Aleppo car lover aims to revive his ‘wounded’ classics

Aleppo car lover aims to revive his ‘wounded’ classics
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A picture taken on March 9, 2017, shows 70-year-old Mohammad Mohiedine Anis opening the trunk of his 1949 Hudson Commodor outside his home in Aleppo’s formerly rebel-held Al-Shaar neighborhood. (AFP)
Aleppo car lover aims to revive his ‘wounded’ classics
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TOPSHOT — A picture taken on March 9, 2017, shows 70-year-old Mohammad Mohiedine Anis opening the trunk of his 1949 Hudson Commodor outside his home in Aleppo’s formerly rebel-held Al-Shaar neighborhood. (AFP)
Aleppo car lover aims to revive his ‘wounded’ classics
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A picture taken on March 9, 2017, shows a 1949 Hudson Commodor parked outside the home of Mohammad Mohiedine Anis in Aleppo’s formerly rebel-held Al-Shaar neighborhood. (AFP)
Aleppo car lover aims to revive his ‘wounded’ classics
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A picture taken on March 9, 2017, shows a 1948 Buick parked outside the home of Mohammad Mohiedine Anis in Aleppo’s formerly rebel-held Al-Shaar neighborhood. (AFP)
Aleppo car lover aims to revive his ‘wounded’ classics
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A picture taken on March 9, 2017, shows a 1958 Chevrolet Apache truck parked outside the home of Mohammad Mohiedine Anis in Aleppo’s formerly rebel-held Al-Shaar neighborhood. (AFP)
Aleppo car lover aims to revive his ‘wounded’ classics
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A picture taken on March 9, 2017, shows a 1958 Chevrolet Apache truck parked outside the home of Mohammad Mohiedine Anis in Aleppo’s formerly rebel-held Al-Shaar neighborhood. (AFP)
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A picture taken on March 9, 2017, shows a 1947 Cadillac parked in the garden of Mohammad Mohiedine Anis’ home in Aleppo’s formerly rebel-held Al-Shaar neighborhood. (AFP)
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A picture taken on March 9, 2017, shows 70-year-old Mohammad Mohiedine Anis inspecting his 1957 Mercury Montclair outside his home in Aleppo’s formerly rebel-held Al-Shaar neighborhood. (AFP)
Aleppo car lover aims to revive his ‘wounded’ classics
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A picture taken on March 9, 2017, shows a 1957 Mercury Montclair parked outside the home of Mohammad Mohiedine Anis in Aleppo’s formerly rebel-held Al-Shaar neighborhood. (AFP)
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A picture taken on March 9, 2017, shows a 1947 Plymouth parked in the garden of Mohammad Mohiedine Anis’ home in Aleppo’s formerly rebel-held Al-Shaar neighborhood. (AFP)
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A picture taken on March 9, 2017, shows a boy playing with a cat next to a 1948 Buick parked outside the home of Mohammad Mohiedine Anis in the formerly rebel-held Al-Shaar neighborhood. (AFP)
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A picture taken on March 9, 2017, shows a 1948 Buick parked outside the home of Mohammad Mohiedine Anis in Aleppo’s formerly rebel-held Al-Shaar neighborhood. (AFP)
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A picture taken on March 9, 2017, shows a 1955 Buick Super parked outside the home of Mohammad Mohiedine Anis in Aleppo’s formerly rebel-held Al-Shaar neighborhood. (AFP)
Updated 11 March 2017

Aleppo car lover aims to revive his ‘wounded’ classics

Aleppo car lover aims to revive his ‘wounded’ classics

ALEPPO: Car enthusiast Mohammed Mohiedin Anis gazes sadly at a 1955 Buick Super, one of his collection of vintage cars “wounded” in battles that ravaged the northern Syrian city of Aleppo.
Heavy bombardment of the eastern district of Shaar had blown massive chunks of concrete off a nearby building, crushing the vintage Buick’s bonnet and transforming its once-proud radiator into a twisted grimace.
“Look, she is crying. She’s wounded and calling out for my help,” says the 70-year-old collector, pledging to repair the car now that the guns have fallen silent after the army ousted rebels from Syria’s second city in December.
The whole district lies in ruins, with many of its buildings reduced to piles of shattered glass and dusty debris blocking the roads.
Anis — who is widely known as Abu Omar — began his time abroad as a medical student in the Spanish city of Zaragoza in the 1970s. He then moved to Turin to translate an Italian manual for Fiat cars into Arabic.
On his return to Aleppo, the pre-war economic capital of Syria, he went into business, opening a cosmetics factory called “Mila Robinson.”

