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Made in Dubai: the genius of Jannarelly's Design-1

Debonair is thrown the keys to the UAE-built two-seater sports car and finds it is an antidote to modern-day motoring malaises

The most fun car of this – or pretty much any – year.

For those of us who have forgotten what real driving was like, before the advent of ABS and traction control made even the most exotic supercars palatable to just about any driver, Jannarelly’s Design-1 is here to remind you. And how. Your mum couldn’t simply jump in and drive this. Mine might be able to, because she used to co-own a Triumph TR4 and GT6 in the 1970s. But you get the gist.

You really cannot be behind the wheel of the exclusive Design-1 – we’re driving number two of 30 of the Launch Edition; the model will be limited to 499 examples overall – without being acutely aware of your surroundings. The steering requires actual arm muscles; the brakes aren’t power-assisted and demand a degree of forward thinking.

The reward, however, is a gravelly engine tone that, thanks to our permanently topless test car’s roadster incarnation, seemingly becomes part of you through osmosis, as if you’re within the very cylinders of the mid-rear-mounted engine.

The most fun car of this – or pretty much any – year.

And while a 3.5-litre Nissan V6 that generates 325hp might not ordinarily pique much interest in a full-size car, the little Jannarelly measures less than four metres long and weighs just 810kg. It is so lightweight, indeed, that in terms of power-to-weight ratio, it’s almost an engine on wheels. That means spurts of tremendous acceleration that would put a smile on the face of even the most jaded auto enthusiast. The sweet spot in third gear is almost life-affirming.

Its deliberately throwback design language is the obvious outward clue that this isn’t any ordinary vehicle, even by the standards of two-seater sports cars. The spirit of British marques such as Caterham and Morgan might blow through the carmaker’s ethos, yet the Design-1 also brings things into the 21st century with finely honed swishes of designer Anthony Jannarelly’s pen. The rear quarters, in particular, blend decades seamlessly, with a huge carbon-fibre fin juxtaposed over a back grille that evokes a vintage guitar amplifier stack.

Seat belts? Boring! Try four-point racing harnesses – once you have slid into the Jannarelly’s racing seats, that is, because ingress and egress is gloriously, magnificently impractical. The doors, each released in fabulous retro fashion with a pull of a leather strap, swing open above high sills that require you to clamber over them into the cockpit in the most elegant manner you can muster. Unless you’re a regular pilot of The Dukes of Hazzard’s General Lee, with its welded-shut doors, that level of poise will take some mastering. It all adds to the idiosyncratic character, enough to make more or less every car afterwards come off a little square and safe.

Rear visibility mostly involves turning your head to take a vital look, gladly aided by the lack of any roof or wing pillars to obstruct your view – the door mirrors are more ornamental than functional, piling on another layer of eccentric charm.

Its estimated 0-to-100km/h time of 3.9 seconds and approximate top speed of 220km/h are perfectly rapid. And when you’re this connected to the car and the road around you, it heightens almost all of your senses as the landscape rushes past seemingly inches from your nose. It is as though you’re hard-wired directly into the rear-wheel drive, meeting the tarmac via semi-slick 16-inch Toyo tyres. Occasional olfactory notes of exhaust prove rather addictive.

If you ever get tired of lifting the red protective cladding to the starter toggle switch, meanwhile, you better hope somebody calls an ambulance, because you are conceivably suffering from a life-threatening lack of pulse.

Your heart could probably be restarted by the Design-1’s deliberately warts-and-all ride, mind you, which translates every bump and cambre of the road in the direction of the seat of your pants. Speed humps need to be taken at walking pace, but then such enjoyment-poleaxing street furniture weren’t a fixture of the era that inspired Jannarelly to brighten our modern lives with the Design-1.

The fact that the most fun car of this – or pretty much any – year was handbuilt in Dubai, among the boatyards of Al Jaddaf, just makes the whole experience even more satisfying. This is a different type of driving. And the only way you can keep it as a constant in your life is to buy a Jannarelly.

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