A Place For Classics Among The Land of Supercars
Photography by Siddharth Pandey
Why bother with classics when most want the latest supercar?
Being born and raised in Dubai, UAE, I was fortunate in the sense that I got plenty of metal to feast my eyes on, on a regular basis. The latest Ferrari or Lamborghini would pass us on the highway and I would ‘break my neck’ in order to get a good glimpse of something that dreams were made of.
At the time, I foolishly thought that classic and vintage cars were simply old. My parents would take me to the Dubai Motor Show and I would drool at the sleek shapes and designs of the latest supercars on display. As time passed, I developed a healthy appreciation for classic cars, thanks to the growth of the classic motoring community and my exposure to the heritage and history that each manufacturer had built upon.
Similarly, car enthusiasts in Dubai also realised that there was something to classic cars. The oft-repeated maxim of ‘newest is best’ was slowly but surely cast aside, making way for a richer car culture comprising of a diverse range of metal on wheels. 1967 Pontiac GTOs shared space with BMW M3s and Lamborghini Miuras at the local equivalent of Cars and Coffee. People realised the value of nostalgia and how these automobiles were essentially portals to their past, taking them back to the days when they were too young to drive. The process was helped by the potpourri of cultures that exists in the city.
Of course, the abundance of good roads and disposable income didn’t hurt.
So classics had become a firm part of the motoring scene. Yet, there was one thing hindering their presence on Dubai roads: the desert climate is not kind to classic cars, and with summer temperatures reaching in excess of 50 C / 122 F, one can hardly accuse owners of giving their cars a well-earned summer vacation. So what is a classic car enthusiast to do?
I had heard of a massive classic car collection on display in Dubai and decided to see if it lived up to its name. The place turned out to be a huge showroom on the edge of the industrial district, called Tomini Classics. As I left the Middle Eastern heat behind and entered the building, my jaws dropped. I had never seen such a collection before, and the kid in a sweet shop cliché would have fit me perfectly.
I then proceeded to examine each car in detail, before being shown the “inner room”, which houses cars periodically rotated with the showroom floor. A Ferrari 288 GTO formerly owned by Bill Cosby, a Lamborghini Diablo GT, a Mercedes 300SL Gullwing and Roadster, a Porsche 911 Carrera 2.7 RS Lightweight, a 1951 Volkswagen Beetle, and a 1970s Pontiac Trans Am were among around 200 classic cars, some of them concours winners, all in show-worthy condition.
I was later informed that during the winter months, the cars were all driven to ‘stretch their legs’, sometimes on road trips of 90 miles and more.
As I looked at the cars, I happened to see a Ferrari 458 zip past the showroom and realised how commonplace it looked in comparison to the beautiful coachwork that stood in front of me. Beauty is subjective, but I think most people can agree that most classic cars are truly beautiful. The swooping bodylines, the large round headlights, and the supple wooden and leather interiors were enough to let my imagination run wild. I think the smell of car polish on the gleaming bodywork may have had something to do with that too…
As I impatiently await the arrival of the cooler months, I have had plenty of time to ponder why classic cars are often so much more favourable to their brand new counterparts. The answer is, for me: there’s something about classic cars that stirs the petrolhead soul. The audio-visual experience is something that cannot be explained in words.
I’ll still break my neck to catch a glimpse of a Lamborghini Aventador whizzing by or geek out over the raspy exhaust note of a Ferrari LaFerrari. However, if I see a classic car, I’ll drive level with it, and raise my imaginary cap to its occupants. They and I both know that the automobile they’re piloting is not simply a car, it’s history in motion—even in supercar-obsessed Dubai.