RE: Ares previews the future of coachbuilding

RE: Ares previews the future of coachbuilding

Friday 2nd February

Ares previews the future of coachbuilding

Modena based atelier wants to revive the art of truly individual vehicles



Guests at the official opening of Ares' Modena production facility were treated to a very warm welcome indeed this week, including factory tours, expensive meals and a lavish launch party; but then Dany Bahar has never been known for scrimping on luxuries.

Bear with us though, because while Bahar's name alone may be enough to make many a PHer click away, there is plenty about his latest venture to be intrigued by. So, having checked an oversized bag of scepticism into the hold of a Bologna-bound flight, we went to see what was going on for ourselves.

There is certainly a ring of Italian Jobbery about the Ares set up. A disarmingly charismatic foreigner, taking money from under the noses of the more established locals using his chosen medium; cars. However, while events at Lotus may have left our protagonist with a Charlie Croker-esque reputation in certain circles, it is important to remember that not only does every story have two sides, but also that Bahar and his Ares associates do have some unquestionably impressive credentials.


He was previously responsible for taking Red Bull into Formula 1 and NASCAR, before becoming the heir apparent to Luca di Montezemolo during two years as Senior Brand VP at Ferrari. Andrea Galletti, Ares' General Manager, was formerly director of R&D at Pagani, and Executive Production Manager Francesco Uguzzoni was chief mechanic for Ferrari's F1 team. Lead designer Mihai Panaitescu, meanwhile, has worked for Pininfarina, Toyota, Lotus and even Local Motors, the outfit responsible for the bonkers Rally Fighter.

So what're they up to now? Well, as they would tell it, traditional coach building. Sitting in Bahar's minimalist office - there certainly aren't £30k worth of books here - he tells me: "We have no brand identity... We will never have Ares cars, we want to be known as the company which has realised the dreams of the customer and he can brand the car and the product as he wants... We sell our work, our craftsmanship, not the car itself."

Having been in business for two years now, Ares' claims to have delivered over 200 examples of that work, from bodykits to completely bespoke redesigns. The company, founded with a €25m sum and bankrolled by a group of seven investors - including Bahar's long-term business partner, Ares chairman Waleed Al Ghafari - reported a turnover of €30m last year and currently employs 110 people, although that is projected to rise to over 200 by the end of this year.


Output varies from the sublime to the ridiculous, from two door Bentley Mulsanne conversions, via a modern interpretation of De Tomaso's Pantera, to the X-Raid, a G-Class based SUV with up to 830hp and 685lb ft of torque. All Ares projects are based on a donor vehicle, Bahar explaining, "We don't have the ego to say we need to make our own car. There are so many good car companies out there, so why would we want to go and fight the Ferraris and Lamborghinis?"

A lack of ego shouldn't be confused with a lack of ambition, though. For such a young company Ares' work is genuinely impressive in the metal. No, the finished products won't be to everyone's taste - Bahar even admitting that many are not to his - but the quality of craftsmanship should be, and he insists that enthusiasts shouldn't rush to judgement. "If you would look into the houses of all the car enthusiasts you would not go and say 'Well that's outrageous, the yellow sofa you have put in your living room', right? That's your right to choose to have your taste, we have to respect your taste, and so it is with the cars... It might not please everybody but it's something that we respect and also that other car enthusiasts should respect. I don't think there is right and wrong in design, there was never right and wrong, there is only I like it or I don't like it, that's pretty much it."

As design head Mihai Panaitescu puts it, "you have to place the car in its environment, what looks ridiculous in the UK might fit in Dubai." When I ask whether the opinions of petrolheads matter to him, he replies with a smile and a shrug, "I do care, and sometimes I am the person on the forums saying 'Jesus Christ!' But the people on the forums aren't the ones paying us."


Not all of Ares' projects are necessarily that hard to swallow. The firm's take on a GT3 RS Targa is genuinely stunning, as is the 575hp underfoot. Its monstrous Defender - available with between 282 and 475hp in either naturally aspirated or supercharged guise - has been built in partnership with the UK's JE Engineering, and comes with a 75mm lift kit, huge tyres and a price starting at €200,000. A sum which suddenly seems less absurd in a world of £150,000 anniversary editions.

Again, that word taste comes up, but every project that Ares works on is commissioned by a client and paid for before it leaves the factory, with the option for a limited production run if the client agrees and the demand is readily apparent. "Defenders have been modified for, I don't know, 30 or 40 years, but I don't think there is a product out there that has been modified in that detail, so we expect this to be a success as well for us", enthuses Bahar.

A motorbike based on BMW's R NineT has reached completion, with a speedboat and mysterious open-wheeled project coming soon as well. It was in classic cars that Ares found its biggest revenue driver last year, though, combining already timeless design with the convenience of modern technology. Case in point a 1966 Corvette Stingray with C7 chassis, electrics, brakes and a 525hp LS3 V8. And the Porsche 964 sitting on the production line, waiting to be similarly fused with 997 components including a PDK, air-con and the Panamera's super-wide nav screen. Purists might call it butchery, but Ares calls it big business.


On the horizon is a 20 car run of GTC4 Lussos, set to be rebodied in the style of a modern 412 at the end of the year. To these eyes the concept is stunning, and if executed to the expected standard it should be a fantastic project. It will all depend on the direction the client demands, because Ares' employees certainly seem more than up to the task.

Bags packed with significantly less pessimism than before, it's refreshing to leave knowing that, amongst the many companies willing to simply plaster cars with carbon fibre, Ares genuinely seems to be the real deal. Whether its creations have merit will be up to individuals to decide for themselves, but this is certainly no half-arsed cut and shut, rather a genuinely dedicated group of people, using state of the art technology and a great deal of skill to realise the far-reaching visions of their clients.


