x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

The Air Bag: Expats in the UAE need a vehicle workshop space

Finding a space to fix a car yourself in a country where most count themselves lucky to find a parking spot can be less of a personal challenge than a logistical nightmare.

Here at Motoring, we celebrate and applaude all of you do-it-yourselfers - the guys and girls who like to get their hands dirty under a bonnet or crawl on a floor in the oil underneath a car. For you (and us, for that matter), there's a satisfaction in using a little elbow grease and knowing your motor is ticking the way it should because you fixed it yourself.

But for many of us here in the UAE, especially those who have moved here from faraway lands, there may be a problem: unless you've found a villa with a lovely two-car garage, space to work on a car or a bike is limited, to say the least. You can't exactly start rebuilding the engine of your car in the parking lot outside your flat, under the eyes and eventual "tsk tsks" of your neighbours or, worse, the police.

If you're lucky, you know a friend - a very understanding, accommodating friend - who will let you use their garage for your late nights under the bonnet. Unfortunately, not everyone is willing to put up with the motoring world's version of a visiting couch surfer who overstays his welcome.

One Abu Dhabi resident, a friend of mine, is determined not to let this stand in his way. He is rebuilding a 1964 Moto Guzzi V700 - in the underground car park of his apartment, in between his parking spot and his neighbour's. This isn't just a polish and adjustment, either; he's completely stripped it down, replaced or refurbished every nut and bolt on it and even sent the painted parts to California for a respray. He's in the final stages of assembling it back together now, and it's looking fantastic; that's dedication.

Perhaps a more convenient -and cooler - alternative for DIY motorcyclists can be found in Dubai. The Royal Enfield dealership, tucked away in a back alley off Sheikh Zayed Road, offers two bays for rent at Dh40 an hour; that includes a bike lift and a complete set of tools for your use. It's ideal for those times you need to do a little tinkering on the bike out of the hot weather and blowing dust.

But wouldn't it be nice for car and bike enthusiasts to have a few more options where they could go turn a spanner on their own, in peace? A place where it's safe to leave a project for a while away from prying eyes (and fingers); a place where like-minded DIYers could chat while they work and maybe even help each other out, either by lending a hand or a bit of information.

It would be great to have a licensed garage open its big doors to the public, even for a small fee like the Royal Enfield people do - though that may not be ideal for long-term projects. How about some kind of co-op garage, where a bunch of like-minded guys (or girls) combine to pay the rent on a warehouse where all can go and while away their time on special projects? It would be like a clubhouse; a refuge from the real world where you could lose yourself in the gears and grease of your beloved ride, at least for a little while.

There's got to be some of you out there who are reading this and thinking this is exactly what you need. I'd be happy to hear your thoughts on the matter; let's start some dialogue. And get our hands dirty.