Motoring Moments of 2013: Shahzad’s Top Fives

Editor-in-Chief picks the highlights of the last twelve months on MME

By Shahzad Sheikh

[And Fraser Martin’s best bits of 2013]

[Read The Imthishan Awards for 2013]

[Also click here to find out which were the Top 21 biggest stories of 2013 on MME!]

It’s that time of year when we get all reflective and spend a while looking back instead of forever forward. In recapping the last 12 months and totting up the drives, the trips, the adventures and achievements, a sense of pride overwhelms Team MME, particularly when you consider we’re just two-years young but growing fast. Very fast.


My first ride on the Japanese Bullet train which goes very fast – see what I did there?

As we contemplate this, just for a moment a trepiditious sense of awe overcomes us and we can’t help but turn our gaze once more towards the crystal ball and earnestly beseech: ‘how the hell are we going to top 2013?’


But the hesitation is only fleeting. We’ll allow ourselves only this short moment of laurel-resting before determinedly embracing 2014 with one unfaltering war cry – ‘You ain’t seen nuthin yet!’

So enjoy this very personal recap of my own year at MME, and stick with us. There’s more, oh such much more, to come.

[A look even further back. Here were my best bits of 2012!]

Happy New Year to all our readers!


Top 5 Best First Drives

I’m not talking best cars of the year – I’ve already been through that and you can click here to read my opinion of the best motors of 2013. The Top 5 drives listed here are in reference to cars that really got under my skin, and left an enduring impression, to the point that I really struggled to hand them back.


1. Lotus Evora S – The most visceral car I’ve driven since… well a very long time. Nothing you can buy today puts you more directly in touch with the mechanics of driving a sports car. I’d put up with its foibles and impracticality and even try hard to justify the exorbitant price.

Lotus Evora S IPS in Dubai, UAE

2. Ford Focus ST – Transported me back to my ‘yoof’ tearing about the streets of London. Felt like a modern-day Escort XR3i, but obviously far more potent, far more betterer – as they’d say in Essex. Innit like? Oh dear, what’s happening to me?

2013 Ford Focus ST

3. Audi RS7 – Gobsmacking! That was my reaction to something that I didn’t really have much expectations of. A grown-up Audi hatchback, luxury/exec cruiser? No way, this is the underdog that could embarrass the legendary BMW M5 thanks to pulverising performance.

Audi RS7

4. Local Motors Rally Fighter – The what? Just hit the link. There is nothing else like it. A high-rising muscle-buggy thing that strikes fear into the tinny bonnets of mere road cars, and shovels mountains of sand into the grilles of anything encountering it out dune-bashing!

Rally Fighter in Dubai

5. Chevrolet Camaro SS – I love the ZL1 version, and always had the nagging sensation that the regular SS-flavoured bowtie-wearing muscle car was a little too tame. Not anymore, they’ve dialled back the traction, and ramped up the yee-ha quotient. Oh for a manual though.

2014 Chevrolet Camaro SS

Top 5 favourite stories

Volkswagen CC driven in the desert on sand in UAE

1. VW CC Dune-bashing – Thanks to Volkswagen Middle East, I fulfilled a long-held ambition (wanted to do this as a cover feature for CAR Middle East magazine back in the day) to take a road-going saloon (albeit one with AWD) into the desert. Fraser did the driving, we just did the bowing-downs and we’re-not-worthys!

Chevrolet Cruze

2. Cruze down memory lane – Two identical cars, two very different characters, two entirely unique journeys looking back at the recent history of Dubai. Great fun and very satisfying to do. I won on points, but to be fair I cheated. At least the reader didn’t lose out. You, my dear, got two great stories for the price of one!

Jebel Jais Mountain Road

3. Jebel Jais Mountain Road – Bend after tortuous bend rising up through the ruggedly picturesque mountains around Ras Al Khaimah, this was one of the greatest undiscovered driving roads in the UAE. Undiscovered that is, until we told everyone about it. Now this motoring nirvana has become a popular weekend destination for enthusiasts and car clubs.

Nagoya Car Museum: packed with automotive legends!

4. Najoya Car Museum – I love car museums and this was one of the best I’d seen. Ostensibly, this is a Toyota-owned and run facility, but by no means to the exclusion of wider automotive history. From classic Caddys to honourable Honda S800s, this place had it all. I could’ve spent all day, nay, all week in there.