Before our conversation concludes, I have one final question; "Obviously a lot Brits will know you mainly from your time at Lotus, so what would you say to the people who write off Ares because of your involvement?" "My honest answer?" He replies, "I don't care. Not zero. We are doing something really cool here and if they have an issue with me, so be it."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author
Discussion

V8 FOU

Original Poster:

2,569 posts

82 months

Friday 2nd February
quotequote all
"lack of ego"? Bahar? Really?

Sorry, I really do struggle with anything Danni Boy touches........

J4CKO

25,511 posts

135 months

Friday 2nd February
quotequote all
Ares, they named a company after a PHer ?


spikyone

249 posts

35 months

Friday 2nd February
quotequote all
Regardless of your opinions on Bahar, the 2-door Mulsanne looks far more like a proper Bentley coupe than the soap bar styling of the Conti GT and the re-bodied GTC4 Lusso looks a hundred times better than the bizarre Volvo 480 styling that Ferrari came up with.

The usual pitfall of coachbuilders is that they take a nice looking design and turn it into something a bit awkward or vulgar. For the most part Ares seem to be doing the opposite, so I'll applaud them for that at least.

Ares

7,329 posts

55 months

Friday 2nd February
quotequote all
J4CKO said:
Ares, they named a company after a PHer ?
When you've got commercial clout.... wink

tomw2000

2,214 posts

130 months

Friday 2nd February
quotequote all
“. Its monstrous Defender - available with between 282 and 475hp in either naturally aspirated or supercharged guise - has been built in partnership with the UK's GE Engineering..”

GE or JE?
Advertisement

LordGrover

29,907 posts

147 months

Friday 2nd February
quotequote all
*scepticism

The Crack Fox

13,160 posts

127 months

Friday 2nd February
quotequote all
Can someone photoshop the picture of the factory with ARES on the sign, to say ARSE, please?

This one..



Ta.

Greg_D

5,839 posts

181 months

Friday 2nd February
quotequote all
i think that Danny Bahar is genuinely the right bloke for this.

At lotus, he had grand plans that failed when exposed to the commercial reality of making something to production and regulatory standards. to then try and crowbar an iffy business case into the lotus financial shambles with the cherry of a tiny target market that don't want a ferrari for ferrari money made it impossible to succeed.

In this venture, he is indulging the specific whims of extremely wealthy clients who don't care if the car remains euro 6 compliant blah blah blah. the fact he is starting with the right badges makes it all so much easier. it's fine to think big when your customers name starts with sheikh!!!

No, i am not his target audience, i'm not rich enough... but so what if the filthy rich want to spend a million altering an already expensive car, crack on.....

forzaminardi

1,905 posts

122 months

Friday 2nd February
quotequote all
He was a bit of a comedy figure with Lotus, but its fair to say that within the marketing realm, he is a very competent chap - social media meltdowns toward the end at Lotus aside. He was probably out of his depth in trying to bring a mega-branded global feel to an small engineering-led manufacturer but also arguably was let down by the money men losing faith. His hair is stupider than ever too, but hey.

Some of his new company's products are hideous, but as he says, each to their own. I dare say if I win this evening's Euromillions I might be persuaded to bespoke-ly rebody a supercar or something, and if they genuinely can do literally whatever you want then why not?

Gandahar

5,859 posts

63 months

Friday 2nd February
quotequote all
Agree with the 2 posts above, square peg in round hole at Lotus but hopefully can be successful here.

Lotus did not have the money for his grand design plan, which to be fair to him, was a lot more than doing yet another Elise or Evora version and charging more money for it.

Which we all complain about now. There was a massive bandwagon, customised of course, of slagging him off at the time.

PS The PH article was fair and well written. Nice work Daffy.

Edited by Gandahar on Friday 2nd February 12:06

lindrup119

1,214 posts

78 months

Friday 2nd February
quotequote all
The Crack Fox said:
Can someone photoshop the picture of the factory with ARES on the sign, to say ARSE, please?

This one..



Ta.
Botch job for ya:



Mellow Yellow

702 posts

197 months

Friday 2nd February
quotequote all
Can't believe the article doesn't include a single mention of the Pantera (Project Panther), just a picture of the newly unveiled car (which looks stunning) as a footnote!

jamoor

9,545 posts

150 months

Friday 2nd February
quotequote all
With electric cars, this will become more common imo

MDMA .

4,195 posts

36 months

Friday 2nd February
quotequote all
J4CKO said:
Ares, they named a company after a PHer ?
And yet no mention yet of the Giulia being the best car evaa.

Ares

7,329 posts

55 months

Friday 2nd February
quotequote all
MDMA . said:
J4CKO said:
Ares, they named a company after a PHer ?
And yet no mention yet of the Giulia being the best car evaa.
Are you sure? Reading/Interpretation skills don't appear to be your forté wink

Agent XXX

1,248 posts

41 months

Friday 2nd February
quotequote all
That GTC412 is just STUNNING!!!!!

numtumfutunch

2,795 posts

73 months

Friday 2nd February
quotequote all
Expected to hate but really rather like, especially the targa and the Defender

Damn

IknowJoseph

498 posts

75 months

Friday 2nd February
quotequote all
What have they done to the 918??

Agent XXX

1,248 posts

41 months

Friday 2nd February
quotequote all
little piece on the 412

nearly $900,000 !

https://www.motorauthority.com/news/1115088_ares-p...

Andyt25

1,104 posts

183 months

Friday 2nd February
quotequote all
I must be one of the few that thought the Lotus models Bahar was showing at motor shows looked amazing.