Featured: In Iran, Owning A Classic Car Is A Real Challenge

In Iran, Owning A Classic Car Is A Real Challenge

By Samir Shirazi
July 9, 2015
8 comments

Photography by: Alireza Behpour

Imagine yourself aiming to restore a famous, valuable, lovely classic car. And imagine that Iran was the only producer of these kinds of machines. Finding that sort of project car would likely be very difficult in your own country; not only would it be hard to find but also more expensive and with fewer to choose from.

This is all normal if you’re an Iranian trying to find and restore a car in Iran—and it gets much more difficult from there!

You would have to decide immediately…and pay an unfair price quickly to acquire the car. After purchasing the car, now it’s time to start resurrecting it. If you know “Farsi”, the speaking language of Iranians, it would be great to search on the internet for parts—otherwise you are almost out of the game.

Internet speeds are usually as fast as a dead horse in Iran, and websites are filtered. Now, what if you know Farsi and after hours of wrestling with internet, you finally find in Iran all of the needed spare parts?

You may contact the Iranian company by mail or phone, and they refuse to take your order. Why? The Iranian government may have told them you are dangerous people. What else could you do? Easy: find a friend who lives in Iran, or pretend you are calling them from another country—anything to get the company to agree to take your order and send you an invoice.

The going rate for these transactions is always fluid, so you have to do it fast. Now, you have a car that you paid too much for, you have spent time to learn Farsi…and to find missing parts with a not-so-smooth internet. You have an agreed price for the of spare parts, and you have your money ready in your hands, the process is finished and it’s time to start your restoration.

No. Sorry, the Iranian government has sanctioned you, and there is no way to send money to Iran, because no bank would do that.

Alright, relax, and pay a friend in cash who travels to Iran, and he hopefully accepts to do it for you as a favor. You get your spare parts finally? Again, no! You get them, but miles away from home, so now you need to send them through the post or ship them from another country.

Problem? Iran is sanctioned, and no companies will deal with you! A way around that is if you have some friends or families in another country that will still deal with Iran—but now you’re paying for shipping twice!

Most rely on smugglers, and leaving parts in their pockets and waiting to see what happens. You surely ask: “Why don’t you do things legally, then?” Well, if you trust the law of your country to be stable, and change all the packages to pretend they’re from somewhere else, and pay all the taxes, go for it!

The final problem? If you had not changed the license plate into the new format before 2011, there is no chance to do it now: the system for licensing these sorts of vehicles is shut down!

Many enjoy their classics anywhere but the streets: all that money and love is spent only to make the garage a bit prettier.

The above is a story of almost every surviving classic car in Iran. Nice subject to make a film about, Isn’t it? Iranian classic car enthusiasts have been living this “film” for years, without things changing. The doors of Iran was almost shut to the world for decades, and what media shows of it is unfortunately not all of what’s going on there—not every one of the 70 million people in Iran shout “Down with America,” but a small but powerful part of it do.

I was getting lots of emails and messages from people of different nations who were amazed after watching a recent CBS report about American classic cars in Iran.

Friends were shocked to watch it, and they were amazed to know there exists people who drive a Dodge Daytona instead of shouting: “Down with America”—in fact, that Daytona owner shouts, “Viva America!” It is time to show the world a different point of view from Iran, especially untold stories of classic cars and Iranian car culture—and how people keep the history alive.

I have never seen camels in the streets of Tehran—everybody asks about that. What I see daily are Ford Mustangs, Chevrolet Camaros, and Dodge Challengers which could only have remained here after decades of love, not of hate.

Next time you watch TV, remember there’s always a different point of view. And the next time you want to talk about real car enthusiasm, think about how difficult it would be to get, say, an alternator or oil filter for a classic muscle car if you lived in Tehran!

Most rely on smugglers, and leaving parts in their pockets and waiting to see what happens. You surely ask: “Why don’t you do things legally, then?” Well, if you trust the law of your country to be stable, and change all the packages to pretend they’re from somewhere else, and pay all the taxes, go for it!

The final problem? If you had not changed the license plate into the new format before 2011, there is no chance to do it now: the system for licensing these sorts of vehicles is shut down!

