Kahn Factory Visit - Behind the Tuning Scenes

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What Does Car Customization Really Mean?
The automotive industry has come an incredibly long way since the car was invented over 125 years ago, but the automakers still haven’t managed to come with a solution for a problem that appeared at the same time with the car itself: being able to cater to every customer’s specific needs.

In the dawn of personal motoring, if you wanted to acquire a vehicle, you had to buy the rolling chassis from a carmaker and then turn to a coach builder to have the body custom made for you. While this was bothering carmakers, since they couldn’t get the entire share of the auto business, it was perfect for buyers, since they could have a tailored vehicle.

Once the industry took off, series production covered this, but it didn’t take too long for people to realize that this meant they were all driving the same cars. Thus, the custom car business appeared. It didn’t matter if it was about upgrading mechanical parts or just penning new shapes, people wanted to have their own thoughts built into their vehicles.

Over the years, this car modifying activity has been filed under the “aftermarket” tag, but like we said in the first paragraph, it’s actually something that comes from The Car’s DNA.

Fast-forwarding to the present times, we find a flourishing tuning industry, with companies that can literally make your dreams come true. This makes things complicated, as there are virtually unlimited possibilities if you want to have your car tailor-made.

But let’s go further than this “you can do everything you want” surface and see what actually happens when dreams become car reality. To show you this, we’ve chosen to zoom in on British tuning company Kahn, a customizer that specializes in exterior and interior goodies.

British design house Kahn

We went to visit Kahn’s headquarters, which is situated in Bradford, UK, to get to know their facility in detail and drive some of their customized cars. Afzal Kahn, the man behind the project, started the whole thing 12 years ago, deciding to make an upgrade to a more complete tuning company after being in the custom wheels business for a few years.

The company built its name on personalizing British vehicles, especially Range Rovers, but now they have a larger view, being open to brands from other parts of the world, such as Jeep or Porsche, even though Afzal does want to keep the domestic brands at the core of the company. But enough history book reading, let’s get out in the British rain and see what’s really going on at Kahn.

As we make a turn into their facility, the imposing yet transparent fence and the modern building bring one word to our minds: “respect”. This etiquette is doubled by the line-up of vehicles we find in the parking lot in front of the headquarters, which range from fully-loaded Range Rovers and Jeeps to an Aston Martin DB9 that is still a work in progress project and a Mercedes S63 AMG and Porsche 911 Turbo that are just “civilian” vehicles.

As we enter the facility, a showroom that includes a massive wheel display and two Kahn-touched Rolls Royce cars (these had received custom wheels and aluminum hoods) greet us in silence. A spiral staircase takes us to the upper floor, where we find the real showroom. We walk to a lounge area inside this huge open space and rest for a few moments in a Kahn-customised seat. We’re sitting right next to Afzal Kahn’s Veyron, the one with the "F1" vanity plate that costs as much as a supercar, and his Ferrari 458 Italia and are looking at a room loaded with Kahn-tuned cars, including one that’s going to Paris Hilton. In case you were wondering, the Ferrari has a different color for the roof, while the Veyron doesn't come with any mods, since Kahn hasn't received approval from Bugatti to do this.

What exactly can Kahn do for you?

The tuner basically offers two types of conversions, selling its own vehicles, which are customized by its own specialists, or can have customers choose their mods they want for their cars. As for the proportions accounted for by each categories, 60 percent of the sales come from complete Kahn cars, while the remaining 40 percent goes to customer-configured vehicles.

The full transformation process, from the moment the car arrives at Kahn to the one at which the customers drives it away takes between 3 and 4 weeks, depending on the complexity of the job.

The list of goodies offered by Kahn includes items from the following categories:

Wheels: Afzal Kahn entered the customization world by producing rims, so the company places a strong focus on this. It currently allows customers to choose from 19 different designs and various sizes. While we were visiting, the guys showed us their unreleased 16-inch Defender rims, which they claim are also suitable for off-road use. The Kahn wheels are unique to the company, but are not produced at its headquarters.

Exterior: here we have items ranging from bumpers to full, wide body kits. The first can receive extra elements and therefore be suitable for the wide versions of Kahn conversions. As for the exterior colors, Kahn has a wide range of coats for your car, with these being split in two-layer and three-layer (pearlescent) ones.

Interior: This is where Kahn really goes wild, offering a feast of quilted leather (you can choose between multiple types of materials actually), all sorts of trimming, ranging from wood to aluminum and carbon fiber, restyled instruments, door sills and various details that really transform the cabin.

Technical modifications: This is where the company contracts third-party developers, as it doesn’t want to handle this side of the tuning world itself. This comes from the fact that Afzal Kahn’s just isn’t concerned about the tech bits - he wants to improve the design of the cars, so outsourcing a partial technical upgrade is the most the company will do for its customers. However, this seems to fit the clients’ profile, which is focused on lifestyle, not going faster.

Kahn has a two-way relationship with the renowned engine developer Cosworth (you’ve probably heard of them from F1): the first supplies ECU remaps for the latter, which has dedicated a series of wheels to the engine specialist. Cosworth also touches the engine internals, offering a more serious output boost, but this only happens on rare occasions.

The company also offers lowered suspensions that, combined with their rims, dramatically alter a car’s looks. However, in the real world, with potholes and speed bumps, we wouldn’t recommend these. We like our cars to be drivable and this doesn’t just refer to Kahn’s lowered suspension but to all the tuners in the world who offer such parts.

In addition to that, Kahn works with Blueflame for exhausts, but has recently integrated its own design into these, with the crosshair tip layout, an idea that came when the company was studying the styling of a crosshair logo that inspired accuracy. Thus, Kahn can offer anything from tips to full systems.

Extra special requests: The tuner is open to any requests and it can, for example, match the material used for the seats to that you had in your childhood bedroom. However, there’s a limit for customizing your car and this is obviously set by the budget and thus most people stick to what Kahn to offer and don’t ask for unique materials. We encountered the same limit when we asked their photographer if any of their customers wanted to have a professional shoot of his car: he said that despite the fact he’s always been ready to offer this, nobody asked for such a thing.

If you want to know even more about Kahn's customisation process, you can check out the PDF file below, which shows their offer for the Range Rover.
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 Download: Kahn Range Rover Vogue 2012 (PDF)

About the author: Andrei Tutu
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In his quest to bring you the most impressive automotive creations, Andrei relies on learning as a superpower. There's quite a bit of room in the garage that is this aficionado's heart, so factory-condition classics and widebody contraptions with turbos poking through the hood can peacefully coexist.
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