9

Ken Okuyama is the man behind cars such as the Ferrari Enzo and Maserati Quattroporte, back in his days as design director at Pininfarina.

His love for cars is exceeded only by a love for wristwatches, especially TAG Heuers. Here, however, is a first: a sports car inspired by one of those watches, a Grand Carrera.

The KO7 roadster, which uses a Lotus Elise R platform and powertrain, has two Carrera watches fitted to the dash, while dials, wheels, fuel cap and bodywork (draped in carbonfibre and polished aluminium) all extract design hints from the complex workings of a mechanical chronograph.

The gutsy Toyota 2ZZ-GE engine (there are plans for a Cosworth engine, too) generates 207bhp. With kerb weight down from the Lotus’s 900kg to 790kg, the KO7 clocked a 0-62mph time of 5.0sec (according to the stopwatch on the Grand Carrera), just eclipsing the Elise R’s best time.

Producing beefy torque from as low as 2500rpm, the now-out-of-production powerplant spins all the way to 7500rpm and offers better linkage feel between the gears.

Aided by Japanese engineering firm AIM, which has built engines for Le Mans race cars, Okuyama’s team retuned the handling by revising the dampers, lengthening the arms and modifying the steering column and gear ratio.

Heroic on the twisties, the KO7 has perfectly weighted steering, while the 17-inch Dunlop tyres deliver loads of grip.

You'll certainly stand out from the crowd, but more than £150k for what is essentially a heavily-modifed Elise is pushing it a bit. And that’s before the even more expensive Cosworth version arrives, which, admittedly, would also boost the thrill factor out of sight.

Still, lovers of design will appreciate its interesting looks and there's also the rarity value of such a niche Japanese special to consider.

But most amazingly, Okuyama has made big structural modifications but still managed to retain outstanding ride quality.

Peter Lyon

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