Here are some car-related activities to try for the carless

Not everyone is fortunate enough to own a vehicle, but that doesn’t mean you have to keep your passion for wheels under wraps

By George Kuruvilla

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Published: Fri 18 Aug 2023, 5:10 PM

Last updated: Fri 18 Aug 2023, 5:15 PM

A car is a relatively expensive purchase. It is, in fact, the second most valuable asset that an individual invests in, in his or her lifetime, after a house. Unfortunately, not everyone can afford one or get the one they want, and car enthusiasts are not exempt from this probability. The reason could be one or many. It could be that you’re a junior exec working up the corporate ladder and are not able to afford the EMIs. It could be that you’ve moved to the city and have chosen to sell your vehicle and take the metro instead, because of rising costs or parking issues. It could also be because as a family man or woman, the vehicle that you are compelled to buy is a do-it-all commuter, which is not a ride you’re thrilled about.

But while the fun and perks of car ownership may be temporarily off limits, there is a whole bunch of car stuff that you can purchase or activities you can engage in to keep the feels for wheels alive.

Showroom visits and test drives

As a once-carless person myself, I used to frequent the many showrooms alongside Sheikh Zayed Road that are now littered all around Dubai. This gave me the opportunity to see all the vehicles available in the market, both the commuters and the exotics, in the flesh. And there is something about viewing these cars in real, as it gives you a sense of their actual size, the feel of their interiors, the features, etc. And if you have a valid driver’s licence, you can also request test drives and check out how well these vehicles fare on the open road. I also used to collect all the brochures for some bedtime reading as a kid, right through my teenage years and I continue to do so. And I presume this is an activity some of you’d enjoy as well. As for others, with the advent of the Internet that novelty may have worn off.

Purchase and collect merchandise

The people of Dubai, like those of any large and fast-paced city, share a big love for brands — be it fashion, beauty, restaurants, coffee and most certainly automobiles. Individuals look for opportunities like dinner parties, office hours and even parent-teacher meetings to bust out their latest branded shoes, belts, handbags and even phones. And if your love for brands equals that for cars, you can get suited and booted from a large selection of lifestyle gear from your favourite automaker as well. You can find these items of perceived and practical value in dedicated sections in most car showrooms. These items include but are not limited to jumpers, shawls, laptop bags, cufflinks, phone covers and mugs. Although I must warn you that excessive endorsement of these products may remind others of a line from the sitcom Friends: “Did a Porsche throw up on you?”

Hang out at car and bike cafes

Bored of the local chai shop (never) or of the cafes nearby? Then you should check out some of the car- and bike-inspired cafes and restaurants in the city. These joints may not have the popularity of a Filli’s or Starbucks, but are cherished in the car community and are quality spots to chill out, for both the young and the old. Besides relishing the food and beverage that are at par with other reputed eateries, you can also stare endlessly at some of the special and vintage vehicles that are on display, hold birthday parties there and even take part in car events organised in those spaces. And with a cosy setting, convenient powerpoints and Wi-Fi, you can also make it your remote working space for the price of a cappuccino.

Play racing games

On July 24, 1974, Atari released Gran Trak 10, the first ever racing video game. And since then, racing games have been the rage. So, if you have a slant for technology and dexterous thumbs, I suggest you get yourself a gaming console like an Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch or even a PC… if you haven’t already and play some. Racing games these days are very diverse, ranging from realistic simulation games like the Gran Turismo series to the more arcade style examples like the Need for Speed series to the even more comical variants like Mario Kart, etc. Some of these allow for split-screen gaming, which ups the ante in terms of a little friendly competition between your pals or if they are away, you can also get online and connect with the millions of like-minded foes in a battle for the finish line. You could also set up a rig at home, which is a serious driving simulator with multiple screens for a wider perspective, a steering wheel, pedals and even a shift lever. But if you feel all of this costs a pretty penny, you can also rely on racing games that can be downloaded for free onto your new smartphone.

Build a model kit

If it is something more tangible that you’re looking for, order yourself a DIY model car kit. As expected, there is a huge variety to choose — from wooden and metal 3D puzzles to traditional ones that even involve gluing parts together and then painting and sticking decals on these very realistic scale models. Of course, the most popular ones are the LEGO Technic kits. These amazing toy sets, if I may call them so, go from a few dozen pieces to thousands. And after you build them, you can also have them displayed on your mantel above your television set or steer them around the house, as some come with electric motors that can be controlled through proprietary mobile apps.

Geek out with automotive literature

Embedded within most car enthusiasts is a yearning to ace trivia about the history of the automobile, scientific and engineering milestones, motorsport, and auto-related personalities. To quench the thirst for this kind of knowledge, you can always look at the vast volumes of information on the Internet, including Wikipedia. But you could also turn to the pages of books to trace the lineage of certain brands, scientific discovery, etc. So next time someone quizzes you, jokingly trying to undermine your knowledge on cars, you can set them straight.

Learn with DIY videos and tutorials

If the inner and outer workings of an automobile are of interest i.e., the science and engineering behind an automobile, I suggest you look up tutorial channels like Engineering Explained, or DIY videos by ChrisFix on YouTube or to other websites like or You can also watch videos by the multitude of channels and websites that teach you basics of maintenance and repair, like changing the tyres, engine oil, brake pads, and fluids, etc. You can also take up paid courses that teach car modifications, engine and suspension tuning etc. on educational websites like Udemy.

So, there you go! Life for the car enthusiast does not come to a complete halt in the absence of a car. Whether you are a gearhead, a collector, or just someone who enjoys the thrills of getting behind the wheel, there is a wide world of car things to do even for the carless.

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