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Coachbuilding Upstart Ares Design Has Big Plans as Italy Reopens

The custom coachbuilder plans to add 100 employees and a lot more room to reimagine.

The Ares Design facility in Modena, Italy. Photo: Courtesy of Ares Design.

After being hit particularly hard by the coronavirus pandemic, Italy is slowly coming back on line. That includes not only the long-established supercar makers clustered around Modena, but also a comparative newcomer, Ares Design, which is back to business and promising to slingshot out of the shutdown with a larger staff, factory and vision.

Cofounded by automotive industry stalwart Dany Bahar, who, a decade back, ran Red Bull’s F1 team before transitioning to Ferrari and then Lotus—Ares Design opened its Italian facility in 2018 with a mission to revive the century-old art of custom coachbuilding. Put simply: Bring Ares your idea, plus a new Ferrari or Mercedes or Tesla or Porsche, and his team of designers and artisans will bring you along for the journey of your custom-crafted build for a healthy six-figure sum. That approach is an echo of the days when Pininfarina, Figoni et Falaschi and other sheet metal ateliers were at the ready to produce custom-bodied automobiles for the world’s most demanding enthusiasts.

A few vehicles in the coachbuilding process at Ares Design.

A few vehicles in the coachbuilding process at Ares Design.  Photo: Courtesy of Ares Design.

Even though the global economy won’t be humming along at its previous pace for some time, Bahar is confident that those who do have the funds for fine cars will increasingly want ones that are completely distinct from what even the most elite manufacturers provide.

“America and China are the biggest untapped markets for us, and we have many plans to enter them and bring with us our unique style, Italian flair and coachbuilding mastery,” Bahar said in a statement outlining Ares’ growth plans. The latter strategy, anchored to a final round of funding that brings the investment total in Ares to 60 million euros (roughly $68 million), includes expanding its pristine factory space by 40 percent and boosting staff from 150 to 250 people. “All in all, a busy 12 months ahead,” noted Bahar.


Craftsman working on the Panther ProgettoUno from Ares Design.

Craftsman working at Ares Design prior to the pandemic. Masks and gloves are now mandatory.  Photo: Courtesy of Ares Design.

To keep workers safe, Ares is following protocols familiar to other major manufacturers, including temperature checks upon arrival, mandatory masks and gloves, limited access to communal areas and regular cleaning of work stations. For now, approximately 70 percent of the Ares workforce will be on site, with the rest working remotely. The team’s main goal will be to catch up after being down 30 percent of annual productivity as a result of the pandemic.

Considering all that the manufacturer offers, the company could well use the extra employees and room to operate. Leading off the Ares lineup is its Panther ProgettoUno, a salute to the iconic, if fussy, DeTomaso Pantera. Built from a Lamborghini Huracán, it’s a truly striking reimagining of what has always been among the most arresting of automotive shapes.

The Panther ProgettoUno from Ares Design.

The Panther ProgettoUno from Ares Design.  Photo: Courtesy of Ares Design.

Other projects include a uniquely stylized Land Rover Defender, tasteful tweaks to the newest Porsche 911 Targa (that takes the car to GT3 specs), and a coupe version of the four-door Bentley Mulsanne.

Ares Design's interpretation of the Land Rover Defender.

Ares Design’s interpretation of the Land Rover Defender.  Photo: Courtesy of Ares Design.

Given the push by leading luxury automakers to cater to a crowd that isn’t content with even limited-run models—cue Ferrari’s Special Projects program developed to create one-offs—it’s clear that Ares Design is hoping to capitalize on this penchant for truly singular automobiles…in a big way.

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