My Car: Omar's snap happy with crocodile-like old Nissan Patrol

His friends may not appreciate his crocodile-like Nissan Patrol but this high-flyer just loves it

Omar Al Jaddou spent thousands of dirhams renovating his 1996 Nissan Patrol in part because it brings back happy memories of his father's car from when he was a child.
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Finance and investment executive Omar Al Jaddou has been living in Dubai for more than four years and drives a manual 1996 Nissan Patrol. It may seem unusual for a corporate high-flyer to own such an old car but, as Omar explains, the Patrol has been close to an obsession since buying it in October 2010 for only Dh30,000.

"I don't drive around very much, having only put 10,000km on the clock over the last year and the car has spent a few months being renovated in the garage since purchase. I bought the car from a friend - it had been in their family from new and was largely used by their driver to run errands so, for me, it was like finding the holy grail," Omar, from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, beams.

Working as a director at Advanced Global Trading, a carbon credit brokerage in Dubai, would usually set off alarms of hypocrisy owning such a gas guzzler but, as he explains, there are many things he does to minimise the damage he causes to the environment. "When driving, we can take measures to increase fuel efficiency thereby reducing pollution to minimal levels, such as keeping tyres inflated at the proper level, changing the oil and filter and tuning the car regularly," says Omar.

His unusual car purchase shocked some of his friends. "Most friends are from the GCC and some saw it as another symptom of my eccentric nature, however, some reacted with what can only be described as despairing horror - simply incredulous as to why I would buy such an old car. The only person who was quietly satisfied was my father, I guess because he knows what a great car it is," he says.

However, it seems Omar's fondness for the Patrol may simply be down to the memories it elicits: "When I see any Nissan Patrol from that era I get swept up by nostalgia, remembering my childhood and my father driving us around Riyadh in one. We always thought of the car as unstoppable and I always wished I could drive it, so I guess an irrational residue of this sentiment made the decision to buy it inevitable."

Omar, 28, has spent thousands of dirhams renovating the Patrol, with most of the work being done at Future Tyres and Nakheel Garage in Aweer. "It now has the radiator from a Nissan Maxima, the gearbox from a Toyota and an Altima's A/C, among other additions. I'm very lucky because my friends are all car enthusiasts who tune and customise their cars, so the first thing I did was a full re-spray, as well as extensive work on the suspension and independently adjustable shocks," he explains.

"I also decided to fit newer Nissan factory alloys and spacers to help with stability and cornering. In urban driving, a stiff suspension helps with cornering and stability and, in desert driving, softer suspension helps absorb the bumps very effectively."

Within a year of owning the Nissan, Omar was offered Dh50,000 for his renovated model, but even a profit of nearly 70 per cent couldn't tempt him to sell.

His father owned classic cars, such as 1960s Morris Minors, so he has a real appreciation that such cars can be a labour of love. "I still love the car as much as the day I first saw one as a kid and I drive it every day with a big smile on my face.

"For me, the world stopped improving in terms of automotive design around the mid-nineties, so my ideal cars are all from that era - even when there are mechanical problems, there's greater tolerance because it's older.

"You have to appreciate that owning an old car is kind of like having a pet crocodile. As much as you love it, feed it and look after it, the second you let your guard down, you're going to get mauled," he warns. So don't tease Omar about having an old Patrol or he might just snap.