Epic is literally the only word to describe our recent visit to Kahn Design HQ, and even that doesn’t quite do it justice. When I say that, I’m not just talking about the cars produced under the Project Kahn and Chelsea Truck Company brands, but the Kahn-branded architectural masterpiece that houses the magic.
Sat in A. Kahn Design’s head office; their founder, the infectiously ambitious and lifetime achievement awardee Afzal Kahn, describes it as ‘the Laboratory’ and is famous the world round. Shipping its range of luxury bespoke vehicles to over 40 destinations across the globe, the base of operations houses a sales team that converse in excess of 20 languages and offers something truly international.
In the UK these guys sell more Jeeps than any authorised Jeep dealer, a sure-fire sign of their success, and when you see one up close, it’s not hard to see why. Spend any length of time with one and you will be penning an order yourself.
Of course, given the hype around bespoke vehicles, you could easily be forgiven for assuming that their offering is aimed purely at the rich and famous; indeed, their client list includes high profile individuals, it’s undoubtedly one to be envious of. However, you can buy into a Kahn Design creation with modest money, as sourcing their vehicles direct from the importer enables them to sell a Jeep for not a penny more than the cost of the bog-standard model. That’s despite the inclusion of £7k worth of Kahn Design magic.
It’s not all about Jeep though; in fact, it’s a later addition to the line up having arrived in 2012.
The company is also known for their Defender and Range Rover models, both of which are made available in countless derivatives. Opt for the Chelsea Truck Jeep, Project Kahn Range Rover Evoque RS250 or Chelsea Truck Company Defender; you can expect an unbelievable 12, 21 and 22 percent uplift in residual values respectively. The figures are in indeed fact, according to data recently unveiled by CAP who are the industry leading authority on used vehicle values.
Adding to its already talented line up, Kahn Design will also give birth to a very special Land Rover, the Flying Huntsman, when it enters a limited production run in 2015, with just 49 examples planned. Marrying awe-inspiring design with mechanical perfection the Huntsman is based upon the new Land Rover Defender and will pack an almighty punch in the form of a 550bhp 6.2-litre V8.
Afzal Kahn has also made significant investments in many other impressive projects, which extend from coach built special editions to the series manufacture of special edition vehicles which we are looking forward to viewing in the coming months ahead.
Impressive stuff, but the lesser known side of the story is how it all began. Starting out as a trader of aftermarket alloy wheels, by the mere age of 17, Bradford born Kahn had a successful business. Knowing what people would buy, he designed and manufactured his own soft-lined five-spoke alloy – an industry first – shifting his first 1,000 units in no time at all. Since then, he has amassed an entire range of self-designed wheels for many prestigious cars including his very own Bugatti Veyron, which also features the much sought after F1 number plate.
Urged by clients to move in to additional cosmetic modifications, Kahn later offered to work for free in a body kit manufacturing facility where he picked up the skills required to move into exterior cosmetic modification. Amazingly, he went onto purchase the factory.
This monumental rise from alloy trader to founder, CEO and creative director of a multi-million pound bespoke vehicle enterprise has not gone unnoticed. In recognition of his entrepreneurial talent and contribution to the automotive industry, Afzal Khan has just scooped a prestigious lifetime achievement award from leading industry publication Car Dealer Magazine.
Talking of his delight at scooping the award, Afzal Khan commented: “It is a huge honour to receive this lifetime achievement award. Throughout my professional life, I have had the opportunity to shape the brand into something stylish, distinctive, and young-at-heart, and our products reflect this attitude”.
Back to our behind the scenes tour, you can only imagine our utter excitement at being granted unrestricted access to the place where the magic happens, with the only exception being the design studio where we were asked to refrain from taking photos. Not only this, but we were openly encouraged to put questions to the design and workshop teams who in return freely and enthusiastically conversed with us.
Speaking to the company’s respected PR guy, M. Bhana, it became clear just how much attention to detail is played out; this is evident after being informed about the production procedure which is rather impressive. Bhana talks of Kahn himself having a key involvement throughout this process, suggesting entire projects, tweaks and changes as and when he spots an opportunity for further refinement, Kahn really is a hands-on leader!
Despite the magic, interiors do not self-create, there are no fancy robotics either; instead, there’s a highly skilled team of upholsterers who hand-stitch leather dashboards and hand-cut, stuff and bind every seat individually. Adding to the complexity of the workshop environment is the fact that there are no fewer than seven different seat designs available at any one time, something that is constantly reviewed as and when styles and trends change.
The introduction of the Harris Tweed interior has proved to be a popular option for buyers of the Defender and Range Rover; their Wrangler model, produced under The Chelsea Truck Company brand, has also found success with the tweed styling.
The company’s confidence in its offering and the way in which it has grown to become the UK’s dominant force in the luxury bespoke vehicle market has left so called competitors light years behind and the growth continues as the Kahn group continues to go from strength to strength.
In conclusion, A. Kahn Design is undoubtedly a great British success story that’s been built from the ground up with nothing more than Afzal’s hard graft, determination and hunger for success.
This is by no means the end, but simply the beginning and we can expect plenty more to come from the company’s inspirational founder who recently opened a showroom in Leeds to go alongside a boutique on the Kings Road in Chelsea.
What do you think of the Kahn magic and the company’s monumental rise to success? Share your thoughts in the comments below.