Italian company Ares transforms the C8 Corvette into a supercar
- There is a history in Italy of companies like Scaglietti and Pininfarina restructuring Corvettes, with Ares of Modena being the latest, using the C8 to create the S1 coupe.
- Ares has been around since 2014 and has previously created limited edition cars based on vehicles from Bentley, Land Rover, Mercedes, Porsche and even Tesla.
- The Ares S1 will be manufactured in a limited edition of 24 pieces.
Many of the most unusual car brands have original stories of passion-ridden craftsmen working to achieve automotive perfection. But there has always been a strong element of brutality and carnage in hand-built cars, especially when an existing car has to ditch one body kit in order to get another. Which is why the all-new C8 Corvette Stingray parked at one end of the gleaming Ares factory in Modena, Italy, on the day of our visit, is as doomed as a pig standing next to a slaughterhouse.
Perhaps fortunately, we have not experienced the emotional trauma of seeing and hearing air chisels in action. Ares is building only twenty C8 Corvette S1 Coupes, so the cars move bureaucratically slowly through the factory.
Our visit provided a direct juxtaposition of before and after. On one side: a bright red Stingray with the Z51 Performance Package, the seats wrapped in protective plastic and looking ready to become someone’s dream car. On the other hand: a literal cut, the previous Vette in the line has been reduced to its basic structure of floor, firewall and bodywork, although the engine and suspension components remain in place, the cut-off A-pillars raised like short, attractive fists of justice.
Ares sells repairable components to reduce costs; If you’re looking for a C8 headlight or door mirror in Italy, these should be the ones. It still seems like an act of sacrilege.
However, it is an idea with a long history. The idea of a remastered Corvette has been around almost as long as the Corvette, with some of the finest cars coming from Italy. In 1959, Carroll Shelby and fellow Texan racers Jim Hall and Gary Laughlin arranged to have a triple-convertible C1 chassis shipped across the Atlantic to Carrozzeria Scaglietti, the famous body shop that sent three Ferrari-like coupes. In 1963, General Motors went so far as to commission Pininfarina to restructure the C2 to look more European; The stylish restyling was undertaken by a young Tom Tjaarda, although the car remained a one-off.
Danny Bahar, former Lotus, is the founder of Ares
You may not have heard of Ares, but perhaps you will recognize the name of its founder. Dani Bahar is the former Turkish-Swiss boss of Lotus, whose tenure at the British sports car maker will forever be labeled “controversial”. Bhar was the man behind Lotus showcasing no fewer than five new models at the 2010 Paris Motor Show, none of which were ever produced, and his reign came to an acrimonious end in 2012. Bhar and Lotus subsequently sued each other After he was appointed. He was fired, but a settlement was reached before either case went to trial.
“I learned a lot from that time,” Bahr admits when we talk in his huge office. It’s partly grayer but still looks remarkably youthful for someone approaching his 52nd birthday. “I learned that words aren’t worth anything in the corporate world, and that everything has to be in writing.”
Bahr founded Ares in 2014 in Modena with his business partner Walid Al-Ghafari. It started out as a high-end tuning company to help wealthy people realize their exotic dreams, initially doing work similar to companies like Mansory that had long relied on a cash-rich, taste-poor demographic. But Ares quickly moved beyond paint, trim and outrageous body kits. It began making more substantial modifications, creating limited runs of models while maintaining the basic mechanical components of the cars on which they were based.
These included a Targa version of the Porsche 911 GT3 and a Bentley Mulsanne two-door coupe which, when viewed up close, was truly indistinguishable from a factory-built car. There have been modified versions of both the classic Land Rover Defender and Mercedes G-Class, and even cabriolet and station wagon conversions of the Tesla Model S. Bahr admits that he finds it difficult to refuse clients’ requests.
The first tiger project
The most exciting early project was the Panther ProgettoUno (“Project One”), a Lamborghini Huracán converted into what is effectively a modern version of the De Tomaso Pantera. This features the option of an H-shifter to control the dual-clutch gearbox, although unfortunately it doesn’t replicate a manual transmission – instead it just assigns Park, Reverse, Neutral, Drive and manual up/downshifts to Different positions.
But the Ares S1 is much more ambitious, as a series of coupes will follow, and hard work is necessary to turn the American sports car into a pseudo-supercar. Assembly bays at Modena show the process: After the C8’s bodywork is removed, a new metal subframe is added, and carbon fiber panels are attached. The C8’s regular doors were replaced with butterfly-hinged units (must be a supercar), and the cabin was redesigned and re-trimmed. One of the S1’s most striking design details is the exhausts that exit through the engine’s top cover, which required significant re-plumbing in the engine compartment.
