We check in with Sub Zero in Dubai’s Al Quoz industrial region to find out how the region’s biggest performance workshop came to be. And what plans they have in the future.
In a region developing as fast as the United Arab Emirates, the race to be ‘the first’ of anything is a hotly contested one. And in that respect, performance specialist Sub Zeo (based in Dubai’s Al Quoz industrial zone) has got the legs on a number of its competitors. According to CEO Rashed Al Jabri, Sub Zero was the first performance workshop in the region to have a dyno installed, the first to extend to overseas markets, and the first to open an online store. Each a claim to Middle Eastern fame in its own right for Sub Zero. Strange then that the company’s origins are rooted nearly 10,000 kilometres away in Australia.
“When I was a bit younger,” Rashed explains, “I used to take my cars to different garages to see which was best. But I went from garage-to-garage and wasn’t very happy with any of them. They weren’t very professional and didn’t have any plans to change or improve.
“So I went to Australia” – as one does when spontaneity takes hold – “where I was searching for products and good people to work with me, which is when I met the guys at Sub Zero in Australia: Ivan and his two sons, Mick and Mario. So I gave them a good offer, explained how we could develop a strong business together, and not too long after that we came to Dubai. We opened Sub Zero here in 2006.”
As Rashed and I stand here in the Sub Zero customers stores, there’s a look in his eyes that, if vocalised, would say, ‘how times change’. He’s not wrong. From these ‘humble’ beginnings, Rashed had big plans for his regional workshop. Quite literally in fact.
“Sub Zero is the biggest performance workshop in the Middle East, and that’s because we wanted to focus on everything. The plan was to make one shop that does everything from A-Z. If you bring your car to the shop, you can have it fully modified here.
With a plan (albeit an ambitious one) in place, the first step was to make a deal with some of the worlds most reputable parts suppliers. Once again, international travel beckoned, and yet more of Rashed’s frequent flyer miles were put to good use. In America, Sub Zero reps visited every supplier they could, and it wasn’t too long before hands were shaken and names were signed on the dotted line. The team had their supplies and in vast quantities too to begin wholesale engine builds on a large scale. Then came the next step: the dyno.
“We were the first performance shop in the Middle East to have a dyno. At the time everyone was smiling: ‘why do you need that?’, and everything like this. But I was very happy with it. We were keen, as were our customers, to see how much performance a car can reach. After that we also got an engine dyno from Super Flo: only one other facility had one, and that belonged to the Dubai government.”
Again, all well in principle, but the stiff amount of competition – plus the uphill struggle of any newly established company finding their way in the market – proved difficult first hurdles to overcome. Step one involved Rashed’s own Land Cruiser, for which he and the team built a turbocharged engine from scratch. Chucking out more horsepower than anything of a similar size had a right to, it wasn’t long before local interest, especially on the drag strips, was tweaked. Little by little the customers started trickling in. Interestingly, more and more examples of the same model kept appearing on the books. A thought suddenly occurred.