25 June 2010

Sheik and bake

Ghazal 1 becomes Saudi Arabia's first home-grown car - can it tempt oil barons from their Bentleys?

Sheik and bake

Saudi Arabia - or, at least, its wealthier resident population - is well known for a dedication to jewel-encrusted, gold-spattered supercars that push the concept of decency to its very limits.

But now the Middle Eastern kingdom has its own car, and it is surprisingly free of jewels and gold and excess. This is the Ghazal 1, Saudi Arabia's first home-grown car, greenlighted for production this week by King Abdullah himself.

We first saw the Ghazal (that's Arabic for ‘gazelle', unbelievably) in concept form at the Geneva show earlier this year. It was created by students at King Saud university, and based on the underpinnings of the Mercedes G-Wagon.

It looked... minty. Not handsome, exactly, but for a nation devoted to diamond-trimmed Bentleys, we were expecting worse. The car's designers didn't give any official announcement on what engine might sit beneath that lumpy bonnet, but the best guess would be Merc's 382bhp V8.

And now, after an official unveiling by The King (Abdullah, not Elvis, sadly) earlier this week, the Ghazal 1 is heading for the road, with 20,000 units expected to sell annually throughout the Gulf.

The Ghazal's likely options list, however, has not yet been disclosed. If it doesn't include a ruby gearshifter, a steering wheel of finest sapphire and pedals fashioned from rhodium, we fear the sheiks shall not be tempted. 

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