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 his 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 the Lotus Elise R platform and power train, has two Carrera watches fitted to the dash, while dials, wheels, fuel cap and bodywork (draped in carbon fiber and polished aluminum) 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 207hp. Doesn't sound like much, but with curb weight down from the Lotus' 2,000lbs to 1,740lbs, the KO7 clocked a 0-60mph 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 2,500rpm, the now out of production power plant spins all the way to 7,500rpm and offers better linkage feel between the gears.
Aided by Japanese engineering company AIM, which has built engines for Le Mans racecars, Okuyama's team re-tuned the handling by revising the dampers, lengthening the arms and modifying the steering column and gear ratio.
Heroic through the twists, the KO7 has perfectly weighted steering, while the 17in Dunlop tires deliver loads of grip. Amazingly, Okuyama has made big structural modifications but still managed to retain outstanding ride quality. It's not even all that thirsty – the company claims an average of 24mpg. All this for an estimated starting price of $240,000.