The First Afghan Sports Car Has An Engine You Shouldn’t Mock

In the news today, Afghanistan has made its first sports car, and it’s a sleek and low-slung model with a throaty exhaust note that would get a second look on the Autobahn just as much as it does on the streets of Kabul. Making a modern sports car is an impressive achievement no matter where you do it, but it wouldn’t be something we’d share with you were it not for how the story is being reported. The general tone of Western reporting is focused not upon the car itself, but instead poking fun of it for using a Toyota engine also found in a Corolla.

Anyone who grew up during the Cold War will remember the rhetoric of the era with respect to technology. To paraphrase a little, our planes or rockets were based on the finest and latest high technology, we were told, while theirs were held together with string and sealing wax from the 1940s. This neglected the fairly obvious fact that Soviet probes were visiting all the planets, something they must have had some pretty good tech at their disposal to achieve. This was then explained as the product of their having stolen all our super-advanced Western tech, something we now know that our lot weren’t averse to either when the opportunity arose.

It’s this which is brought to mind by the mirth of the Western commentators at the Afghan car’s supposedly humble engine. It doesn’t matter what you think of the Afghan regime (and there’s plenty there to criticize), the car should be assessed on its merits. After all, it’s hardly as though the engine in question didn’t find its way into more than one sports car that Western commentators might find appealing.

125 thoughts on “The First Afghan Sports Car Has An Engine You Shouldn’t Mock

    1. Jenny’s post is about the Western press response to what is obviously a media stunt. I didn’t think it read as glorifying the Taliban. (Yoiks!)

      Hackaday is quite clearly on the side of access to education for everyone. Self, formal, post-school, whatever. We want ’em all. For everyone.

      1. Getting into a bit of Paradox of Tolerance there…

        To be a commercial success in Afghanistan means bending to the religious fundamentalist will.

        Either we can be intolerant of their intolerance, or we tolerate intolerance against women and LGBTQ+

        I choose to be in the former bin. We should not reward this behavior.

          1. Haha yes, people typing on their new iPhone really can’t judge. China, India, an Oil nation we buy from have some horrendous human rights issues, but global media makes people look elsewhere. Don’t see people wanting to use less petrol, or stop out sourcing to India or buy less tech from china.

          2. The creation of Israel in the country of Palestinian should wake you up Israel creates tech yet they killing innocent children and elderly Palestinians the food to eat was planted with the help of some tech the computer you use had a anti-virus created by jews

          3. The majority of the chips and components in all car oems of form china, and all plastics no matter how posh. Are made from oil. So I hope the op sits in a dark room, no being a hypocrite.

            As even German made led light bulbs contain Chinese chips and plastic. Got to be be a hard life sitting on an ivory tower

        1. There alot of alternative words to choose to express that you on the “other side’, group etc but you use the word “bin” synonymous to putting filth in and discarding what’s not needed ie filth rubbish dirt makes me wonder

      2. I don’t believe anything you just wrote because the article contradicts it all.

        Spineless, inhumane, and unconscionable.

        Go live in Afghanistan and “judge the car on its merits” while the Taliban oppresses you. Paradox of tolerance will get beat right out of you.

      1. Well, hey, if what you wrote actually comes to fruition, the eyes of the entire automotive/engineering world as well as the eyes of millions in the public that are serious car enthusiasts will get to witness the world’s first nuclear powered car… AND SURPRISE!! Its a fine piece .

    2. Here we don’t talk about woman pluse Afghanistan hVe more respect for woman then. Any another country so don’t be jealous any where u from I.proud of Afghanistan nd zindabad Islamic amaraate Afghanistan proud taliban that they kick out all the traders out aide the country

    3. The group of Taliban who not allowing schooling for girls is mad in Pakistan by order of U.S. how can just a few people from street with no knowledge can defeat Afghan and U.S army?? If big fatty men don’t help them.

    4. It is an awesome looking body and damn smart for a Toyota Coralla engine. Reliable, bulletproof ( no pun intended). Much easier to get parts and tge Tiyota engine is great because I’m guessing their offering of Triple AAA roadside service is very spotty at best🤣😆😁

    5. Dear brother or sister , its not the country that doesnot allow sisters to go to school ,its the terrorist taliban that have taken over the country and are ruling using guns and false philosophy ,its not the country the old government were forced to flee, its the terrorists .

