Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 7 December 2019

Jannarelly Design-1: This Dubai-made sports car is a retro delight

It may not be the fastest motor out there, but it’s making drivers nostalgic for days gone by

Driverless cars and electric vehicles may be set to turn the automotive landscape on its head, but the enthusiast who’s not ready to go down the silent, driver-assisted path quite yet can be thankful for sports car manufacturer Jannarelly Automotive. This Dubai business is gaining worldwide recognition with distributors in Europe, Kuwait and the US taking orders from aficionados hungry for the reliability you get from modern mechanics wrapped in a retro body with minimal driver aids.

For the price of a Porsche Boxster or a BMW Z4, weekend motoring is brought back to its purest, most rewarding form. Founder Anthony Jannarelly wanted to place the emphasis on driving pleasure and for the car to be engaging at any speed. That’s not to say the Jannarelly Design-1 isn’t quick – it does 0 to 100 kilometres an hour in 3.9 seconds and gets a 230kmh top speed from its 3.5-litre, mid-mounted V6 .

After spending a day behind the wheel, I was captivated as I soaked in its 1950s design themes, which have been matched to modern Nissan mechanicals borrowed from the latest 370Z coupe. Apart from developing 325 brake horsepower and being mated to a six-speed manual transmission, the reason behind going with this drivetrain was to ensure it remained easy and affordable to maintain, with a ready supply of parts and servicing know-how available from any Nissan workshop worldwide.

Inspired by sports cars of the 1950s and 1960s, such as the pontoon-shaped 1957 Ferrari Testa Rossa and the 1962 Shelby AC Cobra, Jannarelly set about bringing open-topped fun back with a machine stripped of advanced features and creature comforts, all wrapped in a fibreglass and carbon-fibre composite body weighing only 810 kilograms.

Jannarelly previously styled the Lykan and Fenyr SuperSport cars for Dubai supercar maker W Motors before joining forces with composite materials expert Frederic Juillot to develop the Design-1. The car has already made inroads into lucrative markets following its international debut as the Safety Car for the Pikes Peak hill climb in Colorado, and officially went on sale in the UK in September, after its launch at the Salon Prive Concours d’Elegance. The company also has distributors in New York, France and Kuwait, as well as Tomini Classics of Dubai.

Priced from Dh230,000, the Design-1 sits on a bespoke chassis manufactured in Al Jafiliya and not only attracts attention from drivers of cars twice its price but delivers similar thrills.

It’s configurable in several guises, but our test car featured the full historic track look, including the 1955 Jaguar D-Type-like flying buttress wing behind the driver’s head used at LeMans and a low-cut Perspex aeroscreen that added to the open-air feel. If bugs in the teeth are a little too authentic, a regular windscreen with wipers can easily clip in, as can a clamshell hardtop roof with enclosed side windows for all-weather protection and air conditioning.

Aside from climate control, the other concession to the modern world is an option for traction control and even a six-speed automatic transmission. Most of the bodywork is made from fibreglass to keep costs down, but, tapping into the talents of Julliot’s boat-building background, carbon-fibre options for trim and some panels can also be introduced to further drop its weight. Leather and aluminium are also used throughout to give a tactile feeling when operating the switches and sliding into the seats.

The driving position is cosy and takes technique to master. I climbed in through the shallow door and slid down the seatback into position with legs out ready to meet the pedals. A four-point harness strapped me in tight before I flicked the ignition switch and pressed the start button. Once in, it felt like a custom-made glove tailored to my size. The wheel was at a perfect arm’s reach, the pedals rested against my feet and the gear selector fell comfortably to hand. If you could tailor a car to your precise measurements like a Savile Row suit, this is how it would feel.

A windscreen with wipers can clip in, as can a clamshell hardtop roof with enclosed side windows for all-weather protection and air-conditioning. Courtesy Jannarelly Automotive
A windscreen with wipers can clip in, as can a clamshell hardtop roof with enclosed side windows for all-weather protection and air-conditioning. Courtesy Jannarelly Automotive

Once moving, it’s best to save any conversation for later as it gets noisy with zero sound insulation and the engine right behind you, so every nuance is conveyed to the driver through sight, feel and sound instead of via a high-res TFT display screen. It provides an analogue connection that becomes an extension of your body as you feel the gears slide into place, the raised lines in the road are felt through the seat, which is bolted directly to the chassis floor, and every tiny rock and road imperfection buzzes back through the steering wheel. Stab the accelerator and rather than look at the speedo or tacho for guidance, you feel compelled to change gear based on the sound of the engine and the tingles down your spine.

The experience was intoxicating, yet we never actually travelled that fast. I have driven cars that cost 10 times as much and are three times faster, but they didn’t return the same sensations as the Design-1. When I mentioned this to Jannarelly, thinking he might take it as a snub against the car’s performance, he nodded and smiled in agreement – this is what this car is all about.

Jannarelly doesn’t get involved in the vicious numbers game, chasing fractions of seconds for a superior speed. It’s about rewarding the driver with feelings. Given where the industry is going with electric vehicles and autonomy, cars like this may be the perfect Friday morning tonic to get some motoring kicks after a week of efficient but largely emotionless commuting.

Jannarelly doesn’t get involved in the numbers game, chasing fractions of seconds for a superior speed; it’s about rewarding the driver with emotions.

Updated: November 28, 2019 02:37 PM

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