In a country with perhaps the highest per capita number of car collectors in the world, it's not surprising that the ExoClass car club, the official UAE club for exotic and classic cars, is welcome at any sporting event. Although not part of the organising team, some of the club's members will participate this weekend, until February 21, in the Downtown Dubai Classic Car Show, which will be held in the shadow of the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. However, running alongside the static car display, ExoClass members will parade their beauties throughout Emaar Boulevard for all to see. "We organise our own events, as well as participating in other events like the Downtown show," says Eric Hafner, the ExoClass Club president. "The boulevard is a fantastic place to parade. Last year we had many spectators and there was lots of energy, it was great."
The ExoClass Club was set up by Hafner six years ago, with its patron, rally driver and the UAE Automobile and Touring Club president, Mohammed Bin Sulayem, to bring together exotic and classic car collectors to encourage them to take the cars out on the road. "We love doing parades, getting the cars out, and we try to bring together all the classic car clubs around the emirates," Hafner says. The reason why the UAE has such a concentration of people passionate about classic cars is that there are few restrictions in importing and using vehicles with large engines, unlike the US or Europe, according to Hafner. "You can buy cars from all over the world, ship it over, have it registered and drive it," he says. "We don't yet have the regulations limiting emissions as they have elsewhere, plus petrol is cheap, so driving a big engine is not prohibitive. Here, you can afford to drive anything."
Each individual of the club's six-member committee has his own responsibilities, one of which is helping members find the car of their dreams. Gaurav Dhar, who's been in the UAE all his life, is involved in trading through his website, Rolling Art Emporium. He and Hafner travel to auctions in the US, the main classic car market, or Sotheby's or Christies, and either sell cars for customers or try to find the car they want.
As well as helping members import and export their cars, the club also helps them in restoration, either in the UAE or in the UK, where, for a cost of between £200,000 to £500,000, a car can be totally dismantled and rebuilt from scratch. The downside of having a classic car with low mileage is that serious car collectors want to keep it that way and never take their cars out of the garage. "I know some people here, who own from 50 to 300 exotic or classic cars but keep them in underground, air-conditioned parking," Hafner says. "They don't drive them because they don't want to put mileage on the clock. It's a real shame for us car enthusiasts, who would love to see those cars on the road."
With some 80 members, the club can boast a vast array of exotic and classic cars, from a 1960s Beetle to a vintage Bugatti, and they draw the crowds wherever they go. The club recently travelled down to Yas Island for the GT2 Grand Prix. "We'll be down at the V8 Supercars too, as well as at Meydan for the Dubai World Cup. What we really enjoy is driving our cars and exhibiting them for people who are also passionate about cars, their mechanics and beautiful design."
Currently in sponsorship negotiations with a fashion brand synonymous with classic cars throughout Europe, the club's philosophy is summed up in its strapline - A drive through generations. "'A drive' because it's all about being in the car, driving, smelling the leather and admiring the chrome," Hafner says. "'Through generations' because the cars are from the beginning to the end of the last century and we are experiencing them all." firstname.lastname@example.org