Chevrolet Arabia Corvette Challenge at the 2013 Dubai Motor Show

5. Corvette Challenge – What a laugh! Race Abdo Feghali Chevy said. You must be joking we said. A hill climb, rally and drift specialist, plus a designated ‘Red Bull Athlete’ we stood no chance.

So we found ourselves a patsy… sorry reader, who would represent us in the contest. He of course turned out to be brilliant and won the day – our Champ!

Meanwhile Imthi and I raced each other – with surprising and hilarious results!

Top 5 Press trips 1. Japan with Lexus – It was a long trip, but a good one. We visited the Lexus HQ, had a private audience with the big boss, went to the factory, saw a museum and drove the new IS350. Plus we stayed at the poshest place in Tokyo as well as visiting other cities, got to ride the Bullet Train and stayed in an exotic and traditional mountain-top resort.

Normally I prefer to get down to the business of testing and talking cars on press trips, but I’d never been to Japan before, although had always been fascinated by it, and the casual tourism+work nature of this very well organised trip for a select few journos, suited me perfectly. A great trip and one that I will always cherish and remember.


2. Range Rover Sport, UK – Not so exotic this one, in fact it was home for me. But on this particular press trip it wasn’t about the location, but about the variety and sheer range of experience we got with the all-new Range Rover Sport.

We drove it solidly over two days taking in motorways, winding country roads, muddy and boggy off-roading, rally-stage hard-charging gravel driving and finally unleashed its performance on an airfield and then drove it through an aeroplane – and no I’m really not making that last bit up. The organisation and event handling was superb and it gave us an extraordinary and very intimate experience with the amazing new Sport.


3. Tochigi Honda R&D Japan – Never been to Japan before this year, and suddenly I’m making two trips in a year! The second was with Honda and took in a factory visit and the Tokyo motor show. Whilst the trip itself was nowhere near as well staged as the Lexus affair, not by a long shot, the highlight was a full day at the Tochigi Honda R&D facility, where we got to see and try Honda’s future tech. And we got to drive the as yet unreleased, 2015 Honda Civic Type R with the new Turbo unit. Now that was precious!

Honda Tochigi R&D facility - Civic Type R Turbo

4. …. And that’s it actually. Which is strange. Because normally being one to shun overseas trips, I actually took on a record number of them this year with several to Europe and another first time visit – to Canada with BMW in fact (which caused me much consternation at the American borders I had to transit through, by the way). But having said that, apart from the significant three trips mentioned above, there wasn’t really anything else that really stood out this year.

Best moments

1. Second anniversary of the birth of MME. We celebrated our second birthday in style at the Bikers Cafe in Jumeirah, and it was lovely to see so many readers, friends and supporters turn up to celebrate with us – some even bearing gifts! It was a great milestone for us, and sharing it with you guys was very special.


2. Watching my wife slide a Mustang at the Ford driver safety event staged at universities in Dubai, which was intended to teach teenagers the dangers of losing control in a car. My wife took the wheel of a Mustang Convertible and promptly threw it sideways – under guidance of course! Normally quite a sensible and cautious driver, she had an unmistakable glint in her eye after completing the session. ‘How was it I asked?’ ‘Can we do it AGAIN?!’ came the response. I swelled up with pride!

Ford Driving Skills Training, UAE

3. Meet 13. From humble beginnings our car meets had grown at a frankly frightening rate, and Lucky 13 was our best organised, most spectacular Meet yet. Safe, well organised and fun, it was a massive achievement – thanks to all those who helped to make it happen.

Motoring Middle East Meet 13, 22 March, 2013, Dubai Festival City, UAE

4. Radio Show on Dubai Eye. We’ve actually been regular guests on James Piecowye’s CarTalk show on Dubai Eye, 103.8FM (Monday nights at 9pm) for over a year now. This year we had a lot of positive feedback from the industry, listeners and MME readers alike, all of which enjoy the light-hearted banter and insightful information. This year we’ve also had some great guests from the industry. Thanks for listening!


5. Trophy number 2 for MME from Drift UAE. It’s always nice to be appreciated. And we’re genuinely chuffed and excited to again win a trophy this year for our efforts to cover popular and grass roots level motorsports in the UAE. Thanks guys!


