Designer extraordinaire Ken Okuyama's love for cars is matched by his love for wristwatches, especially those from TAG Heuer. He prizes these precision timepieces so much that he has achieved an industry first: He has created a sports car inspired by one of those watches, a Grand Carrera. His KO7 roadster might employ a Lotus Elise
R platform and powertrain, but that's where the similarity ends. In an exclusive test drive, we traveled 230 miles north of Tokyo to his hometown of Yamagata to be the first behind the wheel of the rare coupe.
But before Okuyama let us near his four-wheeled masterpiece, we found ourselves on a guided tour of one of the most amazing, multi-faceted design studios. As we checked out the myriad drawings, clay models, and prototypes, it dawned upon us that this guy is a design dynamo. The 51-year-old made a name for himself as the Pininfarina design director behind the Ferrari Enzo
, Maserati Quattroporte
, and Maserati
Birdcage concept. Since leaving the Italian styling powerhouse in 2006, Okuyama has expanded his design focus to encompass everything from iron tea pots to eyewear, furniture to massage chairs, motorcycles to sports cars, buildings to robots and even the next-generation Shinkansen bullet train.
As we sat next to a wall displaying sketches of a secret motorcycle project we can't tell you about (sorry), we asked how it all began. With sketchbook and pen in hand - -his buddies since he was a kid -- Okuyama says he was a bit of a problem child.