American Racing Headers brands itself a true American company offering USA-made products, and it exemplified that mantra recently when the companies’ own Louie and Nick Filippides traveled to the nation of Kuwait to pay a visit to American troops stationed at Base Camp Arifjan. The Filippides’, at their own expense, took their HEMI-powered Toyota Prius, which they so fittingly refer to as PriuSRT8 — featuring a military theme — to perform burnouts and meet and greet the troops who make it possible for us to enjoy the automotive and racing hobbies here at home.
Nick shared an account below of he and his son’s visit overseas, documenting their travels, the unexpected challenges they were presented, and the personal joy that the visit brought to them collectively.
It would be a gross understatement to say things were tense the few days prior to flying out to Kuwait. With the U.S. military actions taken in the region and not knowing what the open-ended response may be, our families here at home were not keen on us going anywhere. But with our PriuSRT8 already in Kuwait and on standby, plus the fact that our flight was not cancelled over the tensions in the region, my son Louie and I were on our way.
Flying in, it was business as usual. Everyone we knew was going through their day-to-day activities, but there was definitely a sense of concern. Kuwait borders both Iraq and Iran, and because of that, Kuwaitis know first-hand how quickly things can turn for the worse.
We arrived Tuesday afternoon, January 7th, and it wasn’t but a few hours later that we got word of a retaliatory missile strike at a U.S. base in Iraq. With the event at Camp Arifjan just days away, it was alarmingly apparent that the HEMI For Heroes event, understandably so, was in jeopardy of being scrapped altogether. I can’t say that either Lou or I ever felt a deep concern for our safety while moving about the country, and everything just seemed relaxed amongst the locals. Admittedly, that wasn’t the case for our pre-visit to the base, where security was at its highest. There was definitely an uneasiness in the back of our minds, fueled mostly by news reports and family concerns back at home. This was without question uncharted territory for both of us, and it also put into perspective what many of our service members, and undoubtedly their families at home, have to live with when stationed in far more hostile parts of the world.
After meeting with event organizers on Thursday morning, January 9th, it was made clear to us that the event was “not” set in stone, and if it were to take place on the 12th, safety concerns would more than likely limit the activities of the day, which was fine by us. The fact that these outstanding people would even entertain meeting with us under those circumstances, not to mention their behind- the-scenes efforts put forth to make this event a reality, just overwhelmed me with emotion. I was deeply humbled by an unabashed sense of pride, meeting with these patriots who work tirelessly to organize events that bring joy to our troops so far away from home, and at times, in harm’s way.
Well, as we all know, by the grace of God, the HEMI For Heroes event came to fruition, albeit with a safety-first approach, which we were grateful for. The cookout and the planned contests were cancelled as a result, but that’s okay — the magnitude of the entire experience was far more important. In our lifetime, and that of my family and the entire American Racing Headers team, there’s a deep sense of pride for our great country and those that serve to protect us. Absolutely nothing can ever come close to being on that base, on that day, and doing our smallest of parts to help bring joy to our beloved service members. For those that attended, a little Hellcat-powered Ordnance disguised as a Prius did the trick!
What followed the event was a week spent with close friends and great customers. Some of those friends made the second half of our week incredibly special. Like Saud Alzabin of Desert Demons Racing (DDR), who took personal responsibility of accepting the car at the port and storing it for weeks prior to our arrival. Saud guided us through so many potential obstacles while presenting us with ideas and creating opportunities to travel though the country to various sites. His influence was key to securing police escorts to the brand new 25-mile long Jaber Bridge and the Kuwait Towers, both for photoshoots. He brought us together with Basil Al Sabah from the Kuwait Motor Racing Club. Basil did his part to generate the paperwork needed to notify authorities that we were there with the PriuSRT8 for exhibition purposes. Could you imagine cruising the PriuSRT8 through Kuwait City with a police escort to a bridge and having them shut down two lanes for a photoshoot? You can’t make that stuff up, but it really happened.
We then made an impromptu appearance at a Saturday car show, where we were welcomed with open arms by some of the nicest people imaginable. Their love for hot rods of all makes rivals anything in the states…that’s a fact! Pontiacs rule the roost in Kuwait from a muscle car standpoint — there were classic Trans Am’s and GTO’s everywhere. There we met members of the Kuwait Mopar Club, who were so enamored with the Prius and its Hellcat engine, they invited us to the largest Dodge dealership in the country, located in the Shuwaikh Industrial area. We arrived Monday evening to a warm welcome and a visit from club members, with a few Demons and Hellcats sprinkled in. Of course, there was an awesome spread of food and drinks waiting for us, but don’t ever expect less from Kuwaiti’s – very few can rival their level of hospitality.
Ahmad Al Ahmad of Boost Performance was also invaluable. Among many other things, he helped establish the connections to open discussions with the Army base. Ahmad is also the founder of the Auto Works Trade Show and spent the previous four years hosting the event. Many of our business relationships in Kuwait were forged at that show, as we exhibited there each year since its start in 2016. And although the event was placed on hiatus for 2020, we’re hoping for its return in 2021. For 2020, Ahmad turned his focus to upgrading his entire Boost Performance operation, and he did an incredible job. He’s also intimately involved with the new Kuwait Motor Town and saw to it that we received the VIP treatment when we arrived for the Friday evening roll race. Yes, we roll-raced the PriuSRT8 against some badass late model muscle. We were so well received by the racers, and we were especially happy to see that the concept behind why we built this car wasn’t lost on anyone. Our little hot rod generated many laughs. For what it’s worth, we were told that our Prius was the first and only Prius in Kuwait. At a dollar a gallon for 98 octane fuel, who needs hybrids or anything all-electric besides household appliances? How fitting is it that the only Prius to ever cruise Kuwaiti roads had 1,100 horsepower!
Our excursion to the Middle East with the PriuSRT8 is far from over. We’ll be in Abu Dhabi in late March for the Custom Show/SEMA, along with plans to cruise over and visit ARH customers in Dubai and the surrounding areas. If the opportunity to drag race while there becomes a reality, we’ll make sure to inform you all in advance. We definitely want to go live with that. We most certainly will go live at the Custom Show.
Much love to all that made A HEMI For Heroes and our travels throughout Kuwait with our PriuSRT8 so special. We will never forget all that you did for us.”