In my own search of new facets of the classic car hobby I planned the next destination to be Tehran, Iran. I know a guy there who is driving “American Iron” through the streets of the Iranian capital – a situation I hardly could believe. In my humble knowledge about this country I even wondered how anybody can survive this. Reason enough to meet this guy and check out what’s going on there.
When I told somebody that I was going to visit Iran, the reaction was, “Where are you going to? Are you nuts? This is too dangerous!“ And when I told them that I will take my wife and our then 11 year old daughter with me, they definitely called me crazy... Anyway, after a couple of days my wife and the little one agreed to come with me – the curiosity finally was stronger than the concerns.
Once at the Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airport a friendly man asked for our passports and a contact number of the person we will meet in Iran. Five minutes later we had our visa, another 5 minutes later we passed the immigration officer. Even entering the US sometimes seems to be more complicated.
Our friend picked us up with an “Iran Khodro“ taxi. We put our bags on the roof and off we went. Later this afternoon we visited two workshops (loaded with cars like Ford Mustang, GMC Pickup, Camaro, Corvette, Buick Riviera) and the National Car Museum of Iran which holds one extremely rare Mercedes Benz 540 K “Autobahnkurier“. Not to forget the Ferrari, Lambo, Bizzarini, Porsches, Rolly Royces, a 1925 Pierce Arrow with VIN #1 (!) and more.
Later I had an appointment with the president of the “Motorcycle and Automobile Federation of the Islamic Republic of Iran“ who welcomed me as an international VIP guest. The classic car commitee of the Federation acts as the organizer of the Rallye and Ramin, our friend, is the president of the committee.
The next day began with the start of the Rally. There were about 60 cars flagged off. We entered one of the support vehicles and left the city, heading north through the mountains. After about 1 hour drive the whole Rally was stopped by Police officers who didn’t accept the permit of the Rally. It took about 3 hours to clear the situation. Maybe some officials were a bit nervous, just 3 weeks before the presidential elections in Iran...
The road winds through the mountains toward the Caspian Sea. A narrow gorge marks the most attractive part of the route. Finally we reached the city of Ramsar where we stayed overnight. The parking lot was full of American classics – Chevrolet Bel Air & Impala, Pontiac GTO and Firebird, a couple of Camaros and Cadillacs, two Corvettes. They really love the US classics. I asked one of the guys how this can be, considering the actual political situation. His answer: “This is only politics. And we don’t give a shit about politics. We just love the cars!“ What a statement! We talked cars in the hotel lobby until way after midnight and if I didn’t knew better, this could have been anywhere in the world but Iran.
The second day of the Rally lead along the Caspian sea towards the city of Rasht where we had lunch. As an exotic guest of the Rallye I was interviewed for TV and radio channels (and I heard I was to be seen in TV all over Iran for days) and even greeted by a member of the parliament who asked me if everything is fine so far and if he could do anything for me I just should tell him.
The third day of the Rally brought us back to Tehran. We passed rice fields, tea plantations, green mountains and an artificial lake in a desert area which reminds me a bit of Lake Mead. The finish line was at a stadium in Tehran and by late night all cars arrived there.
The rest of our stay in Iran brought us to Isfahan, where Ali, the head of the “Isfahan Cafe Racers“ was our tour guide. He showed us his wonderful hometown and we sure made a new friend.
Conclusion: Iran is a very interesting country. The landscape of the desert area between Tehran and Isfahan is very similar to the Mojave desert between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. The people are more than friendly and nice. They are interested, well educated and good looking (well, most of them...). Food is great, the shops carried everything (what exactly was the deal with sanctions?). The streets are good, gasoline was about 0.20 Euro per liter (back than about 1 Dollar per gallon).
Everybody who is interested can go to my blog (text in german, but with Google translator and more photos) here.
Photos at the right (from top):
1. Preparing a car for the start
2. Talking with the officials of MAFIRI
3. A Mercedes Benz 300 SL Gullwing is about to get flagged off
4. En route. 1974 Baldwin-Motion 454 Phase III Camaro and a 1971 Mercedes Benz 280S which did Tehran-Berlin-Tehran (13.500 km) in 2011
5. The 1936 Mercedes-Benz 540K Autobahn Kurier in Tehran's classic car museum. The engine in the car is from a Cadillac, the original engine sits somewhere in the UK.