It may sound cynical, but the S1 has real star presence. Up close, it looks like a million dollars. Which is lucky, because it costs a little more than that. There was a subtle inaccuracy in pricing among the Ares employees we spoke to. The S1 can be subjected to the kind of custom customization that leaves buyers striving for unique Pantone numbers and rare animal skins. But the guide costs €1 million to start, or just over $1 million.
Some good news: Because the S1 is based on an existing car, it bypasses many of the type approval pitfalls that limited performance cars often run into. We’ve been told that several S1 devices have already been sold to buyers in the US.
The design just works
Even knowing there’s a Corvette underneath, the S1 still functions as a piece of design. The regular C8 can seem like an uneasy alliance of lines and angles, none of which hide the car’s big bones. But the Ares manages to wrap the same tough spots with sleek, muscular curves that both seem to nod many supercars while still looking fresh and innovative.
The new exterior brings significant compromises, though, most evident from the moment you try to get into the S1’s cabin. For anyone over six feet tall, this would likely be a short skirmish followed by a surrender – they simply wouldn’t fit. As a six-foot-tall person, your correspondent found it necessary to move the driver’s seat to its lowest, most reclining position just to get my upper body in, which made my hair touch the ceiling once the heavy door was opened. Pulled closed. The seats have been redesigned and sported Ares logos, but original Corvette tires sit underneath them. The company says it is working on a much-needed reduction kit.
It feels like you’re trying to drive a luxury pillbox, with a rearview camera system instead of any glass at the back; His image appears on the new central screen. The S1’s cabin loses the C8’s mountainous switchgear separating driver and passenger, and it also gets a completely revised digital instrument cluster. Among the finely stitched leather, there are still many recognizable Corvette parts, including the transmission controls and steering wheel, the latter of which has been recovered and bears the Ares Trojan helmet logo.
There is also a theater. There’s a digital screen in front of the passenger, a feature inspired by blue-blooded supercars like the Ferrari 296 GTB and Lamborghini Revoleto. In the S1 demo, one of those digital bars reporting dynamic status was marked ‘4WS’, which was surprising since the C8 doesn’t have four-wheel steering, and therefore no Ares either.
Mechanical changes are very minor. When the car was first announced, Ares claimed it would make 715 hp, but that number has since been lowered to a much less impressive 530 hp, which is only 35 hp more than the regular Stingray – this is due to a new ECU and a more powerful engine. freedom. Flowing exhaust. More importantly, there is a weight loss of 550 pounds thanks to the car’s carbon fiber bodywork. However, the engineering team said that the suspension components and most settings remained unchanged except for the geometry adjustments. (All S1 donor Stingrays have the Z51 package and optional magnetorheological adaptive dampers.)
As a car designed specifically for those who prioritize display, the S1’s driving experience is exactly as good as it should be. But it’s also not particularly good. The Ares is noticeably less grippy than the regular C8, with the combination of weight savings and non-variable suspension meaning it now feels stiff and over-damped at low speeds. Even with the adaptive dampers at their softest setting—the original Tour mode was given an Italian trademark as Strada—there’s still a noticeable upward deflection over bumps that a regular Stingray would be able to digest with its suspension travel. The S1’s steering is also poorer – it’s still quick to steer and offers sharp front-end responses, but it’s light and devoid of feel.
It looks stronger than a Corvette
There are positives. The improved power-to-weight ratio means the S1 feels more powerful than the Corvette, especially when asked to accelerate from low revs. The new exhaust makes a harsh sound when pushed hard, but not particularly loud. Not that it can be pushed harder than the Stingray, with the Pushrod LT2’s unchanged 6,500rpm redline certainly not worthy of something trying to look like an unobtainium supercar.
However, Ares has a refreshing honesty about its cars and its customers. “Our clients rarely ask, ‘How much?’” Bahar says. “It’s a question that doesn’t apply… We never sell the first car, we sell to people who usually own more than 20 cars. We’ve never been the main project, we’ve never been the most important car, we’re an add-on, something completely different – the last child.” “So to speak.”
Cynics may see the car as being aimed at people who already own so many real supercars that they now want a fake, but Bahar is right that exclusivity is a big strength at the edgier end of the car market.
Ferrari is set to build approximately 1,400 of the limited-production SF90 between the Coupé and Spider versions, quantities that present a real risk as buyers will face the indignity of eventually having to park next to another model.
It’s hard to imagine any of the Ares S1 suffering this fate.
Chief European Correspondent
Our man across the pond, Mike Duff, lives in Britain but reports from all over Europe, and sometimes beyond. He has previously held staff roles on UK titles including car, And evobut his automotive tastes lean toward the Germanic: he owns a troublesome 987-generation Porsche Cayman S and a Mercedes 190E 2.5-16.