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A Rallye Through Iran : Claus Mueller

Posted on 04 June 2013 by Chris

Photo’s and Text : Claus Mueller

Now to something totally different –A Classic Car Rallye in Iran: “The Tehran to Gilmaz 1392/2013“

 

In my own search of new facets of the classic car hobby I started to tour the world. After my India experience which brought me to Rajasthan where I met the Maharana of Udaipur and a lot of other car enthusiasts, 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 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. And hey, there are children living there too. Every day. So what?!

 

The tour started with some serious problems. We searched the Internet for visa information. All we found out was that we definitely need a kind of reservation number, 2 weeks in advance, than we could apply for a visa at the Iranian embassy. Together with a passport valid 6 month longer than the date of entry, 2 passport photos, a confirmed return ticket we could get a visa within another 2 weeks.

 

Our friend told us, that we don’t need all this but we can get a visa upon arrival at the airport without any problems. As the time was too short already for the official visa procedure, we decided to trust our friend and so we flew to Tehran, via Dubai.

 

At the airport we found a window which says “VISA“. A friendly man asked for our passports and a contact number of the person we will meet in Iran. I handed out both and asked if he need anything else – photos, confirmed tickets etc. but he needed nothing of these. 5 minutes later we had our visa, another 5 minutes later we passed the immigration officer – that’s it. Sorry guys – but entering the US is a bit more complicated.

 

Our friend picked us up with a “Iran Khodro“ taxi (I never heard of this manufacturer before). 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 a classic car museum which holds 1 of only 2 built Mercedes Benz 540 K “Autobahnkurier“. I don’t even know about a second one before! Not to forget the Ferrari, Lambo, Bizzarini, Porsches, Rolly Royces, a 1925 Pierce Arrow with VIN #1 (!) and more.

I even had an appointment with the president of the “Motorcycle and Automobile Federation of the Islamic Republic of Iran“ who welcomed me as a international 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. He is also running the “Tehran Cafe Racers“ a chapter of Marty Schorr’s “Sarasota Cafe Racers“. There are also chapters in Isfahan and Shiraz and yes – meanwhile I run the “Munich Cafe Racers“ – the first and so far only chapter in Europe. If you like to learn more about the international “Cafe Racer movement“ go to www.sarasotacaferacers.com

The next day began with the start of the Rallye. 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 Rallye was stopped by Police officers who don’t accept the permit of the Rallye. It took about 3 hours to clear the situation. Maybe some officials are a bit nervous as in 3 weeks will be the presidential elections in Iran… I remember serious problems after the last elections and – to be honest – I have no idea about the details of the internal situation here.

The road winds through the mountains toward the Caspian Sea. A narrow gorge marks the most attractive part of the route. Finally we reached 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 in the face of the actual political situation. His answer: “This is only politics. And we don’t give a shit about politics. We just love the cars!“ Ok, that’s quite 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. Iran was one of the last countries, I expected something like this.

The second day of the Rallye 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) 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.

This afternoon I found an amateur video on YouTube, which shows the arrival and departure of the Rallye from the hotel where we had lunch – a nice chance to see some of the cars in action. If interested click here:  You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

 

The third day of the Rallye 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 carry everything (what’s the deal with sanctions?). The streets are good, gasoline is about 0.20 Euro per liter (about 1 Dollar per gallon). The Muslim “scarf and apparel laws“ for women are a little bit strange for us as visitors, but of course we accept them – this is a part of Muslim religion and I respect every religion.

 

Maybe all of us should think twice before we judge  people group based on what we see through the media. There is a huge difference between people and governments. And I, as somebody who trusted his government, am really irritated by the situation that everything my government publishes about traveling to Iran (Visa etc.) proved as wrong. I learned that is seems to be a good idea not to believe everything my own government tells me and therefore I think it is always better to form my own picture of things. My idea about Iran is now totally different to what is was 3 weeks ago.

 

For everybody who is interested: There will be a blog (in German, but with Google translator) and more photos at www.classicmotourist.blogspot.de

 

Claus Mueller, World Automobilist

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