Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Run in with Rambo

Words by: Victor Pics by: Victor

Growing up in Dubai was not only great, but different. It wasn't just about the friendly people, mixed culture and amazing architecture being built around me, but also about the exclusive, rare and sexy cars I saw on a daily basis on the roads.

For a petrol head like myself, it was living the dream! Cars you would normally only see in magazines or TV shows were parked down the street, and those very special models with a limited production run of 10 units or less would see probably 8 of them being delivered here in the UAE, for me to drool on.

When, after some years, I moved back home to Sweden (where the car scene usually doesn't get more exciting than a tuned Volvo), I quickly came to realise how unusual my childhood was. When conversations with other motorheads came to the part when they would ramble up their dream car, I would usually go "Oh yeah I have seen a couple of those in Dubai, they sound of the engine is awesome!" As you can imagine, the response was either them thinking I was lying or if I had actually been near the cars.

At the time, I genuinely thought it was "normal" to see Bentley’s, Bugatti's, Rolls Royce's, McLaren's and Pagani's on a daily basis, swishing by on the highway at XXX km/h.

It takes a lot, then, for something to be unique and special in a country where a Ferrari is a common sight. And so the number plate status began. Simply put: the fewer numbers you have on your number plate, the higher status you have. In the beginning only the locals and sheiks had four digits or less plates, but now it has come to a point where people pay more for special number plates than for their highly sought after supercalifragilisticexpialidocious hyper car. 

For example, this Bugatti: the car itself is stunning, more stunning than it is the number plate - it costs as much, if not more, than the car…

Hyper cars and insanely priced number plates aside, even I was surprised to have a special run in with a certain monster not long ago, when I paid a visit to a tuning garage we were doing a bit on with a magazine I was working for.

I was playing the role of a photographer (yes, a photographer…), and after a few short words with the owner of the shop, I was off to snap a few shots of the establishment while my college was proceeding to interview the man.

The garage itself was pretty basic – this outfit imports that are in need of some welding, fixing and loving before being sold for a profit. Inside, friendly workers were working on cool American muscles and on an old Bentley that looked as if it had been left under a ton of hay for the last decade.

As I worked my way around the shop, trying to get good angles of the cars, realizing I had no idea what the hell I was doing but trying to maintain a somewhat straight face, I got to talk with a mechanic who has been with the shop since it opened in 2004. At some point, he asked me if I would like to take some pictures of the "other" cars.

Intrigued, I followed him around the building to two enormous steel doors. The kind of steel doors I imagine they would use to lock up Godzilla, if he ever was captured. After a bit of teamwork to get the steel doors open, I threw a gaze into the dark room, making out the silhouettes of cars in the garage. It felt as if nobody had been in here for a while, and the air was thick with dust.

As I walked in the dark room, the lights came on, revealing a Lancia Delta Integrale Evo - in full rally spec, sitting just under my nose! "Ah man a Integrale? I didn't know we had one of those in the UAE" I hear myself saying. I looked around to see a majestic Lincoln Continental in the corner, the cabriolet version with the rear suicide doors. Next to that, a classic Mercedes limousine.

But what really surprised me the most was what was parked next to the Benz Limo. It was hideous. It was red. It had looks only a mother could love. It was a Lamborghini LM002. The car Lamborghini had high hopes of selling to the US army (I assume the strategy behind the LM002 was to blind the enemy with its appalling looks, or paralyze them with laughter with its weird front fascia). I stood in front of it, gaping like a fish until the mechanic asked me if I wanted him to start it up. Brainless question, positive answer.

The monster had been sitting there for a while, and as the mechanic went to get a charger for the battery, I took a closer look at the beast. It was sitting on its original Scorpion tires, with a custom run-flat tread design specially made for the LM002 by Pirelli. These tires could conquer anything and were the only ones at the time that could stand the desert heat, climb sharp mountains, and handle the speeds the LM002 could reach. At the back, the loading area was fitted with cushions. I could only imagine how great it would be to chill there while cruising through the desert at full speed. You know, once a little cleaning had been done.

As I sat inside, I was surprised to feel cramped in a vehicle so enormous. It felt as if Lamborghini fitted the engine between the driver and front passenger seats. I assumed that was where all the diffs and mechanical wonders that help this car climb anything lied. The white leather seats came standard with an awkward seating position, and the cabin was loaded with warning lights and buttons I have yet to see in any other car (have you ever seen a “check engine left” and “check engine right” lights anywhere else?)

Finally, the moment of truth arrived - the battery was charged and it was time to hear what this monster sounded like. We disconnected the charger and had a go at starting the 7.2-litre V12. To my surprise, the Countach engine slowly cranked to life at the first turn of the key.

In all honesty, once running, the engine sound was not quite as dazzling as I expected. Imagine if a canal boat and a V12 had a baby - the Rambo Lambo is what the offspring would sound like. Nevertheless, it was still awesome just to be able to be in the same room as this hideous beast, and choke on its exhaust fumes. As the garage quickly filled up with CO2, it was obvious that emissions standards back then were much more lenient than today’s ones, if there were any.

Sadly, we were not able to take it out for a spin as the mechanic was not sure if the engine would be able to cope with anything more than the idle rate. After taking a bunch of pictures, filling my lungs with CO2, and drying my eyes with exhaust fumes, we packed up and closed the huge steel doors.

To think that behind those heavy duty doors, in that dusty room, lies a collection of cars that would make even the most exclusive car junkie’s jaw drop…


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