29/04/2008 00:00 | By By Dan Trent

Behind the scenes: Kahn Design

Kahn Design (© image © Motoring Research)

Crass exponents of the worst excesses of bling culture or the future of the British motoring industry? Depending who you listen to Kahn Design is both of these things. But to get the inside line we paid a visit to the firm's HQ in the dependably 'grim oop north' surroundings of Bradford.

Given that Kahn's products are seen in the most glamorous locations around the globe this less than exotic base may seem surprising. But the Yorkshire city, once a hub of the industrial revolution, is now home to a thriving array of businesses, many hailing from the extensive Asian community in the area.

GALLERY: Kahn Design

Kahn Design (© image © Motoring Research)

And Kahn Design typifies this cultural melting pot. Here traditional British marques - Jaguar, Rolls Royce, Bentley and Land Rover to mention a few - collide head-on with US-inspired automotive styling and a European fashion designer label philosophy with spectacular results. Blended with fierce local pride and business acumen, Kahn has a worldwide following.

Bread and butter business includes wheels and bodykits for a huge range of prestige cars. But the real top end stuff is reserved for the Project Kahn bespoke vehicles department, which sells around 10-15 fully converted and customised Range Rover Sports each month.

Kahn Design (© image © Motoring Research)

A recently announced partnership with Cosworth is proof of Kahn's ambitions to mix it with the big boys of the tuning business such as Brabus, Gemballa, Alpina and others. The Kahn-Cosworth 300 will be, an insider boasts, "the fastest Range Rover Sport in the world" and will wear a suitably wild new look.

"It will be something unique and different," we are told. "New wheels, new bodystyling and a totally new look which people will recognise as a Kahn Cosworth, like they used to be able to recognise a Sierra Cosworth." And if you think that means a big wing on the back you'd be right.

Kahn Design Aston Martin (© image © Motoring Research)

The company embodies the spirit of flamboyant head man Afzal Kahn, a hurricane of thrusting ambition and self-made success. And having initially brushed us aside he later muscles in on a conversation with export manager Snowy Kahn to explain the firm's philosophy.

"We're the Pininfarina of Britain," he states, somewhat adventurously. "We're actually working with manufacturers now and we take the vehicle and we're the design company behind it. We're going forward as an English brand and we're bringing the manufacturers back to life like Dolce&Gabbana do with fashionwear - they took old clothing designs and modernised them.

Kahn alloy wheel (© image © Motoring Research)

This comparison is telling, and reveals the Kahn dream is as much about designer label exclusivity as it is a love of cars. And, while this might not rest easily with petrolheads, in business terms it makes sense. Not convinced? Where does Porsche's wealth stem from - the hardcore GT3 RS or self proclaimed 'cash cow' Cayenne?

Celebrities certainly seem to have bought into the dream too. Snowy Kahn recalls a phone call from a car valeter in New York working on a Range Rover belonging to Calvin Klein. Having clocked the Project Kahn wheels an online investigation lead him to Bradford, and his long distance call to find out more.

Kahn Design Range Rover Sport (© image © Motoring Research)

And Snowy has also received queries from the home of bling culture on the west coast too. Indeed, one came from the office of the Governator himself, Arnie apparently requesting a set of Kahn rims for his Aston Martin. Endorsements like this only serve to bolster Kahn's ambitions to become a true automotive designer label.

Back home there are some apparently surprising partnerships, such as that with sports car manufacturer Farbio. You might think a creator of blinged up Range Rovers wouldn't have much in common with a race-bred, carbon fibre sports car builder but Kahn Design is clearly open minded towards who it works with.

Kahn Design badge (© image © Motoring Research)

"No manufacturer will make a wheel in small quantities," says Snowy Kahn. "But we'll go out and take the risk because Farbio is British so it's a good combination. So we made one set of wheels and they wanted a more aggressive look and we'll do specialist projects like that for manufacturers if they want something different."

Off the record it seems the Kahn-Cosworth Range Rover is just the start and further tie-ups could follow. Even Lotus dealers are finding customers asking for a bit of Bradford bling for their Elises and Exiges! And whether it's to your taste or not, British success stories like this are there to be celebrated.

Revealed: Kahn-Cosworth Range Rover
More Kahn images from Live Search


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