May 16, 2004 Uday was Rolls's best customer Nick Fielding SADDAM HUSSEINS eldest son Uday amassed one of the worlds most extraordinary collections of prestige cars, stealing some and evading United Nations sanctions to buy many of them abroad. He owned 18 Rolls-Royces, including Corniches, Silver Wraiths, Silver Spirits and Silver Shadows, each worth up to £250,000 at todays prices. There were also three Bentleys, at least 22 Mercedes-Benz cars, three Jaguars, a Lamborghini Diablo VT worth more than £180,000, four Bugattis, three Aston Martins and four Cadillacs. The hoard included several Ferraris, one of them a 348 Barchetta, half-a-dozen Porsches, a Lotus Esprit, a Maclaren, Maseratis and dozens of Dodges, Toyotas, a Mini Cooper convertible and a Land Rover Discovery that Uday used for hunting. The extent of his obsession has been described by Dhafir Mohammed Jabir, his former personal secretary. Jabir has told how Uday, who was killed with his brother Qusay in a gun battle with US forces in northern Iraq last July, was forced to hide many of the vehicles in secret garages and warehouses because his father disapproved of such conspicuous spending. On one occasion, after a family row in October 1995, Saddam ordered the destruction of almost 50 of Udays vehicles stored in an underground car park in the presidential palace in Baghdad. Some of Udays cars were greatly modified. One Mercedes had 150 changes from the standard and a Rolls-Royce had been given new bodywork so that the back resembled a Mercedes. Two other Mercedes saloons had war scenes painted on the doors. One car, Jabir claims, was capable of changing colour quickly to confuse pursuers. Some vehicles, particularly the Rolls-Royces, had been stolen from Kuwait in the wake of the Iraqi invasion. Uday sent a team to ferry them to Baghdad. Cars were part of every minute of Udays life and he used to spend most of his time trying to search for types and models and ways of obtaining them. It became an obsession, said Jabir. Any transaction, whether commercial, political or diplomatic, would partly have to involve cars. If Uday was involved with a visiting dignatory, he used the occasion to try to get a car. He always found a way of doing it. Often he would choose a car for the evening according to the colour of his suit. When the Emir of Qatar gave him and Qusay a car each, Uday told his brother to hand his car over. It was the same with his business deals. There was always a car involved. Documents reveal that Uday would use any means to pay for his vehicles. On a catalogue for the American-made retro marque Excalibur, he wrote a note to Jabir: All the cars in this catalogue should be bought as per the address on the last page. Payment should be agreed either against oil, euros, cement or any other products that can be exported through Jordan or via our transporters. Alongside a small skull-and-crossbones, Uday had written threateningly: Dont come back unless you bring the contract with you. Uday eventually took delivery of at least five Excaliburs, including a white Phaeton with a wooden dashboard and air conditioning and one each of the red, white and metallic black limited editions which in 1995 cost up to $80,000 (£46,000) each. Alice Preston, 59, who recently bought the Excalibur Automobile Corporation in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, from receivers after it became insolvent, said she had seen paperwork documenting the supply of the Excaliburs to Iraq. The papers reveal that the cars were initially supplied to a dealer in neighbouring Jordan who sent them on to Baghdad. In addition to the price of the cars, Uday paid up to $20,000 each to have them air freighted to Jordan and a further $2,500 to cover packing and transport within the United States. He had so many cars, said Jabir, that some were never driven. Sometimes we would go out and after a few miles we would break down because the car had been standing unused for so long that there was moisture in the exhaust or the tyres had perished. Despite the sanctions, Udays frenetic buying went on almost until the last days of the regime. In January 2001 he imported a Bentley Azure convertible at a cost of more than £230,000 from a dealer in Jordan. He would send people abroad to negotiate with car companies and to oversee modifications, said Jabir. Porsches would be converted by companies such as Gemballa and AMG, making them capable of speeds of up to 175mph. What happened to the cars after the fall of Saddam is unclear. Some were probably destroyed during bombing raids and at least three, including a Rolls-Royce and a Porsche, were found buried after they had been looted. US troops gave a pink-striped Rolls-Royce to the Baghdad police to be used as a wedding vehicle when officers got married. In October Iraqs finance ministry announced that the rest of the cars would be put up for auction. Last night a spokesman for Rolls-Royce said the company had not exported any cars to Uday. They were probably supplied by agents in the region. We have no control over how they sell the cars, he said.