One afternoon I had Sheikh Abdullah bin Isa Al Khalifa call in to our workshop asking about buying a Porsche. He looked extremely young and I took things cautiously with him, (thinking to myself, there is no way I am going to sell him a Porsche, as he did not look old enough to hold a driver’s license)! After sitting with him for an hour or so he placed an order for a Porsche 928S in metallic wine red, with a combination of red, pearl white and black leather interior. He also wanted 5-speed manual transmission, which was a very unusual order for a Porsche 928S owner as almost everyone wanted a fully automatic transmission. However, I told him I would need to speak to his father and that I needed a signed order with BD 2,000/- deposit. He went off and returned a couple of hours later waving the required deposit in cash. I got Irene our secretary to take his money and issue him with a receipt and he signed the order form. I then asked him for his father’s phone number and I realised Abdullah was the son of Sheikh Isa, who worked at the High Council for Youth & Sports alongside Sheikh Khalid our sponsor’s brother.
The following morning I called Sheikh Isa who I had met on a few previous occasions and he asked me to come over to see him in his office after 1pm. It was only down the road so I went over to see him a few minutes later.
Sheikh Isa had married Sheikha Sheikha, who was the youngest sister of the Amir of Bahrain, so I assumed that money was not a problem. When we sat down together he said he did not know what he was going to do with Abdullah his son, as Abdullah was adamant he wanted a Porsche. Sheikh Isa was concerned over the speed of our cars, but I assured him they were extremely safe and provided Abdullah drove well, he would be fine in a Porsche. I told him there was no problem if he wanted to cancel the order and he could have his deposit back, but Sheikh Isa said, “I’m powerless to do anything”, which seemed an odd thing for him to say to me? He then went on to say that Abdullah had gone to his grandmother, the Ruler’s mother, and she had given him the deposit in cash, so it was not even his money. Sheikh Isa said we had better keep the order as Abdullah wanted the Porsche 928S and so I shook hands and said goodbye for now. Sheikh Isa said he would walk down with me to the car park and on the way out I asked him exactly how old Abdullah was and he said sixteen. In Bahrain you needed to be seventeen to hold a driver’s license but the Sheikh’s tended to bend all their own rules when it suited them.
A couple of months later Abdullah popped in to see me and asked me up for lunch to his house. I thanked him and went along as agreed. In the driveway was a BMW635CSI, Mercedes 6.9 limousine, Range Rover, all belonging to him. He had a few friends over and the five of us all sat down to a massive lunch spread along a table that was at least 30 feet long and full of a vast selection of dishes. The centrepiece was a large goat, stuffed with chickens, which in turn were stuffed with boiled eggs all presented on a bed of spicy rice. I always enjoyed traditional Arabic food and this was eaten with your hands or western style, as you preferred.
Afterwards we went in the TV den and watched videos and talked. Abdullah, Sulman and their friends were all smoking and they tried to get me to smoke cigarettes. I told them all that cigarettes were bad for you and I did not smoke other than the odd cigar. Abdullah called to one of his servants and this massive humidor was wheeled in and I was given the largest cigar I had ever seen in my life, as this must have been half a metre long and I was smoking it for the rest of the day! I thanked Abdullah for his hospitality and he said the lunch was really to introduce me to Sheikh Sulman, who wanted to order a Porsche 928S for himself. I asked Sulman to call in anytime or if he preferred, I could meet him somewhere that suited to discuss his requirements?
A few weeks later, the papers arrived to advise us of the next Ro-Ro ship arrival and there were five cars on board for our customers, including Abdullah’s. I confirmed that the Bank had the Original Bills of Lading and passed everything over to Ghuloom our Mr Fix It, who cleared the cars from the seaport.
