Moving up a gear in world of luxury cars

Nick Barr with a Range Rover, a core part of the business.
Nick Barr with a Range Rover, a core part of the business.
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For most of us, owning a Bentley or an Aston Martin would be more than good enough. But one Bradford-based automotive design company has made a success out of taking these luxury cars and transforming them to a whole new level.

Founded by entrepreneur Afzal Kahn – who hit the headlines after purchasing one of the world’s most expensive number plates, F1, for almost half-a-million pounds – Project Kahn has earned a reputation as one of Europe’s leading automotive fashion houses.

The company is the bespoke vehicle sales arm of A Kahn Design, which was set up by Mr Kahn in 1996, and specialises in couture wheel manufacture and design. The multi-millionaire was the first to create a wheel with a spoke that ran to the very edge of the rim – a wheel that’s now become one of the most replicated in the world.

The company soon evolved into designing state-of-the-art car accessories, exhausts and body kits, and Project Kahn was born.

Mr Kahn’s right-hand man, managing director Nick Barr, said: “We design and manufacture car parts for restyling high-end cars. Range Rovers are a core part of the business but cars like Mercedes, Audi, Porsche, Bentley and Aston Martin are also included in our portfolio.

“We have an in-house design facility and outsource all the manufacturing. We also have the sales side of the business. We do what we call a full conversion of the car where we will put on a body kit to restyle the shape of it, including sideskirts or spoilers to make it look unique. We also have a big wheel business and design a full range of wheels. The largest size is a 22-inch wheel.”

A full conversion would see a vehicle fitted with a Kahn body kit and wheels and the interior completely stripped out to be replaced with pure opulence.

Mr Barr, who has worked at the company for more than four years, said: “We’d completely replace the leather interior with a higher grade of leather with a more luxurious feel. We’d fit new steering wheels and dials, such as a speedometer. We’d put in clocks – perhaps with a crystal bezel around them – and use unique colours on the exterior. It’s about making the cars stand out.”

It’s this exclusivity that has captured the attention of high-profile Hollywood actors, pop stars and Premier League footballers.

Mr Barr said: “David Beckham and John Terry owned a Kahn vehicle. Darryl Hannah and Quentin Tarantino have also driven our cars. We get a lot of interest from celebrities.”

Guaranteed to be a hit with the A-listers, the company is currently working in collaboration with legendary British engineers Cosworth, which supplies engines to four teams on the current F1 grid.

The result is the Kahn Range Rover Cosworth 300, designed to move the luxury 4x4 market up a gear and put the British motor industry back on the map.

“We’ve been doing some performance tuning for Range Rover and we have a lot of interest in that programme at the moment,” said Mr Barr.

“Range Rover is a substantial part of our product portfolio, and in the next 12-18 months we’ll launch a number of styling packages for other makes of car.”

Last year, more than 40 countries bought bespoke parts from the company – all of which are designed and manufactured by Project Kahn.

“Seventy per cent of parts are sold as exports,” explained Mr Barr. “For example, we have a distributor in China and will sell them just the parts. They’ll buy a car and order leather interiors, wheels and body kits and so on.

“It’s easier to export parts to them as it saves on import tax. In China, luxury cars are particularly expensive to import – 145 per cent, compared to 35 per cent for the parts.”

He added: “As well as China, we sell to countries like Brazil, Russia and India and a lot of African countries. We get a lot of interest from oil-producing companies where there’s a lot of new money.”

The company, which has grown steadily since its inception and now employs 30 full-time staff, is looking to further expand its distributor network overseas.

Mr Barr, whose focus is primarily on business development, said: “The big drive is the overseas market – particularly in emerging countries. We’re looking to push it hard in international markets and that’s where we expect to see the growth.”

From ice-cream to innovation

Afzal Kahn started his business career as a 14-year-old helping out his father on an ice-cream van.

His first enterprise was selling eggs door-to-door at the age of 16 before indulging in his hobby of making car accessory parts.

He started selling tyres, manufactured by others, from a small shack for 10 years before setting up Kahn Design.

Project Kahn turns over more than 200 cars a year.

Project Kahn recently announced the new Audi A5 Coupé Sport conversion, costing almost £32,000. The A5 comes complete with a stainless-steel sports quad exhaust system and quilted leather interior.