 

 

But his passion has always been the cars inherited from his father, a wealthy textile dye entrepreneur who drove the 1950 Pontiac that has pride of place in Anis’s collection today.
Since AFP’s correspondent in Aleppo first interviewed Anis in February 2016, much has changed for the car enthusiast.
His 30-car collection has now been reduced to 20 through vehicles destroyed or stolen during the fighting.
Thirteen cars are parked in front of his new home and in the garden, but seven others have been impounded by police because they were blocking the road.
“I love cars because they are like women — beautiful and strong,” he says with a smile.
Anis has two wives, one in Aleppo and another in Syria’s central Hama, and eight children.
His taste is somewhat eclectic, with a strong preference for 1950s American cars: Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Hudson and Mercury, although he also owns a German Volkswagen and a French Citroen 2CV van.
“I have three Cadillacs because they are the most luxurious of cars. Every collection should have a Cadillac. If a collector doesn’t have one, it’s like a collection without a head,” he says, taking a serious tone.
His own pride and joy is a cherry-red 1947 Cadillac convertible which has transported at least six presidents over the years — some democratically elected, others who seized power in a coup.
With the hood down, Egypt’s late president Gamal Abdel Nasser and his Syrian counterpart Shukri Al-Quwatli were driven triumphantly through Damascus after the proclamation of a short-lived United Arab Republic between their countries in 1958.
“I bought it 12 years ago at auction for just 620 (Syrian) pounds, but then had to pay 100 times that in taxes because it had never gone through customs,” says Anis.
To protect it from theft, he has removed the steering wheel and seats, and keeps them hidden indoors.
Neighbour Nihad Sultan, a 30-year-old singer, says that when Anis moved away during the last two months of combat, residents somehow convinced rebels not to mount a Dushka anti-aircraft gun on his 1958 Chevrolet.
But his collection is in a sorry state, disfigured by war.
“They are all wounded,” he says, vowing to start work on the cars before repairs on his house. “I even intend to buy more of them.”
As for the family home, a grand building from the 1930s, the army’s victory in what had been rebel-held east Aleppo has left the two-story house in ruins.
“When I got back and saw what was left of my home, I was in shock,” says Anis, who consoles himself with a pipe and tunes from Syrian singer Mohamed Dia Al-Din.
“I have had a very happy past but things have changed. Now life is hard, but we mustn’t lose hope,” he says.
Foreigners who have offered to buy his cars have been firmly rebuffed.
“They are for my children. I will distribute them in keeping with (Muslim) religious (inheritance) law: two for each boy and one for each girl,” he says.


Elegance with a hint of jet fighter: The McLaren 2020 GT

Updated 04 October 2020

Elegance with a hint of jet fighter: The McLaren 2020 GT

Elegance with a hint of jet fighter: The McLaren 2020 GT
  • ‘It has the threat and power of a shark’
  • Buying a McLaren GT from the showroom will set you back at least $210,000

DUBAI: I like the idea of Grand Tourers — GTs as they are known in the motor business. At their best, they combine the exhilaration of sports car driving with just a little bit more room and comfort, for when you are making the “grand tour” they are designed for.
It is a segment of the luxury car market that British carmaker McLaren eyed warily for a while. Perhaps more than any other super-sports carmaker, McLaren has stuck to its racing car roots. Would a GT not be a betrayal of that long and valued heritage?
But last year, McLaren took the leap into the GT space and has come up with a little gem of a vehicle.
The 2020 version I drove — courtesy of the accommodating people in its Dubai headquarters — was GT enough to make you contemplate a drive through the Rub Al-Khali Empty Quarter, but sporty enough to raise eyebrows on Jumeirah Beach Road.
It looks exquisite. McLaren designers seem to have sat down and picked out all the sexiest, sleekest features from all other supercars and blended them perfectly in the GT — then added some more just as a bonus.
Looking at it head-on from the front, it has the threat and power of a shark. The body is all flowing lines and elegant contours. The rear has just a hint of jet fighter about it.
With a carbon fiber and aluminum body, it is lighter than any in its class, which accounts for the neck-breaking power you get out of its 4-liter V8 engine. You can hit 200 km in nine seconds from standing, and if you put your foot to the floor you will reach 326 km per hour.


For connoisseurs of engine noise, the sound on acceleration is raw and powerful, but not overpowering enough to make you concerned for your hearing. McLaren has stuffed plenty of advance insulation into the car. From outside, there is a gratifying boy-racer power crack, if revving up at the lights is your kind of thing.
A reworked suspension system, combined with McLaren’s hydraulic steering, means you retain the racing car feel but without the bumpy ride some sports cars give you.
It is low on the ground. In fact, you would have to practice entry and exit in private in order to do it with any grace in public. But the butterfly doors give you plenty of access room at least.
So how would I feel embarking on a long drive in the McLaren GT? Well, I would be confident that I would have a reasonable amount of luggage for one thing. The rear opens up to show enough space for two golf bags, and the front boot also has plenty of room for a weekend for two.
Only one small word of dissent here. My wife complained that there was nowhere to put her stuff. “This is a real boy’s car isn’t it — golf clubs but no room for a handbag,” she said.
In fact, I could see women being especially delighted to own and drive the McLaren GT. It is less macho and more intimate than other GTs, and is definitely a car to be seen in. 
The two-seat cabin is well designed and, again, intimate, with a stack of hi-tech features. A British audio system is a novelty these days, but sounded great.
Buying a McLaren GT from the showroom will set you back at least $210,000, depending on the color you choose and the level of interior decor. The one I drove was in a seductive amaranth red, and had plenty of leather and chrome inside.
I loved driving it through the canyons of Sheikh Zayed Road. Next time, the Empty Quarter.