Taking cool cars and trying to make them look even cooler is hardly an original idea and as a procedure, it demands a delicate exercise as the line between actually making an object more desirable and destroying it, is a very thin one.
Kahn Design called us for a tour around their facilities in order to better understand what keeps this company going and what their plans are for the near future. Just by driving into their parking space, you realize that there are a lot more things going on in there than you first thought of, as the place is filled not only by their customized Defenders and Wranglers, but from some unexpected metal as well, like a pair of Maybachs just sitting there next to each other.
Then you arrive at the central entrance where you are welcomed by a very impressive collection of classic ‘80s and ‘90s Ferraris. Kahn is a very active player in the classic car market as well, always having a rich variety of special automobiles on offer.
Walking on the second floor of the showroom was a revelation: there they were cars like a Lamborghini Diablo, an Aston Martin Vanquish, a 1998 Bentley Brooklands R next to a Mercedes-McLaren SLR and a stunning 1968 Aston Martin DB6, all sharing the same space with various Jeeps and Range Rovers which of course were treated by the Kahn recipe.
Kahn started as a wheel manufacturer, but now offers a complete overhaul service for Range Rovers, Porsches, Audis and Jeeps among others, from exclusive wheel designs and paintjobs to wide-body kits and from sporty bucket seats to a full-leather/alcantara attack on the cabin. If you want your interior literally choked in leather and other goodies, Kahn is your man.
Chelsea Truck Company is the part of the Kahn Group specialized in the Land Rover Defender and Jeep Wrangler models. These hardcore off-roaders are becoming more and more cherished over time and Kahn can make them feel even more special for those interested.
We got some time behind the wheel of a Chelsea Wide Track Land Rover Defender 110 which felt like it had the whole options list thrown at it. Gone was the rear bench, with Kahn placing a pair of matching bucket seats in its place, making it essentially a strict four-seater, with diamond-patterned hand-stitched leather covering almost everything, from the door-cards to the dashboard and the headliner with the rear floor for the passengers and the boot covered in teak wood, the same kind you see usually on yachts. The modern Alpine infotainment unit provides the connectivity needed, including a rear-view camera which is always handy in this kind of vehicle. You can check our test car on the first video linked below.
From the moment you open the door, the smell of the Nappa leather just hits you in the face and it takes more than just a few minutes to observe all the fine details of the cabin. I suspect that the GTB bucket seats are a bit of overkill for the purpose of the vehicle but they do look good. It’s a strange sensation sitting this high and feeling the support you would normally get from a track-prepped car but eventually you get used to it. The main point is that if I had the task to transform the spartan interior of the Defender into something really special, I would follow the same steps with Kahn because they nailed it. Maybe I would keep the original steering wheel and the rear bench and you could too, as Kahn offers unlimited flexibility in his conversion packs to suit almost every need and taste.
Do not expect any differences on the road from a normal Defender as under all this leather and the Fungus Green paintjob, this is still a normal 110 with the 122hp 2.2TDCI diesel engine, well, one that’s got 2 inches of a suspension lift. The bigger wheels with fatter, off-road tyres are nicely tucked under the widened wings while the new front grille sits well with the LED headlights and indicators.
What about the price? Well, since this car is more of a demonstrator and not an actual customer car, the cost of everything thrown at it, including the wide-body kit, wheels/tyres, the complete respray and of course the whole cabin treatment sits somewhere around the £30,000 mark (about $46,500) which sounds like a lot, but you have to take into consideration that there isn’t a single surface on the specific car that hasn’t been treated.
Kahn wants to enter the coachbuilding field and this became apparent with the reveal of the Longnose series for the Defender. The Longnose Defenders feature a completely bespoke front-end stretched by 400mm, which can host even a GM-sourced 430hp 6.2-litre V8. The series gained much traction this year when the company revealed the Flying Huntsman 6×6 concept in the Geneva Motor Show, a model the company says it will built to order.
The big project of Kahn Design though is of course the Vengeance, a re-bodied, much more exclusive version of the Aston Martin DB9. The Vengeance will feature an all-aluminum body using the traditional coachbuilding method of hand-formed panels. With the design inspired from the Vanquish and the V600 Vantage, the Vengeance wants to revive the lost art of the bespoke craftsmanship keeping modern engineering intact under its hand-built skin.
Company officials remain tight-lipped about the details of the project despite our constant poking but they have confirmed that the first car is about to be completed, with an additional four to be finished by the end of the year. They also repeated that Aston has given them its blessings and that the car will retain its factory warranty as all the mechanical parts under the skin will remain unchanged.
The Vengeance is perhaps the most fitting halo model for Kahn Design, a company which describes itself as an automotive fashion house, as it will bring a distinctive style and the always desired exclusivity in an already tested package. Will it be special enough? We only have to wait until the reveal.
Photos: Kahn / Manos Kountouris – Graham Taylor