Sunday,18 November, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1407, (30 August - 5 September 2018)
Sunday,18 November, 2018
Issue 1407, (30 August - 5 September 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Nasser’s car

Almost 60 years on and still in good shape is the car president Gamal Abdel-Nasser rode in while listening to the BBC. Mohamed Abdel-Razek tells the little-known story of the special Cadillac

Current condtion of the car
Al-Ahram Weekly

Classic cars usually carry memories with them, especially iconic cars which hold great value and have a story to tell. For some people, the car’s cost doesn’t really matter. What does is its ability to bring back memories for their owners and others.

Classic cars owned by the famous hold much value for many reasons. For presidents and royals, most of the time such cars were manufactured with special specs and limited edition production. Adding to that is the popularity of the celebrity and the events the car witnessed.


Mahrous

The 1961 Cadillac Fleetwood series 75 that belonged to former Egyptian president Gamal Abdel-Nasser has many stories under its hood.

“I was eager to own such a titled automobile with all what it signifies,” Ahmed Mahrous, the current owner of the Cadillac, said. Fifteen years ago Mahrous heard about the car parked outside a villa in Menoufiya. When he heard the car was up for sale Mahrous ventured to the city to meet the owner, judge Ashraf Shabasi. It took only a couple of hours to complete the deal for LE85,000.


Previous owners’ documents

Mahrous related how Shabasi first got his hands on the car. He was its first owner after it was sold by the Egyptian government in an auction to actor/musician Ezzat Abu-Auf in 1981. At that time Abu-Auf led a famous musical band, 4M, consisting of his four sisters and himself. “The only car that had room to take all the band comfortably to and from concerts was that Cadillac”, said Mervat Abu-Auf, Ezzat’s sister. It certainly must have been so much fun for the whole band, hitting concerts in royal style, however, after time it was not accepted by some people who had their own point of view, according to Mahrous. Mahrous said Shabasi told him he always wanted the car but what really pushed him to approach Abu-Auf was when the press started criticising president Nasser’s historical car going to nightclubs and the like. They took it as a big sign of disrespect.


Previous owners’ documents

The incident encouraged Shabasi to buy the car in 1992. Mahrous added that Abu-Auf realised that he made a wrong decision by letting go of the car and tried several times to get it back, but Shabasi had a firm hold on it.

The interest of famous people who wanted the car never stopped through the years of Shabasi’s ownership. The judge told Mahrous that the ex-Libyan leader Muammar Al-Qaddafi sent his men to negotiate on buying the car but the deal never went through as they had strange demands. For one, they asked Shabasi to drive the car all the way to Libya to deliver it to Al-Qaddafi.


Official proof the car served Nasser

The main reason why Shabasi decided to let go of a car that he always cherished was that after years of owning it and he reaching high ranks in his career, he had no time to take care of it and decided it was best to find a new home.

The 6.4L V8 limo wasn’t in its best shape when Mahrous took possession of it; it needed a big restoration project. At the time, 2003, Mahrous had less than five years of classic cars experience under his belt. The Fleetwood was his first classic American vehicle and third classic overall. It was a big challenge for Mahrous. “I remember when we disassembled the car, completely stripping down the interior and the exterior to the metal, I had doubts mixed with fear that we would be able to get it back together.”


Current condtion of the car

Although 1961 sounds like ages ago, the Cadillac had it all: power steering, power windows, central lock, front and rear power electric seats, front and rear independent climate control and front and rear independent control for the radio that was modified for Nasser who used to listen to the BBC and other global stations. The module is still in the car as tested. The restoration process took almost three years according to Mahrous who had to collect its rare parts from around the world, including the middle glass divider window that separates the front row seat from the president’s back seat.

This reporter had the privilege to test drive the car. It drives very smoothly and comfortably. Everything feels just right. It’s just too big for today’s busy streets.

In the last few years the car has been hitting many classic car events since it is one of the most iconic Cadillacs in Egypt. “I believe I gained huge experience in classic car restorations, so this car deserves another final restoration project, and I’ll go for it in 2019,” added Mahrous who has refused several offers from the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait and Syria from people asking to buy his car. But he never thought twice; the answer was always ‘no’.


Current condtion of the car

The worldwide value of the car, if fully restored, is $70,000 according to Mahrous, without adding its subjective value. But can it be sold outside Egypt? “I’m not selling it, but I guess there is a law that does not allow the export of 50-year-old cars because they are considered national treasures.”

Mahrous believes the Egyptian government owned many treasures of cars from King Farouk to Nasser to his successor Anwar Al-Sadat. “Many cars were sold for less than their market price, not adding their historical value,” Mahrous said. “The country would have benefited a lot if the cars were sold right, or even better, if they kept them in a national museum dedicated to royal and presidential cars.”


Current condtion of the car


Nasser's Car

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