Top 5 best looking cars – and not entirely coincidentally also the Top 5 cars I most want to drive in 2014!

1. Lamborghini Huracan It popped in right at the end of year and came out of nowhere. We were expecting it, but considering that the Gallardo, despite being over a decade old, still looks utterly amazing and has not dated a bit, how much better could its replacement really be? Well it turns out it could be a lot, lot better! Still sleek, with sensational edges, it employs subtle surfacing and curves to really make the light dance over its voluptuousness.

2015 Lamborghini Huracan

2. Chevrolet Corvette If it hadn’t been for the baby Lambo, the new Stingray would have had this one easy. Chevrolet has somehow managed to effectively marry a traditional Vette silhouette with astonishingly futuristic lines and some truly fascinating details. The overall car has been compared to current Ferraris, and that’s not surprising. But I’d be so bold as to suggest that, in the metal, this American sports car is even more striking than the fabled Prancing Horses.


3. Alfa Romeo 4C You won’t believe how small this thing is until you see if for real, which you would have at the Dubai show, so elegant and pretty are its perfect proportions. It’s an exquisite little thing, and by all accounts delightful to drive too. Cheaper than the Lotus, but limited edition, we still hope to see a few on our roads soon.

BMW i8

4. BMW i8 If you remember the original BMW M1 from the 1970s, you’ll understand where this had come from. Outrageously low and sleek it may be, but it looks not back to the past, but far forward into the future. This is the supercar of tomorrow, more than any other, and it’s conceived and designed to look the part. It’s a truly extraordinary thing to behold, and let’s not even get started on the amazing tech.

First Dodge SRT Viper V10 in Dubai, UAE

5. SRT Viper And in stark contrast, here’s an old skool brutal burlesque beauty, that was one of the true starts of the Dubai Show this year, if the crowed of people constantly swarming around it was anything to go by. And you couldn’t blame them considering what a showstopper this is and the mind-blowing presence it has. This thing demands attention, and gets it every time. Even more than the Vette it celebrates its heritage and defiantly insists that yesterday’s gorgeous is today’s gorgeous still.

Top 5 classic car moments

1. Volvo P1800 You won’t believe how long I’ve been waiting to feature this actual car. Several years in fact, as I had been in touch with the owner when still doing CAR Middle East magazine. But since then it underwent a full restoration right here in Dubai, and now at last this superstar of a car was finally ready for its glamorous closeup. It was a joy to shoot – and as an extra bonus the owner even let me drive it!

Volvo P1800 in Dubai

2. Charger Finding a classic Charger in Dubai is far harder than you might think. We finally tracked this one down at Chrome and Carbon Lifestyle. Look at how beautiful this thing is and then be surprised to learn that it was actually in for a full restoration. Can’t wait to see it again once it’s done.

Dodge Charger

3. Impala We searched high and low for an appropriate old Chevrolet Impala and finally friend of MME (and formerly of West Coast Customs fame) Bear Garcia came through with his mate’s cool chromed-up cruiser.

Chevrolet Impala new and old feature

4. Cadillac Eldorado  So much grace and majesty. When cars just used to go on forever. What a joy to behold.

1966 Cadillac Eldorado

5. Brabus Classic  And for our final classic moment we go all the way to Germany, to the Frankfurt show in fact, where Brabus was displaying examples from its Classic restoration division. These cars are finished better than when they came out of the factory.

Brabus Classic

But you know what else this being at number 5 tells me? In 2014 we need to shoot more classics! If you’ve got a classic beauty and would like to see it featured on MME. Get in touch now – email!


My Top 5 best pictures

Working hard on improving my photography this year, trying new techniques and post-processing. Here’s a few results that I was particularly pleased with.

Lamborghini Parade in Dubai to mark 50th anniversary of the marque

Lamborghini Parade Dubai, UAE

Audi RS7

Audi RS7 – press drive in Germany

2014 Lexus IS350

Lexus IS350, press drive, Japan


Ahmed Al Amri in his Toyota Emirates Drift Team 86 during a round of Drift UAE at Yas Marina Circuit

2013 Aston Martin Vanquish

Aston Martin Vanquish review, UAE

We’re marching on! See you in 2014.




2 responses to “Motoring Moments of 2013: Shahzad’s Top Fives”

  1. Vishal Pravin says:

    Alll the best guys for 2014 … Doing a great job so far .. !!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.