    6. Women / girls will be allowed to go back to school once the new government publish new books and other materials with proper contents. The universities had alot of internal issues against the students who attended college. There was discrimination, racism and favoritism against certain students. Taliban are filtering the stuff who were involved in political & sex offense against female students at Kabul University. Many Afghan parents were concerned about the previous corrupted administration that discriminated against the students who raised their voice against the faculty polices, yet no step was taken by tge corrupted GVT. The schools will be open in summer.

    7. The US invaded many counties killed millions, displaced millions and oppresses black people and your speaking like we’re innocent, what about bombing civilians by dropping two nuclear bombs on Japan? What did the innocent women, children and elderly do to be ripped apart?

    8. This is the good side of the Afghanistan! After being played four decades by western politics, the Afghan people has the courage and capacity to make changes. Please don’t be racial at this point.

    9. Apparently as long as it doesn’t affect them directly in their home countries it’s fine. It’s literally the same exact vibe as Nazi apologists saying the medical “research” was worthwhile.

      Anyone know competing media outlets? This place is wallowing in the filth of decontextualization by telling us all to just put aside the regime’s crimes.

      Jenny, open a history book and find some of that context you’re telling us to ignore before you get an honorary SS supporter jersey.

  1. the car should be assessed on its merits

    Yes, and there is more to them than just mere existence of the car (or interplanetary probes and rockets). Creating a single piece of equipment is hard and tedious but possible even with humble tools (I bet, most readers agree). Even making it robust and reliable isn’t impossible. It’s not easy, but possible. However where the West clearly won the Cold War is technology for mass production and advancement — the process of using current technology to create new.

    1. From the Wikipedia article about the school: “The first class completed its 4 semester program in March 2008 with 453 graduates, 68 girls and 385 boys.” So, presumably, at one point in the school’s lifetime, it did allow all genders, but who knows what the government has imposed since.
      You’re right to make that the point of ridicule, though, rather than the choice of powerplant… anything to point out the abusive regime there.

        1. Hardly fair to say its their priority – 5 years at least of development, and their current problems are all rather more recent. So the project was probably 95% complete before anything changed anyway, and its exactly the sort of project you should be doing when things are peaceful and developing as they were (it seems) for most of that time – you want folks to gain an education and some practical tangigible results that show ‘stuff can happen here’.

      1. To follow up, it looks like the oppressive government that took over there told the faculty they would no longer be paying their salaries as of mid-2022. It’s likely there are no longer any women allowed at ATVI.

        1. I don’t get people who stand up for oppression because “it’s their culture”. That culture belongs to those people who are being oppressed too.

          I think people who use that argument are just doing so because they want to be oppressing someone themselves. It’s a character flaw.

          I’ll agree that bombing the place and creating a power vacuum doesn’t fix anything though.

          1. Agreed. I’m pretty sure the “oppressed” would prefer freedom and equal rights to education, jobs, and politics over their current situation. But I could be wrong.

  2. Anyone laughing at a supercar for using a ‘basic’ engine should remember the 1000+ HP turbocharged M12/M13 BMW F1 engines that used high-mileage M10 blocks (a design from the early 60s) from their domestic cards as their basis. You can push an engine from a domestic car far further than those cars ever do if you have different priorities in modifying and tuning it, at the expense of more complex operation and maintenance and shorter operating time between rebuilds.

    1. Except that they didn’t seem to have pushed the engine anywhere.

      I have a 2013 Toyota Auris (European version). It has a ZRE185 engine (1.6 VVT) and not a 2ZZ engine. But seriously, it’s one of the most tame engines I have ever ridden. Supposed to have 130bhp, but I think they forgot to put in the torque, must be still lying somewhere in a cupboard in their labs? :D

      Ok, it also doesn’t particularly help that the whole car weighs 1300kg… ;)

      Anyway, for sure it’s a quality engine and car, so I don’t complain. But it was quite a step back from my 2.0 liter Nissan Primera (SR20DE engine). And to be honest, the Toyota engine is a bit more fuel-efficient than the Nissan’s engine, but not as much as I had expected.

      Let’s say that I would have sooner turned to Nissan than to Toyota, if I wanted to have a high-performance engine for my brand new supercar.

    2. Truth.

      Straight mechanical engines get a lot of flak from the EFI/ECU tuner crowd, but I have seen some of those dinosaurs detonate tires and tear themselves free of their mounts.

