“We’re angry a action adjoin mediocrity,” says Dany Bahar, cofounder of Ares Design. “Ferrari, Lamborghini, Rolls-Royce—they’re absurd brands. Fantastic. But some of our audience accept 600 of their cars. They’re the actual best audience for those brands, but aback they appetite to agency a car that is absolutely different, absolutely special, they still appear up adjoin the rules and banned of a big manufacturer—even if the CEO knows you by name. So Ferrari and the others can sometimes assume characterless by their standards. We alpha breadth that mediocrity ends.”
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Bahar is, as usual, actuality provocative. We’re talking in his vast, minimalist appointment at the Ares assembly ability in Modena, Italy. We are in the affection of Italy’s Motor Valley. Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, and Pagani are all a abbreviate drive away—even beneath in one of the active masterpieces they’ve fabricated about actuality for a century.
All of those companies booty their names from their acclaimed founders, but the supercar industry has additionally continued admiring agitators: big characters, generally precociously young, who adulation the cars but accept approved to agitate up the industry’s hit-and-miss engineering and management. The Austro-Canadian oil millionaire and F1 aggregation buyer Walter Wolf was a consecutive Lamborghini customer. While still in his thirties, he adjourned the development of better-handling one-off cars that Lamborghini after adopted as assembly models, apparently befitting it alive. Patrick Mimran again bought the still-ailing Lamborghini in the aboriginal 1980s aback he was abandoned in his twenties. He adored it and awash it to Chrysler in 1987, after acceptable an artist.
Dany Bahar, architect of Ares Design. Photo by Greg White.
Bahar is their successor: Motor Valley’s modern-day disruptor. His latest mission is to accomplish cars with unique, bespoke, coachbuilt bodies not abandoned attainable but additionally affordable by the region’s standards. Coachbuilding was the barometer afore Apple War II and remained about accepted for high-end sports cars into the 1960s. Playboys and princes would no added buy an off-the-peg car than an off-the-peg suit, and the amazing shapes they commissioned from coachbuilders like Saoutchik, Frua, Figoni et Falaschi, and the blow still adroitness the lawns at the world’s finest concours. The convenance beneath with the appearance of monocoque construction—in which the anatomy and anatomy are united, authoritative the panels harder to change—and with the industrialization of supercar manufacturing, which makes a one-off an big-ticket interruption.
It is still possible, however, if your pockets are abysmal enough. The Sultan of Brunei’s appropriate builds abundantly kept Bentley and Aston Martin afloat through the aphotic canicule of the 1990s, and best of the super-premium brands still accomplish a tiny scattering of unique-bodied cars anniversary year for their best customers. “But you pay $4.1 million, delay two years or more, and you still don’t get what you want,” says Bahar. “Yes, some of our audience accept accomplished museums for their cars. But it’s not aloof them. Coachbuilding shouldn’t aloof be for the advantageous five. Our audience aren’t aloof billionaires but attorneys and chief managers, too. Our action is to accomplish coachbuilding added accessible.”
How accessible? A limited-run Ares-bodied supercar starts from about $600,000, excluding the donor car. For a one-off, about $880,000 is typical. The turnaround time is usually eight to 12 months. Can we absolutely accomplish an altercation that a bespoke supercar costing $880,000 represents acceptable amount for money? Certain contempo limited-run models from Porsche and Mercedes accept tripled in amount and now amount a agnate sum . . . so maybe we can.
Bahar has continued been a polarizing character. Born in Turkey and a Swiss national, he met the Austrian Red Bull billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz while alive for a Lichtenstein wealth-management firm. Mateschitz assassin Bahar and tasked him with ambience up Red Bull’s two Formula 1 teams and affairs football clubs in New York, Austria, and Ghana. In 2007, Bahar was poached by Ferrari to agitate up its all-around sales and business operations, and two years later, he was fabricated CEO of Lotus at the age of aloof 38. The British sportscar maker had continued flirted with banking adversity and badly bare to accretion calibration to survive. Within a year, Bahar had developed a plan to abound Lotus’s aggregate fivefold with bristles new cars, which were apparent accompanying at the Paris Motor Appearance in 2010.
Automakers usually acknowledge one new car at a time. Nobody present at the Paris exhibition, including me, could accept what they were seeing. The beachcomber of action was followed by a aftermath of cynicism. Industry assembly questioned Bahar’s acquaintance and doubted whether he could abound Lotus so quickly. We didn’t get to acquisition out. By 2012, he’d had a belligerent altercation with the Malaysian owners, and aback again we’ve heard little from him.
Ares Design’s calendar of automotive makeovers. Photo by Greg White.
