x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Into hood ornaments? Your chariot awaits

An ornate American pick-up truck attracts attention as it sits outside an Abu Dhabi dealership.

Haitham Abi Houran, the general manager of Sama Gulf Dealer Cars, is selling a ornately decorated 1995 Chevy Sliverado he bought in the United States for Dh110,000. Sammy Dallal / The National
Haitham Abi Houran, the general manager of Sama Gulf Dealer Cars, is selling a ornately decorated 1995 Chevy Sliverado he bought in the United States for Dh110,000. Sammy Dallal / The National

ABU DHABI // At 3pm on a recent day, school traffic came to a standstill on a corner of Airport Road as drivers stopped, wide-eyed, to see Abu Dhabi's newest arrival.

The patrons at Sama Gulf Car Showroom were even more amazed.

"This is a moving museum," said Abdullah Ibrahim, 19, an Emirati aviation student.

Mohammed Mehdi, 52, countered: "This doesn't belong in Abu Dhabi, it has no heritage."

The object of all the attention can be found between 15th and 17th streets, a modified 1995 Chevrolet Silverado that rolled into the UAE this month from a second-hand car dealership in Florida.

The bed of the pickup truck has a fibreglass sculpture - white, like marble - of a woman wearing a toga and a Roman helmet seated behind a reined lion that treads across stones.

Soldiers bearing shields stand guard on either side of her. The truck body is painted with scenes of temples consumed by flames, owls, panthers, demons and even Babylonian kings.

There is a silver-bearded man racing a cheetah-drawn chariot on the driver's door.

Sculpted black hands reach open-palmed from the undercarriage.

The showroom's Syrian salesman, Haitham Abu Houran, takes the moving artwork out into the midday heat.

Almost every inch of its interior, even the handles and roof, is covered in imitation tiger skin.

Mr Abu Houran lifts a silver leopard on the bonnet to reveal that so are parts of the engine.

"Wallah, a crazy guy did this car," Mr Abu Houran said.

He revved the eight-cylinder engine, a roar that may have inspired the big cat motif.

Remarkably, the Emirati who discovered the car in the US was not impressed.

"Actually I was laughing," he said. "This is something very, very strange for me. I would never drive this car but I'm sure that there are some people who will be extremely happy to drive this car.

"You should see it in the night. It's more attractive. It's lit up and shining."

The dealer, who did not want to be named, said he found the car while in the US searching for classics. He claims the history of the pickup is a mystery.

The vehicle is priced at Dh110,000 but has had one offer for Dh90,000.

"All the people are asking to see it but I not give just anyone the key for this car," said Mr Abu Houran. "If a customer is coming for this car, he already knows he wants it."

Despite his first impression, Mr Ibrahim's admiration grew the more he gazed at the Silverado.

"Maybe I will take it to the college," he said.

azacharias@thenational.ae