      Assuming the group that developed the car ever gets around to a second generation, there is certainly room for COTS improvements regarding the power plant.

    3. Ahhh, yes. BMW does deserve mention here. In the i8 $140k supercar, BMW selected a 1.4L ICE power plant actually pulled from their Mini Cooper production line. Much like this team of students, though the difference is the students have plans for an upgrade.

    1. Technological autarchy is almost impossible to attain for a large majority of countries, even developed ones. The repartition of resources is not equal. Food autarchy, in contrast, is in reach of most people.
      And globalization is as old as humanity. Even in neolithic there were traveler salesmen.

      But what is sure, is that conspiracy theories are in reach of any idiot.

  3. Was there ever any intention to talk about the car itself or just cold war politics? Also.. Afghanistan and the Soviet Union.. not exactly the best of friends. Maybe you would like to write a political piece about a Russian sports car?

  4. Heck yeah, I drove a Toyota Matrix XRS which featured that same 2ZZ-GE engine, and it was a screamer. Redline above 8000rpm, and the “metal matrix composite” cylinder liners actually gave the car its nameplate.

    I always got a giggle knowing the very same powerplant was in the Elise among others. Tuned differently, and with a thousand pounds less junk to haul around, but still.

    Nobody should be mocked for picking that engine to build around. Except perhaps in 2023 when building anything but an EV is patently silly. But whatever, if gasoline is your thing, it’s a solid choice.

        1. Ah a good way to phrase it that I couldn’t think of who knows how many hours ago.
          Electric might have gotten a tiny bit more expensive in Europe as a whole, but other than Russian ‘donations’ to Ukraine’s grid creating problems there isn’t a great shortage of Electricity. It might happen eventually, but ‘crisis’ if there is one at all is for petrochemical, and mostly for the lighter fractions.

      1. Eh, depends just what FWD Corolla we are talking about. My old FWD AE101 GTZ levin with a supercharged 4AGZE engine, superstrut suspension and a handful of mods was a fantastic car for some fun through the hills.
        Lift-off oversteer, downshift and a bit of handbrake followed by a bunch of throttle through each corner, then foot to the floor on exit. Good fun.
        A bit of extra toe-out on the rear wheels makes the car a bit more spritely too. :)

        If we take a look at a standard boring Corolla, well, I’d be more inclined to agree with you.

      1. “Were these same people mocking the Elise back in the day?”

        I graduated high school before the year 2000; one of the rich kids showed up with a brand new Porsche Boxter. I got to drive it and it was so anemic and underpowered. It handled great obviously, and Porsche makes a nice car with many other redeeming qualities but “people” were absolutely mocking it. And that had 217 hp, better than the Elise by a fair amount. The engine in the article makes 125 hp. For comparison my 66 Mustang, in high school, had a 30 year old V8 and made 225 hp before I started messing with it on my high school job level of funding.

    1. Lotus used a model year 2000 Toyota engine in the year, um, 2000 and the fancy one made 177 BHP. 23 years later, the car from the article is using the same engine. Like, not even the “better” Lotus one but the one that engine was based off of, the actual base model one from 2000 that makes 125 hp, factory new. And the Afgan car’s engine is a *used* engine. No engine makes more power after 23 years of wear and tear. For comparison, when I google’d “Lotus 2000” I got results for their current (punz!) car that makes 2000 hp, electric. So this in the article is using the worse version of the engine from toyotoa that a high performance manufacturer, Lotus, used 23 years ago and has since engineered its way to a 2000 hp monster.

  5. You guys should support and encourage them instead leaving negative comments Afghanistan is burning in war since 1975 nobody thinks about this whatever they have made should be proud of.

    1. I appreciate your optimism. I have been trying hard to be positive on the HaD comments section as well. BUT.. one person below posted that this was done by the Taliban government. If that is the case, and even if it isn’t, from my armchair analysis the purpose of this car is not to make an awesome car. There is maybe an ulterior motive, and if that is the case it should be questioned or at least pointed out. I pretty carefully argued that making a rad car, sadly, isn’t what happened here so I’m left to question what, really is the purpose of this project? Not saying it is, but if it is a propaganda device by a government, maybe the commenters should NOT be proud of that.

  6. I do like how it looks, although it looks as if they borrowed a lot of inspiration from Japanese supercars, and some style elements from BMW.

    I can’t wait until they put a 450bhp engine in that car and find out if the car actually performs as good as it looks.