Ares is Bahar’s abutting act and draws afflatus from his adventures at Ferrari. There, he advancing the accepted bang in personalization, and not aloof of cars. He founded Ferrari’s Atelier bespoke program, which saw customers’ boilerplate absorb on abandoned acrylic and trim fasten from 10 percent of account amount to added than 40 percent. It’s still a huge antecedent of accumulation for Ferrari.
“We had barter at Ferrari who capital to go further, go above the amount lists and options, and actualize altered cars with bespoke bodies,” Bahar says. “But admitting the demand, in my time at Ferrari we fabricated abandoned four or bristles of these, because for a big architect they’re a catastrophe. They don’t like the distraction. But that address is growing. So I saw an opportunity.”
Bahar clearly launched Ares in 2014 and has developed the business uncharacteristically gently. The company’s best-known articles so far accept been two limited-run SUVs—one based on the Land Rover Defender and the added on the Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen. The Defender was assiduously reengineered, and the G-Wagen was accustomed an absolutely new body. The cast has additionally fabricated a scattering of restomods—classic cars with avant-garde engineering—and cars abandoned above what their makers could provide.
And now, accepting congenital its aggregation and aesthetic its processes, Ares is starting to do what Bahar consistently intended: action supercars with bespoke bodies, either one-offs or in actual bound runs, to the aforementioned audience whose annoyance he witnessed at Ferrari. “The supercar manufacturers all accept a car configurator online,” he says. “We aloof accept a bare allotment of paper. You can accept one caster or seven.”
Well, not quite. All Ares cars are based on a donor supercar. By abrogation its automated and electrical systems alone, the aboriginal warranties and the acceptance appropriate to road-register it abide valid. Ares is absurd to advance on circuitous systems, which accept been actual expensively developed by the all-around car groups. “We’re like artificial surgeons,” says Bahar. “We don’t blow the organs.”
The X-Raid based on the Mercedes-AMG G63. Photo by Greg White.
But Ares can advance on a car’s body, carrying article that audience artlessly can’t get from the above marques. There’s generally abhorrence for anyone who dares to adapt a Ferrari or a Porsche; for some it’s about sacrilegious. But the aboriginal bespoke projects from Ares appearance aftertaste and accuracy and, in some cases, are the kinds of cars the manufacturers would advance themselves, had they the time. Audience ability appetite a altered body, but they ability additionally appetite functionality or a aggregate of anatomy blazon and engine, which a carmaker doesn’t offer.
For example, Ares is adjustment 911 Targas with the signature able aluminum rollover bandage and folding hardtop, uprated to the blueprint of the racecar-derived GT3. It’s not a aggregate Porsche offers, but it is one that any Porsche aficionado would approve. There will additionally be two limited-run versions of a reimagined Tesla Archetypal S: a cutting anchor and a convertible. Both are badly ambrosial concepts and altogether ill-fitted to the car’s batty achievement and silent, emissions-free running. They’re cars Musk himself would best acceptable build, were he not a little preoccupied. And priced at about $235,000, they’ll additionally be added affordable than added Ares offerings.
The aboriginal two coachbuilt supercars that Ares appear accept absolute left-field, car-connoisseur appeal. The Ares Panther, congenital over the anatomy of a Lamborghini Huracán, is an admiration to the De Tomaso Pantera, the absorbing 1970s supercar admired of car enthusiasts but which was never abundant acceptable to own or drive. “I endemic one for three months,” Bahar laughs. “I admired it, but it never worked.” The second, Activity Pony, is a avant-garde estimation of the Ferrari 412, the ahead unloved, angular four-seat auto from the backward 1970s that is currently adequate a analytical reassessment. Activity Pony will best acceptable be based on the anatomy of Ferrari’s avant-garde four-seater, the GTC4Lusso.
The aboriginal Panther ancestor is now complete, and the aboriginal Pony will be accessible aboriginal in 2019. Both attending amazing in the sketches. The Panther is way better-looking than the aboriginal Pantera. It has the aforementioned archetypal supercar waistline, acclaim ascent and falling over the caster arches. But with its high, acicular adenoids and kicked-up rear, it additionally has huge beheld activity and looks as if it is beginning forward, alike at a standstill. The Pony is actual different, but it additionally improves on its inspiration. It is a gentleman’s accurate of the blazon industrialists would use in the 1960s to barrel them over the Alps to affairs in Milan, Geneva, and Nice. It has a formal, three-box contour and bodywork as aciculate and tailored as an Italian suit, with elegant, attenuated pillars.
Already aesthetic rides actuality added reimagined. Photo by Greg White.
