Afghanistan’s Viral Supercar Makes Global Debut at Doha Show

At first glance, the Simurgh resembles the Batmobile. Black, low-slung with flared wheel arches, the supercar looks built for speed.

(Bloomberg) — At first glance, the Simurgh resembles the Batmobile. Black, low-slung with flared wheel arches, the supercar looks built for speed. 

Look a bit closer though, and it’s clear this car is different to the dozens of other vehicles on display at the Doha edition of the Geneva International Motor Show. 

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The sealing on the windshield is uneven, and visitors weren’t allowed to open the doors — because the interiors haven’t been finished yet. But perhaps the Simurgh’s most unusual feature is its country of origin: Afghanistan, where the Taliban seized control two years ago. 

Named after a mythical Persian bird with the head of a dog, claws of a lion and big enough to carry off an elephant or whale, the Simurgh took a team of 30 people five years to build, Entop Chief Executive Officer Mohammad Reza Ahmadi said. The project was delayed by the pandemic and the collapse of the Afghan economy after the Taliban takeover, said Ahmadi, who also acts as chief engineer and designer.

While Afghanistan’s rugged mountain roads are more suited to sturdy four-wheel drives and sport utility vehicles, Ahmadi said he wanted to make something different.   

“I want to build something to put my country on the map again,” he said in an interview at the Doha show. “The Simurgh represents the heroes and art of Afghanistan. A SUV won’t be the same.” 

The car, which runs on a four-cylinder engine, was unveiled in late 2022. It went viral in January when a Taliban spokesman shared a video of an earlier version of the vehicle, then known as the Mada9. A crowd of the former insurgents was seen admiring the car in the video.

It’s a jarring image from a poverty-stricken country with one of the world’s worst human-rights records. The Taliban has enacted sweeping restrictions against women, banning them from education, working, visiting public parks, using gyms, and traveling long distances without a male escort.

But Ahmadi wants the public to see the Simurgh as representing a different side of Afghanistan. He and his team managed to get the car to Doha, its first international showing, after crowd-funding $130,000 from more than 45,000 people. 

The next goal for Entop is to raise €30 million ($32 million) to perfect the Simurgh and enter it at Le Mans — the famed 24-hour endurance race in France.  

“We plan to start sales after the Simurgh has been through Le Mans, where it can be tested and prove itself,” said Ahmadi. 

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