This year the Emirates Classic Car Festival was held for the 8th time from the 24th until the 27th of march. Two and a half kilometers of Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard in downtown Dubai, circling Burj Khalifa, the tallest building on the planet, were lined with cars, motorbikes and trucks.
The pickings were rich. Whether you love American muscle cars, are a fan of the classic Mini or something from the air cooled Volkswagen offering, a Japanese classic afficionado or if you prefer European classics, this Festival has something to offer to everyone. This year more than ever, the list of European classics was extensive. Stretching as far into Eastern Europe as Skoda’s, Volga’s, a Lada, and even a Chaika! As usual the British automotive heritage was strongly supported with numerous Rolls Royces, Bentleys, Jaguars, Morgans, MG’s from all era’s and the formentioned Mini’s, proudly boasting 0% BMW parts. CineCars reporter Djorde Grujic brings you an eyewitness report straight from the Emirates.
Dubai is a place where you get blasé and you no longer react to a super-, or hypercar when you spot one. Lamborghini’s, Ferrari’s, Aston Martin’s, Porsche’s and Maserati’s are as common as muck. There is nothing special to being overtaken by a Veyron, AMG G-Wagens are as common as a Land Cruiser and maybe you will be a little surprised by the sighting of a Pagani or Koenigsegg. Yet the cars that you’ll encounter the least are classics. Not just the genuine oldtimers, but even youngtimers are rarer than they are in Europe. Any car over five years is considered old here. You might see an older Japanese saloon trundling along, or maybe an aging Japanese 4×4 or Landie/Range Rover, but that’s about it. Dubai traffic and the merciless hot, dusty and humid weather for a good part of a year are not the most ideal environment to enjoy your pride and joy that lacks AC, ABS, air bags, halogen lights and retractable seat belts. Acceleration from 0 to 100 in like forever isn’t very desirable too. That might be why the classic season lasts from October to April and the ECCF is one of the closing events to the season.
Taking an about 5 km walk along the exhibition this friday, I have intentionally missed out on photographing most of USA cars as well as more modern British and German cars. They were abundant, although there were some really tasty examples and some crazy and not so crazy hotrods, so I let them pass this time. At any classic car meet around here most of the cars that you will see are General Motors anyway, so, let’s see what other classics were on display.
My personal taste for air cooled Volkswagens is well known and I was delighted to see a fleet of T1’s, a T2, a tasty Porsche 356 replica, a Beetle hotrod and a nice Karmann Ghia convertible. Other Volkswagens on display were mainly newer Mexican and Brazilian models in various stages of customization. The air cooled prize, as well as one of the prizes of the show, was deservedly taken by the Porsche Spyder Zagato reconstruction. That’s really something else. A T1 single cab is also quite special, especially with a full Middle East style majlis in the back, complete with shisha! A yellow Chevrolet Corvair made the air cooled bunch proud in a completely different way.
For sheer elegance, the fleet of 1950’s Jaguars could only be matched by an incredible black Mercedes 300SL Gullwing. The level of detailing on some cars was so good, it was impossible to photograph them without taking a selfie. I have also skipped photographing the Japanese lot. They were not very numerous nor visible and besides the well known Z-cars, there were just some tasty customized four pots and a pristine white classic GTR and a small fleet of Suzuki jeeps, as cute as they are indestructible. A special collection was made up by a fleet of cars that once belonged to Sheikh Zayed Al Nahyan, the father of the UAE nation. These cars were also important in a way that most of the other exhibits were actually relatively recent imports. The Sheikh’s cars have, which makes them more important for the local classic car culture than the others. Regretfully, I could not photograph or view them properly, as not enough space was allocated.
The offering of European cars was surprisingly varied, from the expected Italian and German supercars, via two Citroën Traction Avants, a Fiat 500 and a BMW Isetta, through a Lancia Stratos and a Maserati Shamal to a Volvo P1800 and a Skoda Felicia convertible from the late 50’s. And of course the already mentioned Lada, Volga’s and the Chaika. Really unusual and quite unique. Let’s not forget the offering of cars from the early ages of motoring, mostly American, with one stand boasting a Ford T in restoration with the parts being installed right on the spot. Add to all that a motorbike section that was way larger and varied than in the earlier years and that about sums up this years ECCF.
The 8th ECCF proves that classic motoring in the United Arabic Emirates is very much alive and kicking. The classic status of some of the exhibits, like hotrods and newer or even contemporary cars that are shaped in retro fashion could be questioned, but let’s remember that the classic scene here is relatively young. Between the serious local collectors picking the best on the world’s market and the individuals who cherish their cars with love and whatever means available, there is a huge space for any taste, brand and budget.
Words and pictures: Djordje Grujic
Editor: Marc GF Zaan