Gaza man builds race car with rudimentary equipment

Fathi Salman Abu Gharba attracts a lot of attention in the Gaza Strip by driving a strangely shaped sand race car that he built himself.

40-year-old Abu Ghraba has a passion for cars and international car races since childhood.

He designed his single seater that could reach a top speed of 360 kilometers per hour (220 mph). It took them seven months to build the vehicle according to Formula 1 international specifications. The car was completed in June.

Abu Ghraba created the “Desert Race” using scrap tools and rudimentary equipment, which he collected from various locations in the Gaza Strip. He then assembled the vehicle in his small home workshop in the agricultural village of al-Masdar in central Gaza, located about 1,500 meters (1 mi) from the fence separating the coastal enclave from Israel.

The tools in their small garage are well organized and displayed as if it were a professional workshop. A set of screws, batteries, wires and other outfits and kits surround another car that Abu Ghraaba has been building for the past two years.

Abu Gharba did not complete his university education. Instead, he has been working in the maintenance departments of large factories in Gaza since the 1990s. Before the Israeli siege in 2007, he participated in mechanics workshops organized by foreign companies that supplied and installed equipment in factories.

“Car making has been my passion for years. The hardest part of this hobby is finding auto parts, especially spare parts and generators, which is an almost impossible mission in Gaza amid the Israeli blockade and sanctions,” he Told Al-Monitor.

When Abu Gharba finished designing his race car, he began looking for auto parts at the scrapyard.

“I started looking for an engine for the car. It was a difficult journey amid the tight blockade in Gaza. Eventually, I was able to find the specifications of a race car,” he said.

Abu Ghraaba also had trouble finding the necessary wheels, as these are not allowed to be imported from outside Gaza. He settled for used tyres.

“I had to use sports motorcycle tires, which were the closest to what I was looking for,” he said.

Ismail al-Nakhlah, head of the Association of Automobile Importers in Gaza, told Al-Monitor: “Israeli authorities have been blocking the entry of new cars and spare parts into the Gaza Strip since the last round of escalation between the Israeli military and the Israeli military. . Palestinian faction in May. The 11-day skirmish was the deadliest since the 2014 war.”

Before creating the “Desert Race”, Abu Gharba built two agricultural vehicles. While the race car runs on gasoline, the other two vehicles are more economical and run on gas and are designed to help farmers spray crops on agricultural land.

“Vehicles help farmers save effort and money,” he said.

Although he did not manufacture agricultural cars to sell, farmers in his area liked the idea and expressed interest in vehicles that could move on agricultural land. Abu Ghraaba ended up selling agricultural vehicles at the cost of the materials he used without adding to the profit margin.

“Desert race cars need wide sandy areas. Only professionals can drive them given their high speed. Many people asked me if my car is for sale, but I said no. It would be dangerous to give it to someone who is not an experienced race car driver,” said Abu Gharba.

Other challenges he faced in building the “Desert Race” were prolonged power outages, which made it difficult to work hours at a time, in addition to running a grocery store in al-Masdar, which That is the main source of income for him and his family.

“I did everything with my bare hands, even turning the steel parts for the car body was manual work,” he said.

Abu Ghraba said he hopes one day he will be able to travel and work in a professional car workshop abroad.

“Many people approach me from abroad, especially from the Gulf. Some expressed their willingness to help me by sending me spare car parts, but this is impossible amid the blockade. But I will keep doing what I am doing with the equipment available,” he concluded.

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