to me. But they are good cars".

There have been just two minor problems in the 25-year relationship. The exhaust was damaged at the Grand Hyatt - "but they didn't tell me", comments Emil, "It was only when I was driving home that it fell apart and I suddenly noticed the noise" - and a wheel cover flew off the car on the way back from Fujairah just a few days ago. So will the marriage end? "There is an emotional attachment to the car", he says. "I paid good money for it and maintained it all these years. Driving a Cadillac, one really has to know how to go about it. You have to drive it with elegance."

Emil now plans to move to Jordan with his job with a health care company, so the Fleetwood Brougham is likely to be packed in yet another shipping crate and delivered to yet another new home, as its owner isn't yet ready to let it go. "I was approached at least five times by local people saying: 'Please give me your car. We want to buy it. Name the price'. But I couldn't bring myself to sell it, it's my baby."