    Weird though that the Taliban government themselves introduced the car. That immediately politicises the whole affair, and is unnecessary.

  7. I’ll go ahead and mock the car on its merits alone. The engine is “powerful enough to allow the driver to increase the speed.” Sweet. I guess when I ride my bicycle I can lay down as much horsepower since I too can increase my speed at will. Or this is at least as rad as the article featured here on HaD with a pedal powered AMG. At least that pedal car didn’t take 30 people 5 years to make.
    The engine isn’t just from a Corolla. It is from a model year 2000 Carolla, which is 125hp. There is no indication they modified an engine. An engine *is* the sports car. For comparison, a Honda CBR motorcycle, still from model year 2000 (if my google-fu is correct) makes 110 hp. So this “car” makes as much power as a middle of the road motorcycle from the same model year, but weighs like 10x as much. So 23 year old power plant and a sad one at that, with plan to put electrics in it? No matter how you come down on the e-car politics, there is at least some bleeding edge engineering going into new e-cars. So these people, for whom it took 5 years to make this thing, believe they are going to somehow have the engineering and tech to make it a functioning e-car? Maybe with a golf cart motor from 2000’s and couple used car batteries they too can show one crappy video of it driving away under its own power. Re: the actual purpose of the car, goodwill, ambassador across the country etc, probably some merit there. Different talk though.

  8. The engine is neither here nor there for me, it’s an application that can be logical thinking in Lotus mode rather than Bugatti mode.

    I am in two minds about the whole deal though, i) Desire to encourage the people of Afghanistan to develop homegrown talent, tech and industry, so they’ve got something other than the cultivation of problematic pharmaceuticals to fall back on. ii) The desire not to acknowledge and promote the current bigotted and misogynous regime.

  9. In homebuilt aircraft there is a saying 90% done and 90% remains to be finished. Don’t care for the regime or the political aspects, but that is secondary. Somebody finished it and it was under trying circumstances which is to be applauded whatever squirrel power engine is used

  10. well done hackaday for not joining the western hate bandwagon. All those criticising wouldn’t have a problem if this car came from India or Israel, who also abuse the rights of minorities under there rule.

  11. That ‘head of the vocational institute” guy sitting in his taliban outfit and beard and the taliban flag behind him is clearly not OK IMHO.
    The other dude who looks like a mechanic is OK I would think.
    Sorry, but although it’s for some reason very popular to ignore what the taliban is and stands for and to even applaud them currently, even with people you would not expect it from, I personally will not get on board with that.

  12. What a stupid article, probably showing its author’s lack of knowledge and latent prejudice. Nearly all sports car manufacturers throughout history have utilised apparently humble engines. Lotus over years have used Ford, Triumph, British Leyland,Toyota to mention but a few. The original Lotus twin cam was a lowly Cortina cross flow with a Lotus (Cosworth) head. The Elise used Toyota Corolla (and Austin K series originally).
    Morgan has used Triumph, Ford, BMW and smaller units from apparently very humble cars.
    The Corolla engine in question is amongst best sports car engines ever built.

      1. If this car came out 22 years ago when that engine was new, weighed under 2000lbs like the Lotus, and had a properly designed suspension , then the article would have a point.

        Even then the Lotus Elise was never a ‘super’ car, it was a sports car. Big difference. So yes, the 22-year-old used economy engine choice of this design exercise does deserve to be mocked.

  13. I think us “Westerners” have the whole Afghanistan thing mess up. The people/citizens of Afghanistan want education for all, women included and are quite open minded about it. It is the current terrorist government that has by force assumed power that does not allow education for women. I have a few Afghan friends and they are very distraught about all this and it sucks because they are very misunderstood. It’s not the people, it’s the foreign “governing body” that has silenced and kept the afghan people under their heels. We really need to educate ourselves on the situation there, it’s quite dire.

    1. I thought this comment section was about a car not about a country’s politic instability and social issues but for sure western countries should avoid getting into matters of other countries because they tend to make the situation ‘worse'( purposely to steal these countries resources and prech fake news to the world ). If it was possible Afghanistan should have a restart button because that country has a lot of potential

  14. Hackaday, ignoring social issues and telling us to judge the product of the regime on its hardware merits is literally inhuman and inhumane.

    Here’s hoping the author is forced to live in Afghanistan and consider hardware on its merits as they get oppressed.

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