Ares Design knows its niche. The Modena-based manufacturer has made a specialism out of specialist cars, taking existing models and transforming them into unique specimens that cater for a very exacting kind of customer. Led by CEO Dany Bahar, the company’s latest creation is the Ares Design Coupé, a radical overhaul of the mighty Rolls-Royce Phantom that transforms it into a grand two-door car. The conversion is a major job, involving new glazing and new panels that create a flowing line that runs down the considerable length of the car. Just eight examples of the coupé will be built to order, each hand-finished and individually specified.

We spoke to Bahar about the thinking behind the brand and its design ethos. Bahar, who set up the company in 2013, pitches his products at the very highest level of the market, usually to serial collectors with in-depth knowledge of their favourite marques but who just want to go a little bit further. ‘The very, very high end is, as you might image, very, very demanding,’ says Bahar, ‘because these people have access to everything that’s on the market already and they understand quality. But even if you’re the best customer of Ferrari or Rolls-Royce, you can’t just pick up the phone and call their CEO and say, “I want you to design a car for me, just the way I dreamt it last night.”’

Side view of the Ares Design Coupé

The Ares Design Coupé, the company’s two-door adaptation of the Rolls-Royce Phantom

This is where Ares comes in. Bahar acknowledges that although high levels of customisation already exist elsewhere, manufacturers are mostly making superficial changes in terms of colour, trim and materials. ‘When we started this adventure, we knew we had to offer something that complies with safety regulations, of course, but also which has no limits to the imagination. Our clients understand personalisation, from aircraft to their yachts, to their homes.’ Ares is therefore committed to the ruthless pursuit of individuality. ‘You can rarely stop somebody else from doing the same as you. But our ambition was for someone to design their own car exactly the way they wanted it, even if they drew it on a napkin during dinner.’ Bahar points out that although the coachbuilding industry has been around for over a century, the desire for ultra-bespoke design was no longer being catered for by an independent. 

Rear view of the Ares Design Coupé
A rear view of the Ares Design Coupé

There’s also the question of economics. However much you charge for a car, Bahar explains that no factory can survive by simply creating one-offs. As a result, Ares acts as a launch pad for inspiration, taking customers’ ideas and then turning them into an extremely limited edition of ten or 20 units. ‘You can then go back to the customer and tell them they have created a project that others might enjoy. That’s an emotional benefit but it is also an important part of the business. It helps us to produce these limited series.’

All of Ares’ unique takes on classic designs started this way – ‘without exception’, says Bahar. ‘Customers will say they were a big fan of a particular car, or that the original is undrivable or unsafe and they’d like to have a modern version instead.’ This Legends Reborn service involves tailoring bodywork over existing platforms, taking design icons as an inspiration but giving them a modern twist. Ares’ Panther Progettouno is inspired by the 1970s-era De Tomaso Pantera, with a modern Lamborghini Huracán as a basis, while two classic Ferrari designs, the 250 GTO and the 412, have both been given the Ares treatment. Other projects are more straightforward restorations, including a one-off 1964 Chevrolet Corvette that has been given new running gear from a contemporary model, and a meticulous Porsche 964 Targa that conceals Porsche 997 mechanicals beneath its retro skin

Interior view of the Ares Design Coupé
Inside the Ares Design Coupé – each of the eight examples will be individualised for the client

There’s also an original project in the works. The S1 Project and S1 Project Spyder fulfil a simple brief, ‘to create a car that combines the design of a hypercar, the performance of a supercar and the accessibility of a sportscar’, a sentence that rather neatly sums up the problems of ultra-limited editions. When it comes to performance, the big-name manufacturers are effectively trapped in a numbers game of their own making; they can never afford to concede the relationship between power, performance and design. In contrast, Ares has far more flexibility. The Project S1 looks impossibly dramatic, and yet at its heart is a Chevrolet Corvette C8. This makes it easy to maintain and drive, yet with more than adequate performance. At around €500,000, it is a fraction of the cost of a limited series Ferrari or McLaren.  

Ares Design S1 Project Spyder

An original project that will be made to order in an edition of 24, Ares Design’s S1 Project Spyder is a roofless supercar, with wind deflectors for each occupant

Such is the attention to detail and undeniable good taste of the company’s output, that Ares could become an increasingly important player. ‘We’re our own brand, we’re not looking at reviving other names,’ Bahar says simply. ‘All our products have a reason to exist because they’re unique. Uniqueness is more and more important – we would never just create a car you could already buy from a manufacturer. That’s how we’ll continue to be successful in the future.’ §

Ares Design Porsche 964 Targa
The Ares Design Porsche 964 Targa conceals Porsche 997 mechanicals