Actually in 2006, the attention that the cars get, almost got me into big trouble. Some US soldiers raided our neighbourhood looking for insurgents and through a translator, one of the officers told me I should get the car finished in two months. He wanted to buy it. But I didn’t want to sell the car to any Americans because I thought if I did, I might become a target because people would think I was cooperating with the US forces.
So when they called me to ask about the car, I told them that my father was sick and had been admitted to hospital and that the car wouldn’t be ready. I kept delaying them until finally the officer forgot about the car.
NIQASH: Isn’t it hard selling cars like these in a country like Iraq?
Al-Uzbaki: I’ve never thought that I would fail. I am always proud of what I do. In Kirkuk, the 52 Chevrolet is on display with modern luxury vehicles. People had been negotiating with me to buy it. But I would only accept US$30,000.
NIQASH: You’re clearly very passionate about your cars.
Al-Uzbaki: Yes, I love them. I’ll tell you a secret . When I take my cup of tea into the workshop, I’ll often talk to them. I caress them and I tell them how beautiful they are and talk to them about the good old days. Actually one day my wife overheard me doing this. She called my daughters and told them I was going crazy!
NIQASH: And I’ve heard a rumour that your car restoration might be going international. Is this true?
Al-Uzbaki: It is. My son-in-law is German and he lives in Berlin. He used to photograph me while I was working and he’s also filmed me at work. He also drives the cars himself. When he went back to Germany this time he showed the pictures and the video to an older German man who also likes restoring cars. So this chap has now sent me an official invitation to come and visit him in the north of Berlin where he has a workshop. I’m not sure if it can happen but I would like to visit him because I really think we’ve got a lot in common.