The list price buys you the car with a glassfibre body in convertible form, although it can be turned into a coupé in a matter of minutes by fitting a hard-top with its integral Perspex sidescreens. The top is made from carbonfibre and costs £7600, and if you’d like the rest of the car in carbonfibre (and save 40kg off the already fairly svelte 850kg kerb weight), it will cost an additional £12,700, taking the entire cost of the car into six-figure territory. Those who want to go the other way can detach the windscreen and turn it into a full fly-spitting roadster by fitting a full-width aero screen (£2000).
The engine is a Nissan 3.5-litre V6 developing 325bhp and sourced from a large Maxima saloon sold in the US, China and Japan, although it is related to the engine in the long-defunct 350Z sports car. As for creature comforts, the Design-1 is far better equipped than an Ariel Atom or even a Caterham. There is decent luggage space both in the nose and behind the engine, while it has air conditioning, a decent heater, speakers and a USB port into which you can plug your smartphone.
What's it like?
It’s a little awkward to climb aboard with the hard-top fitted, although it does flip forward and is a relative doddle compared to the process of getting into, say, a Caterham Seven with the roof up.
You step in, brace yourself on the rollover hoop and lower yourself down the narrow channel that leads to the pedals. These were too close for me, but the pedal box is fully adjustable. The really tall can ask for the brake master cylinder to be repositioned and a special seat to be made, so almost everyone will be able to get comfortable. It's all very simple in here, as it should be, but I’d have much preferred larger, clearer instruments or even a digital screen, even if it messes with the car’s retro vibe.
The engine fires with a crisp bark and the stick shift engages each ratio with delightful precision. Even as you move away, the car feels taut, mechanical and involving. But you’ll only really understand what it’s about when you can find somewhere to let the motor do its stuff. And when it does, you’ll scarcely believe it was designed for a large Nissan saloon, because the Jannarelly then sounds like one of those million-pound 1960s racing cars you see at the Goodwood Revival. While quiet enough on part-throttle, it is spectacularly loud with the taps wide open and gorgeous to listen to, making you want to drive very fast indeed.
The Design-1 appears to have the chassis for it, too. I qualify the statement only because I wasn't in the car for long, partly flooded Berkshire roads were in no state for testing a car like this to anything like the limit and I had Monsieur Jannarelly next to me, and he'd already confessed to not being the world’s greatest passenger.