The following week the ship had docked in Mina Sulman and Sheikh Abdullah showed up at my office in his Mercedes 6.9 with some friends and said could he see his car. I said Ghuloom was clearing the cars through Customs and that we should have the cars in the workshop for 5pm. He should be able to take delivery of his car then. He said that we should all go to the port, as he wanted to see his car, so we all went along together. Although the port was a security area, the Sheikhs just got waved through as they were all known to most Bahraini’s.
We finally found the five new Porsche cars and I set off to find Ghuloom who was going from window to window getting various import stamps appended to the paperwork. I thought to myself that we British had taught the Bahraini’s well in the art of bureaucracy! Ghuloom told me he was around an hour away and that he should be finished before the 2pm deadline at which point the Government stopped and you came back the next day after 7am.
Then Abdullah came in all agitated and started telling the Bahraini’s in Arabic to hurry up but his intervention actually delayed matters. He then strode off to the Director’s office and went in to see him. I got called in and we had the usual tea and chat but I could see Abdullah was really on edge. I thanked Mr Mutowa for his hospitality and I asked Abdullah to wait with me downstairs.
When we were outside, Abdullah said to me privately, “The Government will be closed for a week from tomorrow and I want my car right now!” I asked him how he knew this and he said, “King Khalid (of Saudi Arabia) is near to dying and I’m waiting for a call (on his car phone) to confirm matters anytime now.” I realised he was right, the Bahraini Government would close for at least a working week in respect. I went in to see how Ghuloom was getting on and he was making progress but he was now very doubtful of finishing that day. I told him my private news and he agreed with me.
The next minute Abdullah came in again and started shouting at the Director in his office, which was not the done thing at all. I went over and tried to calm him and the next minute Abdullah is on the telephone to the Prime Minister of Bahrain, telling the Director he would need to speak to him and tell him why he could not have his car! I was really argy with Abdullah and I put the phone down and apologised to the Director and took Abdullah outside. We then had a shouting match and I told him all the new car keys were in Shed No. 9, so the Director could not give them to him in any event. I also told him that we had to work with the Director and his staff every week, so please leave it to us to sort out and wait in his car.
Abdullah then drove off and a few minutes later he came back to get me and drove me to Shed No.9 and took me in to get his keys. He had a M16 assault rifle with him and he told the guard he wanted his keys or else! A lot of the Sheikhs carried guns in their cars and this poor guard was petrified and was pointing at a very large rack of keys to me. I sorted out all the Porsche keys and put them on the desk. Abdullah calmed down and I told him to put the gun back in the boot of his car and to behave himself.
Fortunately by the time we got to the Porsche’s to unlock Abdullah’s car, Ghuloom came up and said he had completed the paperwork and all he had to do was get the gate passes for Shed No.9. I told him we already had all the keys and I told him to go and finish everything and try and explain who this Sheikh was to the petrified guard. I called Rob to come down with Bob, Mark and Martin so we could drive all the cars out together to our workshop, which was only 1km from the port.
Finally we got the five new Porsche’s into our workshop and I said that could they complete the pre-delivery inspection on Sheikh Abdullah’s Porsche 928S first. I told Abdullah to come back around 5pm and he would be able to collect his car.
Rob had his team carry out the de-waxing and pre-delivery inspections promptly and Abdullah’s car was finished first when he came to collect it. He then astounded me by asking, “Who owns the silver Porsche 930 turbo? I informed him it was now a stock car as the owner had cancelled it, but I had someone interested in buying it. He said, “I want it and could I exchange the Porsche 928S for it plus some additional money? I agreed but said he would have to wait until 11am the next day, which he agreed to, as we were all going home for the day. By that time I had had enough of his antics and wanted to relax at home.
King Khalid’s death was announced later that day and the Government closed up for a week but we still worked, as we were a private business. Sure enough Abdullah was at the office for 11am and I took him up the road in the Porsche 930 turbo on trade plates. I let him drive and we spent around an hour together and he impressed me with his driving skills so much that I was confident he could handle this car safely.
The last thing we needed was a young Sheikh killed in one of our cars, so I was always mindful of whom we sold to despite their age and position.