Welcome to My Wheels Ali. That doesn’t look like an ordinary FJ Cruiser — it has been heavily modified and looks really tough. Tell us about all the work that has gone into this…

Well, in 2014 I was searching for a proper off-roader and it was not an easy task since the market is full of them, but I opted for the FJ Cruiser.

I bought it new and it had some off-road options like a built-in air compressor and a crawl system but I wanted to leave my signature on my new Toyota and set about customising it. It came with four colours — a white roof, beige body, black bumpers and silver door handles and side mirrors — and I disliked that combination so I retained just two colours, black and beige. Then the serious work began.

I upgraded the chassis with ARB BP-51 suspension, upper arm and spindle reinforcements from Total Chaos and replaced the front and rear bump stops. Then I added Cooper A/T3 tyres size 285/70/17 wrapped around Method bead lock rims, a roof rack (it includes a 20-litre water tank, shovel, axe, sand boards, and safety flag), off-road lights (I replaced the original yellow headlights with LED headlights from Oracle) added four LED bars on the front bumper from Baja and a pair of Baja front corner windshield lights, a pair of rear lights fixed on the roof rack, spot and billet lights from Oracle fixed above the tires and LED stripe lights under the car along with rock lights.

Once this was all done I turned my attention to upgrading the performance and the Airaid air filter, TRD cat back exhaust and gear valve body have certainly improved that.

The motor features an Airaid air filter and there’s a TRD cat back exhaust to help it breathe better

You nearly built yourself a whole car! Is there anything else that you would like to get done to it? Surely there can’t be...

I still I have a big list of modifications and upgrades to do such as adding a bigger 45-litre water tank to serve for camping purpose for two nights or more, changing the roof rack to get more loading options, adding solar panels, fabricating rear drawers for my camping gear and tools, adding a cargo barrier and improving the heat and sound isolation. There are many other creative things that I have in store, which I’ll surprise you with in the future.

  

Yes please, we would love to see what you do to it! It must be so fun to drive now with all the modifications that have been made…

It’s definitely better now but it isn’t just about fun — safety comes first. While upgrading my FJ I always had it in my mind that all the modifications I carried out would be done to a high level and be safe for when I took the car off-road. I make sure it is maintained really well and my drives to the Abu Dhabi desert like Sweihan, Al Khatam, Al Khazna and Liwa are a blast.

I have to say I am very proud of my FJ, which I have named “Desert Samurai”, and all the time and money has been well spent.

The best thing about this SUV is that it can take me deep into the desert and to places that I never expected I would ever drive in.

Ali has added all sorts of tech in the cabin to assist with his off-roading adventures

There can’t be another one like this around, can there?

That’s what I thought — but back in 2015 during a night drive, an FJ just like mine overtook me. I couldn’t believe it; I thought someone had stolen my Toyota! I caught up to it and studied it closely, and to my relief I noticed a few differences, but it was almost 90 per cent identical. So to avoid this sort of thing from happening again, I decided to make a few more changes to mine to make sure it stays unique!

 

You have definitely achieved that. You have owned many other cars in the past — which ones stand out?

I will always remember my first car — it was a 1991 Nissan Skyline R32. I remember buying it from the used car market and I was so happy that it was mine! I sold it a long time ago but have been trying to trace it ever since. If I do, I’ll buy it again and never sell it.

I have had a bunch of other cars including a 1994 Jeep Wrangler, 1988 Mercedes SEL500, 1993 Toyota Supra, 2008 Lexus ES350 and a 2014 GMC Sierra Denali 6.2-litre. But from that lot, my favourite was that ’91 Skyline R32.

 

We hope you find it someday. Finally, what is your dream car?

You might call me greedy but I want a sports car, saloon, 4x4, truck — basically one car from every segment!