NIQASH: Tell us a little more about these vehicles.
Al-Uzbaki: The first one was a 1954 Chevrolet pickup. I found it in a garbage dump at the end of 2006 and I bought it for US$200. It took me eight months to repair. But now it’s on display and for sale in Kirkuk.
The second car was also a Chevrolet but this one was from 1955. In the 60s a Christian cleric called Father Youssef Tuma used to drive it here and I always saw it parked in front of the old church in Mosul. In 2008, I saw it again and managed to buy it for US$3,000. So I renovated and found new parts for it. A month ago I sold it to a guy from Erbil [in Iraqi Kurdistan] for US$30,000.
NIQASH: So one imagines you will keep going with this project?
Al-Uzbaki: I’d like to. I love doing this, it’s creative and it’s innovative. Today most of Mosul’s skilled mechanics are sitting at home doing nothing. And re-creating and renovating old cars like this requires a lot of time and effort.
NIQASH: Do you drive the cars personally?
Al-Uzbaki: Yes I do. I also drive them to other parts of Iraq and I’ve been to cities like Erbil, Dohuk and Kirkuk many times. I’ve also raced the cars.
People definitely pay attention. They often stop me and ask to take pictures. Sometimes people are surprised to see the cars in a race because they are so old. Another time, a policeman at a checkpoint told me I was exempt from being checked and that I could also use their special road, usually for military vehicles only.