The firm in question is Ares Design, and judging by its new 18,000-square metre facility it means business. Based on the northern edge of Modena in Italy, Ares is the brainchild of Dany Bahar, a 46-year-old entrepreneur whose career to date has included impressive stints at Red Bull and Ferrari, as well as a more contentious spell as CEO of Group Lotus. It was in this final position that Bahar led a team to launch five new concept cars at the 2010 Paris Motor Show, as well as instigate the return of the Lotus name to Formula One. Things might not ultimately have panned out as Bahar had planned (he departed Lotus in 2012 before the first of the new cars, the Esprit, could be launched), but in combination with old colleagues and financial backers, it wasn’t long before the seeds for Ares had been sewn.
As with so many start-ups, the business has changed course from its original plan of personalising cars with new leather trim, big wheels and enhanced power outputs, and now centres very much on more bespoke projects. Or, as Bahar puts it: “It is one-off coachbuilding at a much more affordable level than has ever been possible before”.
There are three distinct tiers to this, the first two of which involve creating new bodywork for current production cars, while the third centres on updating classic cars with modern underpinnings. To put the ‘affordable’ element of it into perspective we are still talking the best part of £700,000 for the newer option, while classics tend to come in at around £360,000.
There were numerous examples of all types of project present when Goodwood visited Ares Design’s pristine new facility in early 2018. First things first, if your idea of coachbuilding involves a small team toiling away in a dingy garage, then the ultra-modern, open plan setup run by Ares with its 100 or so staff working in meticulously clean environments is going to come as something of a shock. “I really want to show that coachbuilding can be very modern and very sexy,” says Bahar. “It’s not something you do with three men in a shed in Coventry. This facility makes people feel comfortable we have the capabilities.”