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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

What has four wheels, 16 cylinders and 5,000hp? Dubai's Devel Sixteen

Drake and Snoop Dogg are rappers each responsible for numerous chart-topping records, but that isn’t where the similarities end. They are also connected via an unlikely UAE link, thanks to their respective endorsements of the most ambitious and gobsmacking car to emerge from the nation’s nascent carmaking scene: the Devel Sixteen.

Normally in these pages, we rattle through vital statistics of the cars that we cover to transmit a sense of perspective and convey exactly how much speed, power and torque you can expect when you hand over your hard-earned cash.

The Devel Sixteen, however, doesn’t really conform to any traditional metric. The most attention-demanding figure is bafflingly large: 5,000hp. Well, 5,007hp, to be exact, according to the Dubai manufacturer’s latest tests. How on earth do you put that into context? With the aid of crazy-sounding multiples: one Devel Sixteen wields more power than seven Porsche 911 GT2 RSs; or 10 Ford Mustang GTs; or 16 top-end Toyota Camrys.

Two questions will probably be troubling your lips, right now: how and, indeed, why?

It all begins to make much more sense after spending time in the company of Devel president Majid Al Attar, who set up the company with his siblings Rashid and Mohammad. They have turned what he describes as initially representing “a hobby” into what is nowadays very much a business.

“We are three brothers who wanted to create something unique – that was our dream in the beginning,” Al Attar tells The National at his home office in Dubai, above a garage space housing the most-photographed version of the prototype Sixteen, in a blue-and-white livery that is mirrored today by his dapper, navy-blue kandura.

“In 2004/05, we thought ‘we’ll take our dream a little further’. We came to a design – the car should look like an F-15 or F-16 jet fighter. We got sketches of the fighter and made some changes to make it look like a car.

“In 2007/08, we completed the body, and the intention was to put in two jet engines, with something like 10,000hp, but the design was so nice that we thought ‘we need to look for an engine so we can drive it on the street’. We contacted many engine-makers and came up with the idea of making our own engine, which is the V16. This V16 makes 5,000hp or more – it depends on the tuning.”

The traditional V6, V8 or even V12 formation was not for Devel. True to the spirit of uniqueness, there aren’t any easily referenced peers to this engine, which like the rest of the car, will be produced in Texas (for the time being, at least; there are hopes to bring the process to the UAE in a few years).

Bugatti’s mighty W16 is arguably the nearest cousin to the Sixteen’s V16, yet that pumps out only 1,500hp – probably the one time you will see the word “only” precede such an ordinarily astronomical total.

For the days when a hypercar is too slow, meet this veritable rocket on wheels. What do you even have when you one-up a hypercar? A megacar?

The Sixteen was always likely to grab attention then, although Al Mattar smiles the grin of a man who can’t quite believe what has transpired as we discuss the past 12 months or so. It all started in earnest when the current prototype was displayed at the Dubai International Motor Show in November last year. The biennial automotive celebration was also the venue for the first prototype’s introduction to the public four years earlier.

First, in December last year, an Instagram shout-out arrived from Californian king of whacked-out hip-hop Snoop Dogg, who called the Sixteen “My. Xmas gift. To me.” in a somewhat full-stop-heavy post that soon had his celebrity pals from Jamie Foxx and Jeremih asking what exactly they were seeing on their screens. Then, Canadian megastar Drake came calling – make up your own gag about Hotline Bling. “Drake contacted us to see the car and said he wanted to use it for his music video I’m Upset,” Al Mattar says.

All of which has served only to heighten anticipation of the car’s production debut, scheduled for next year. “There are some celebrities, I don’t think they want [me] to say their names, but they’re waiting to see the car next year,” Al Mattar says of the potential customer base. “We are very exclusive. We don’t just sell it to anybody. But it isn’t just about celebrities – we want responsible people to buy this car.”

With 5,000 horses underneath your right foot, that’s doubtless a wise policy, although there will also be two slightly more manageable variants (emphasis on the slightly): a 3,000hp V16 that Al Mattar says “can be driven every day” and a 2,000hp V8 – “2,000hp is more than enough, really,” he says, with a laugh. “The 5,000hp can be done – it is nothing impossible,” he says. “Our idea was to put more cylinders, more boost and more turbo.

“We didn’t want to wait for other people, who maybe will do it in a few years. If we can do it now, why would we wait for someone else to do it?

“We found some difficulty with the drivetrain, because no transmission can handle this power, but now we have the right company to do it for us.

“We’re going to produce only seven cars per year [across the three variants]. We have many enquiries and many people ordering the car. We are going to display the production car at one of the major [motor] shows in the world next year.”

Interested parties will need fairly weighty chequebooks: the starting price of the V8 car is US$1.6 million (Dh5.9m), with the outlay rising to a peak of $2.2m for the full-fat, 5,000hp V16.

The brothers, whose primary business is in real estate, have plenty of experience on the other side of the dealership desk, too, as keen car collectors. It was a love instilled in them at a young age, says Al Mattar, whose current favourite in their personal garage is a Ford GT40.

“Our father liked cars and he was buying them,” he says. “He liked American cars, Land Rovers and Mercedes, so I think we can thank him. I was still in high school in 1994 when I bought my first car, a Ford F-250 truck – I was going to school in my truck and others were driving normal saloon cars. Much later, in the early 2000s, we started buying more cars.”

Much like the brothers’ collection, the Devel range is also growing: the hulking Sixty military-grade vehicle is due for its production debut next year after being displayed at last year’s Dubai Motor Show alongside its 5,000hp stablemate. And there are plans in the next few years to produce hybrid and fully-electric variants of the Sixteen, which is currently a petrol-powered proposition. By now, you won’t be shocked to learn that Al Mattar promises “massive power”. After that? An entirely different third model will join the Devel range.

With the UAE’s motoring output presently at an all-time high – thanks also to trailblazers such as W Motors and Jannarellyit seems an exciting time to be an Emirati carmaker.

“When we see others building [cars], it makes us very proud,” Al Mattar says. “This is the UAE. We have everything here – why should we wait for somebody else to do it?

“The world is looking at this country. I think this is just the start.”

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