Both are instantly covetable, and both will be congenital in bound runs: 21 examples for the Panther, 14 for the Pony. According to Bahar, the account for these limited-run cars will consistently appear from customers, and they’ll abandoned be congenital in a baby series—rather than as one-offs—if the barter accord their consent. “Our audience adulation this. It’s bigger than befitting a acceptable abstraction to themselves. They feel like they’re the artist of the car, like they’ve accustomed bearing to it. You don’t get that at Ferrari.”
A car usually starts with an e-mail. One bespoke activity started with a three-line bulletin from a applicant who’d apparent three angles he admired on three cars from altered manufacturers, and he wondered if they could be accumulated in a distinct design. “Project Pony started with an e-mail from a above Ferrari collector—really one of their better clients,” says Bahar. “He told us to booty what he anticipation was the ugliest Ferrari—the 412—and appear aback with article interesting. He admired the aboriginal sketches.”
Bahar’s aggregation of 24 designers and engineers again assignment the sketches into basic 3-D models. If the applicant can’t appear to Modena, they will be beatific a VR bend so that they can booty a basic airing about the car with the designers, examination it from every bend and distance. They can additionally get eighth-scale, 3-D printed models of the car corrective in the appropriate blush so they can see how sunlight avalanche above the vehicle. It’s a agnate action that the CEO of a carmaker enjoys aback acknowledging a new model.
And already the architectonics has been active off, it has to be built. A brand-new, perfect, and complete Ferrari or Lamborghini donor car is sourced and delivered to the Ares facility, breadth generally its autogenous is bare and its bodywork cut away, absolutely but brutally, in a battery of sparks.
The donor cars are apprenticed assimilate the spacious, light-filled, and spotlessly apple-pie assembly band to be bare down. The berth is removed actuality afore the car is taken to the anatomy and acrylic breadth to accept its exoteric removed.
A donor car in transformation. Photo by Greg White.
Although the tech abaft the dashboard is maintained, berth blush and trim are up to the client, and whatever they and the designers accept absitively on is accomplished by a aggregation of upholsterers. “There’s an absurd basin of aptitude about Modena with the abilities you charge to anatomy supercars or bespoke cars,” says Bahar. “We absolutely accept to recruit from the appearance industry.” Besides supercars, cheese, ceramics, and balsamic vinegar, the Emilia-Romagna arena is acclaimed for the artisan abilities that can accomplish whatever the appearance designers of Milan can conceive. Luxury leathergoods close Furla is based nearby, and the aforementioned easily that stitched one of its accoutrements may now stitch the berth of your Ares. “The appearance leatherworkers are incredible,” says Bahar. “They accept an absorption to detail above the automotive. For them, alike the bond on the covering lining of a backpack charge be perfect, alike admitting you’ll never see it. That’s still not accurate in automotive. I anticipate that accomplishment affection in cars has gone down, alike at the accomplished level.”
To those acceptable Emilian ability skills, we can now add carbon-fiber fabrication. Aback the 1980s, this arena has congenital up a basin of accomplished fabricators who assignment with the actual and who move amid Formula 1 teams, carmakers, and added enterprises that charge their skills. Ares bodywork is fabricated mostly in carbon fiber, and in a committed workshop. Unlike some of the carbon architectonics techniques acclimated elsewhere, easily abandoned anatomy the curves a applicant defines with a designer, aloof as coachbuilt panels would accept been “rolled” by duke from breadth metal in years past.
A Land Rover Defender receives bespoke bodywork and enhancements. Photo by Greg White.
The new carbon panels are again absorbed to the anatomy of the donor car and corrective afore the rebodied car is alternate to the assembly breadth to accept the autogenous refitted. And as a client, you can appear and beam the absolute process, from the aboriginal duke sketches to the final analysis and brightness afore delivery.
“The car is maybe abandoned bisected of our client’s action for accomplishing this,” says Bahar. “It’s a actual appropriate car, but it’s still a car, right? It ability go into a accumulating with a lot of added actual appropriate cars. But at atomic bisected of the address is the acquaintance of creating article and accompanying it as it’s made. You’ll apperceive the designer. You’ll apperceive the guys on the assembly line. Bodies who absolutely apperceive cars appetite to be allotment of this.”
There’s additionally the address to the blow of us of communicable a glimpse of a bespoke car on the alley and aggravating to amount out what it is, or seeing it on the backyard at Pebble Beach, or account the adventure of the car and the being who commissioned it in a Sotheby’s bargain archive years hence. In an era of more commoditized transport, it’s adorable that bodies still appetite to agency a unique, admirable car the way they agency art and architecture, and leave it for us all to enjoy. In an Uber world, drive a Picasso.
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