The car modification craze that has captured the imagination of driving enthusiasts across the world has officially driven itself up the driveway of Dubai’s Ruling family and parked outside its palatial gates.
Over the summer, one member of the Royal family modified his Range Rover Sport, which was reincarnated as the “Range Stormer”, becoming the first of its kind anywhere in the world.
The demand for such re-fits among both Dubai’s elite and the population of car buffs is accelerating and provides a lucrative business opportunity for customising firms.
US auto remodelling firm West Coast Customs (WCC), which shot to fame after appearing on MTV’s Pimp My Ride show, was the member of the Dubai Ruling family’s company of choice to perform the upgrade to his vehicle, which included installing a full glass roof and vertical-opening doors.
The California-based company – whose clients include Pamela Anderson and Mariah Carey – has targeted Dubai as the next frontier for the car modification business.
WCC has signed a 20-year Mena franchise deal worth Dh18 million with Al Ghussein Automotive Investments – subsidiary of UAE-based investment firm Al Ghussein Global Investments – to operate a production centre in Dubai, its first outside the US.
WCC Middle East frontman Big Dane told Emirates Business Dubai is the ideal environment for the Pimp My Ride concept to flourish, given the abundance of vehicles and thirst for exclusivity among the population.
The Dubai Ruling family member reportedly asked for specific modifications to the Range Rover Sport after spotting one of WCC Middle East’s concept vehicles.
“We took a Range Rover Sport, changed it to a two-door, stretched the front doors 13 inches and gave it front vertical doors. It has a full glass roof, too,” says Big Dane.
“All the body modifications for the rear wheels, front and rear bumpers are hand fabricated from sheet metal, and it has custom Ashianti wheels with a brush aluminum look. It had a nice burnt orange House of Colour paint job on it, a little bit of audio upgrade, with the interior done pretty sick [cool].”
Despite all this effort, the modified car was reportedly given away to a friend as a gift. But the present is a credit to the success of MTV’s Pimp My Ride in the United States, which helped transform car customising into a multi-million dollar global phenomenon.
Since its 2004 debut, the extreme re-fit show has thrived in heavily car-centric countries, from Japan to the UK, and is one of MTV’s most-watched programmes in nearly all of its 100 worldwide subsidiaries.
Customising firms are now discovering a foothold in Dubai, with a vast car population offering huge potential for bespoke services.
“The trend is actually coming from Arabs,” says Asim Arshad, a Dubai radio station associate brand manager, who spent Dh63,000 on modifying his Dh73,000 Infinity G35.
“People like me, who were born and bred in Dubai, have seen sports cars as a dream. But now they are more easily available and on the type of jobs and money people are on, it’s easier for them to afford them,” he says.
Hani Bayoun, owner of airbrush specialist firm Car Art, takes a design, or one of the customer’s choosing, and expertly sprays it into the body of a car or motorbike.
“People buy designs to put their personality onto their vehicles. They want to add something more attractive,” says Bayoun.
His concept design shop was opened in 1985, and Car Art set up in 2006, adding the vehicle airbrush dimension. The firm made its Dubai Motorshow debut this year. The company works out of Beirut, Lebanon, but Bayoun says he will establish a Dubai workshop in 2008. Prices for airbrush jobs range from Dh1,835 to more than Dh36,700.
The WCC’s Dubai workshop is part of plans for global expansion that include Russia, Australia and Germany.
Big Dane says he is relishing the chance to tap into Dubai’s burgeoning car culture and the wealth that belies it.
“The market for customisation in Dubai is big. In the US customisation is a lifestyle; everybody is getting something done to personalise their vehicle. We want to bring that bit of Western thinking to Dubai. We want to captivate everybody out there and have something for everyone. But also we want the one-off deals, clientele that’s going to come and spend maybe $200,000 [Dh734,000] or $300,000 [Dh1.1bn],” says Big Dane.
A crucial part of pimping a car is re-inventing the wheel designs. The GMP Italy is a new specially painted alloy design that changes colour at night as light bounces off it.
“It’s a new brand we launched at the recent Dubai Motorshow. We expect it to be a strong seller in 2008,” says Hamad Taher, Chairman of Al Saeed General Trading, who has just started to stock the GMP. “In Dubai people like fashion associated with wheels. They are always focused on different types of expensive cars and like the cars to be up to speed with the latest trends. Alloy wheels are a way to add to this image.”
Taher’s business, which has been running for 25 years, is built on Dubai’s driving population and is popular alloy wheels range from Dh1,000 to Dh4,000 each.
“We have good sales on auto accessories. Our sales, especially on alloy wheels are very strong,” he says. “People pay this price to have a great looking car, in the same way as they buy fashionable clothes.”
The Range Stormer
The Range Rover Sport’s journey to become the world’s first Range Stormer (far left) included a full re-spray, a two-door refit, body kit and all-new Ashianti wheels.
First, the WCC Middle East team stretched the front doors to 13 inches in length. Traditional side-opening doors at the front were replaced with vertical doors, and a full glass roof was installed.
All body modifications for the rear wheels, front bumpers and rear bumpers were hand-fabricated out of sheet metal, and the new custom-wheels were added with a brush aluminum look.
According to frontman Big Dane, the burnt orange paint job on it, the audio upgrade and the interior was all done pretty “sick” by which he means “cool”.
Me and my car
Dubai-resident Asim Arshad, 26, is the associate brand manager for Arabian Radio Network.
THE CAR: Infinity Coupe G35, 2004 model imported, 6-speed manual gear box
HOW MUCH DID IT COST? Bought the car in March, 2007, for Dh73,000. Modifications cost Dh63,000.
MODIFICATIONS CARRIED OUT:
- W/Braking callipers, Brembo modified
- Trust twin exhaust systems for additional horsepower
- Double intake system
- Racing fuel injectors and racing cams on the car
- Single plate heavy duty clutch
- 18” rims, Veil side body kit on
- Computer chip and a racing fuel pump
After a period of time, no matter how fast your car is, you get used to it and start feeling it’s slow. Then you start thinking it was time you did something about it.
WHY DID YOU MODIFY? When you’re into racing and cars, you are never satisfied with the power; you always want to go faster.