Team Y tips the classic models that define the Sultanate’s affection for the automobile.
Oman loves its cars – it’s a well-known fact. Omanis’ love for driving starts from days buckled up as children, travelling from one village to the other with their families.
The thought of taking to the road is all some people think about as they tick towards 18, the legal age for driving.
But dig deeper and you’ll realise something more complex. Underneath all the love for speedy driving, flashy super cars and road-tripping lies a longstanding fascination and respect for workhorses; trusty and reliable cars that can handle even the harshest of Omani terrains.
This week, we take a look at some of the classics that have stood the most severe test of all: time.
Petrol was available for buttons, and roads were scarce. Enter the J100 Toyota Land Cruiser – a go-anywhere beast that could ride Oman from end to end, obviating a pit stop. While Toyota’s reliability made it a forerunner in the lucrative segment, it took the biscuit for its off-road prowess and beat-any-terrain attitude that arose from its stellar approach and departure angles. That, coupled with parts that could last longer than 20 years between replacements made it a formidable candidate for the Omani market when compared to its rivals from Europe and the United States. Power wasn’t scarce either: on tap from the 4.5-litre V6 and the 4.7-litre V8 engines were 241hp and 228hp, respectively.
Note: The preceding model of the J100 – the J80 from 1990 – was also deemed a hit in Oman.
The Y60 was only Nissan’s fourth attempt at building a Patrol – but, boy, the recipe clicked. Boasting a whole host of differences when compared to its predecessor – like a new coil sprung suspension for added comfort and off-road capabilities, and four disc brakes all around the SUV – the Patrol reset the bar on utilitarian SUV culture. Add that with the chunky – dare we say a bit sporty – body design, the nearly bullet-proof (figuratively, of course) chassis, internal components, and the limited-slip differential; and we had on our hands the ultimate Bedouin’s truck.
The Range Rover Classic had the best brand ambassador it could ever have asked for in Oman: His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said. Driving around in his trusty military green Range Rover Classic, the ruler could be seen attending everything from National Day proceedings to general meetings with civilians. While the Model Year of the SUV cannot be determined just from video footage, it is believed that His Majesty had several five-door variants of the SUV – those that were built between 1970 and 1996 (initially under the British Leyland tag and then as Range Rover). During its lifetime, the Range Rover Classic took on the role of everything from an ambulance to a three-door off-road SUV – and it did well, considering it was honed by the British who’d had decades of off-road pedigree by then. Reliability issues and a tacky carburetor aside, the “Classic” was an instant hit among Omanis; at least those that could afford to buy one.
Call it what you like, but the E100 Toyota Corolla may very well be the greatest car ever to have been imported into Oman. Taking on everything from the role of a taxi to a family hauler, these cars ran for decades without any mechanical hitches, unless caused by the drivers themselves. Come to think of it, we’ve run into several taxi drivers who still – in 2018 – rely on their E100 to earn their daily wages; it’s that reliable a car. But, there’s a certain emotion that dictates this car, and thus, you see the youth of today husking through classifieds willing to pay big bucks in search of a decent example. Newer examples of the Toyota Corolla followed suit too, but the aura of success possessed by this – with its aerodynamic front end, iconic light bar in the rear, and roomy cabin – is one that we’re yet to see surpassed.
The influx of foreign investment and expats to Oman back in the early 1990s meant more people were flexing their new-found disposable income with super-quick sedans from Germany and Italy. But, the Nissan Maxima gave Omanis of all ages and wealth brackets hope: they now had a car that cost nearly a third of these European cars but could keep up with the best on the unrestricted highways. Not only did the 2.5-litre V6 or the 3.0-litre V6 engines provide the car enough grunt to breeze past what was then the benchmark for Japanese cars, it also peaked in performance for decades to come. While the resulting 207hp or 224hp motors offered aggression and adequate power, Nissan’s longstanding tradition of building cars to stand the test of time meant it didn’t break down half as often as its competitors did. So, it just kept on going. At one point, it was dubbed the ‘Warrior of Salalah’ – probably for being able to sit at high speeds for thousands of kilometres at a stretch.