Many enjoy their classics anywhere butthe streets: all that money and love is spent only to make the garage a bit prettier.

The above is a story of almost every surviving classic car in Iran. Nice subject to make a film about, Isn’t it? Iranian classic car enthusiasts have been living this “film” for years, without things changing. The doors of Iran was almost shut to the world for decades, and what media shows of it is unfortunately not all of what’s going on there—not every one of the 70 milion people in Iran shout “Down with America,” but a small but powerful part of it do.

I was getting lots of emails and messages from people of different nations who were amazed after watching a recent CBS report about American classic cars in Iran.

Friends were shocked to watch it, and they were amazed to know there exists people who drive a Dodge Daytona instead of shouting: “Down with America”—in fact, that Daytona owner shouts, “Viva America!” It is time to show the world a different point of view from Iran, especially untold stories of classic cars and Iranian car culture—and how people keep the history alive.

I have never seen camels in the streets of Tehran—everybody asks about that. What I see daily are Ford Mustangs, Chevrolet Camaros, and Dodge Challengers which could only have remained here after decades of love, not of hate.

Next time you watch TV, remember there’s always a different point of view. And the next time you want to talk about real car enthusiasm, think about how difficult it would be to get, say, an alternator or oil filter for a classic muscle car if you lived in Tehran!

Photography by:Alireza Behpour, Nasser Jafarzadeh, Reza Mahjoori, Mohammad Ghashghavi, Farhad Ghasemi, Arad Vafaie, Mohammad Ghashghavi, Shaho Hejazy

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Ian Miles
Ian Miles

Something the manufactuers should be proud of. That they have made cars that people will endure so many challenges in order to keep on the road. The deal brokered recently will perhaps have unintended consequences. The classic car scene will become a joy to be part of. Weren’t the Iranians that last to use the F14 in anger as they used their aging planes against Iraq with significant success as well. The same resourceful mentality was perhaps applied there too. Great article.

Luc Bonachera
Luc Bonachera

If only owning a classic car was the only problem people had to face in Iran…

Mohammad Akbarpour
Mohammad Akbarpour

I own a vintage in Iran and its all about loving and pain. Facing a mountain of problems is enough for an owner to change his mind and give up the wheels he always dreamed of one day. It needs a big deal of bucks in your pocket and and unlimited energy and nerves. You get no support from the government legally and the only thing that motivates is the respect and the kick you get out of the enthusiasts. Car culture is years behind the world as the classic and vintages are being kicked out of the system. Market… Read more »

Matthew Lange
Matthew Lange

I know Petrolicious has posted this before but worth repeating that the Tehran Cafe racers thread on Ferrarichat is well worth a follow for more on life with classic cars in Iran. http://www.ferrarichat.com/forum/middle-east/332666-tehran-cafe-racers.html

Jeffrey Hicken
Jeffrey Hicken

A few years ago I had someone from a VW club in Iran that wanted to come to a VW event that I’m involved with in New Jersey. We spent months prior to the show writing letters to various government officials in hopes of allowing him to visit. Besides being a VW enthusiast, I believe he was a doctor. Hardly a threat to national security. Unfortunately it didn’t happen, one brick wall after another. Hopefully, one day this will happen, but until the people of both our nations can see beyond the politics and realize on the whole, we are… Read more »

M Webb
M Webb

I have always heard that the people of Iran are not like their government. This seems to back that up

Christopher Gay
Christopher Gay

I have long had many friends from Iran and have been close to their families for many, many years. Since I was young, they always treated me like I was part of their family, even though they were the ones away from “home”. They have an extremely rich culture, a fantastic sense of style (and the women are all beautiful), and the food… world’s best cuisine. 😉

Interestingly, I have the same experiences with my longtime Italian friends. 😉

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger

Anthony Bourdain’s CNN ” Parts Unknown ” series also did a great ten minute segment in his Iran episode about the car collectors [ specifically American car collectors ] in Iran and the problems they face . The feeling the segment as well as the episode as a whole left one with was the wish that it was the people of Iran and the people of the US that were making the decisions rather than the Iranian Government/Supreme leaders and US Government . Sadly though that will probably never be the case . So to all the GearHeads in Iran… Read more »