By on January 29, 2013


Abandon all hope: Mental Ward is now TTAC’s man in Abu Dhabi and surrounding sheikdoms  For the next year, or until they kick him out, Mental will deliver a sandstorm of desert dispatches. Here is the first.

There are more than a few web sites dedicated to abandoned exotics in the Middle East.

They – cars and websites – are everywhere. What you don’t expect here is an abandoned hoopty. Last week I was getting my race bib for the Dubai marathon and I saw this beauty. When I returned on the day of the race, I got pictures. You have to hand it to the Sheikhs: Even their hoopties are classy – in a way.

No amount of internet research can tell me how many of these Gazelle kits cars were made, but the design is still available. Originally made by famed kit car maker Fiberfab, they were one of the many groups that entered into the business offering rebodies for Beetles, this one being a tribute to the 1929 Mercedes SSK.

This particular beauty has forgone or lost the exhaust manifolds under the front fender. The under dash speaker has fallen, as well as some of the insulation. The tires are still good, but by now flat spotted. The car is parked slightly out of the space and at an angle that would indicate it no longer operational. Normally, an air cooled VW can be fixed, but in the time I have been here, I haven’t seen a single one. Sand and air cooled, probably not a winning combination.

I cannot imagine this car belonging to a person of privilege. Would get caught in anything less than the real 1929 SSK, parked on a yacht in Saint Tropez. The UAE is nation of immigrants, however. They import everything here, including people. There are currently 3,212,000 immigrants here, and that translates to over 71% of their population that originated in another place.

I can picture a young hardworking man, who set off from Bangladesh. He arrived and found grueling work in construction, but developed skills and slowly moved up the ladder. Eventually he saved enough money between his rent, food and sending his check home to purchase his own transportation, and leave the cattle cars of the busses behind. Instead of a reverse engineered Honda motorcycle from China, his eyes settle on the lovely lines of a swoopy convertible promising old world luxury and German reliability.

He is cruising proudly in his convertible feeling similar to the $375K Rolls Cabriolet next to him. I can sense his hopelessness as the sand eats his retro-roadster – for desert, so to speak. The car sputters, stops on the secondary road. His limited mechanical knowledge is exhausted. He doesn’t have the resources to retrieve the car, so his pride and joy now sits abandoned like Fry’s dog, awaiting his return, as it slowly is filled with sand.

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