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Nestled in a warehouse in Dubai‘s Al Quoz district, Panda Performance was born out of a passion. Well, a passion and a hobby. Owner Moosa Swaidan trained as a civil engineer and started to forge out a career in construction. But fast forward a few more years and the young Syrian, together with his small team of mechanics, now spends his days creating monstrously powerful Mitsubishi Evos and Nissan GT-Rs. How did this happen?

“Tuning all-wheel drive, turbocharged cars was a hobby,” he smiles. “That was the platform I always wanted to work on, but I never really got a chance to actually practice, for many reasons – money, time, experience, trust in shops that could deliver. But when I was at college in the US I started researching everything I could on the subject.”

Once out of college, Moosa worked on a big construction project and was rewarded with a sizable bonus, with which he decided to start his own company. “It was going to be a construction company,” he recalls, “but within a week I decided I wanted to start a performance shop instead. That was the same time that they showed the production GT-R at the end of 2008.”

After 18 months of planning, Panda Performance opened its doors in June 2010, but not before a debate over the name. ”I wanted to call the business Monkey Engineering, just as something you could remember. But when I went to register the company the guy started laughing in my face. In Arabic, if someone says they’re going to the Monkey shop, it doesn’t sound good! So I wanted to come up with something strong, but something that everyone likes. And everyone likes Pandas.

“Back then I’d only worked on Evos, starting with my own cars – I’ve owned three – and then with other Evo owners coming to my house, asking me to work on their machines.”

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Phill Tromans has been a professional writer since 2001 and has specialised in motoring since 2005. After three years working in the UK he has worked for various titles in the Middle East, focusing on new cars and the industry, as well as motorsport. He also has a sweet collection of sneakers.

Phill Tromans