RAMALLAH, West Bank — Like many around the world, Riyad al-Amleh, a Palestinian from the West Bank, has a passion for collecting classic cars, an expensive hobby most of the time.
Things are even more challenging for vintage vehicle lovers in Palestine where there is no factory for classic cars, and they are difficult to import from abroad due to their high cost. This did not stop Amleh from holding on to his childhood passion and dream of one day having his own classic car.
Amleh, a 45-year-old from the town of Qabalan, south of the city of Nablus in the northern West Bank, has recently finished the manufacturing of a classic car that he has called “Nouh,” after his youngest son.
The coronavirus lockdown, imposed by the Palestinian Authority (PA) to stem the outbreak of COVID-19, was Amleh’s opportunity to dedicate his time to manufacturing his car in a modest workshop underneath his home.
The PA declared a state of emergency in March, after recording the first coronavirus case in the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem. With the rise of infection numbers, the PA imposed a full lockdown across the West Bank in July that remained in place for weeks. This allowed Amleh to finish his project.
Amleh used to own a spare parts shop for many years until he developed his business into a showroom for modern cars in the city of Jericho, in the eastern West Bank. This, however, did not curb his enthusiasm for vintage cars.
“The lockdown was long and dreary. So I decided to do something useful with my time and to build the classic car of my dreams similar to the cars manufactured in the 1920s and 1930s,” Amleh told Al-Monitor. “Sometimes, I get bored with modern cars especially since in Palestine there are no classic cars for sale and they are difficult to import given the high cost. This is why I decided to manufacture a car that I designed myself.”
Amleh spent four months in his small workshop to make his dream come true. “Out of almost nothing I was able to manufacture a vehicle similar to the classic cars of the early 1900s. I used the materials that were available: old barrels, iron plates, screws and the engine of an old car,” he said.
Commenting on the stages of manufacturing, Amleh noted, “I started with drawing the car and then designed the exterior, which I made sure had all the special features of the classics, including the elongated hood. It is also a two-passenger car.”
With his extensive experience in cars, Amleh then worked on assembling the vehicle using old car parts such as wheels, door handles and the engine.
“The car functions normally like any other car. I even drove it in town at a speed of 180 kilometer/hour (112 mph). The engine has a capacity of 1800 cubic centimeters,” he explained.
Amleh hopes to obtain a license for his newly made vehicle from the Ministry of Transportation, which is, according to him, “a little farfetched,” since the car is made up of old car parts. He is, however, happy to just use it at weddings or for photo shoots.
Commenting on the difficulties he faced over the past four months, Amleh said, “Sometimes I could not find the necessary tools or materials, but I worked my way around these obstacles and used what was available.”
Since he revealed it, Amleh’s car has received much media attention and he also got many offers to sell it, which he has declined.
“Many people from the West Bank and within the Green Line have contacted me to buy the car, expressing their willingness to pay whatever amount I ask for it. I said no. When I made it, I was not seeking financial profits. I just wanted to own a car with these specifications and features. I wanted to kill time during the lockdown. Old vintage cars have been my passion ever since I was a child.”
“Nouh” is not Amleh’s first car project. Two years ago, he manufactured a four-wheel drive vehicle, which he called “Adam,” after his oldest son.
“The car is an all-terrain, four-wheel drive jeep reminiscent of the old military vehicles used in World War II. I also wanted to own something similar. I assembled the vehicle, but I did not add the engine,” he noted.
Amleh said that he was happy with the positive feedback from his neighbors and the people in his town, many who have stopped by to take pictures, as well as the media attention he has received. He said that he will be making further improvements and additions to the vehicle in the coming months.
Amleh owns a modern car, but he prefers driving around in his classic “Nouh” with his two sons. He can’t drive outside the town since the car is not registered and licensed. “I hope the authorities will show some interest in my car model so I can drive it anywhere,” he concluded.