BBC Autos

Most fascinating concept of 2013: Ken Okuyama Kode 9

About the author

Deputy editor of BBC Autos, Jonathan was formerly the editor of The New York Times' Wheels blog. His automotive writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times Magazine, Details, Surface, Intersection and Design Observer. He has an affinity for the Citroën DS and Toyota pickup trucks of the early 1990s.


At the 2013 Tokyo motor show, Ken Okuyama Design demonstrated the right way to do retro.

For the uninitiated, the Kode 9 Concept was a delightful surprise from an upstart Japanese studio. For those familiar with Ken Okuyama – the former chief Pininfarina stylist credited with the 220mph Ferrari Enzo hypercar of the early 2000s – it marked a welcome return to the limelight for a soft-spoken giant of car design.

Befitting the Kode 9’s compact form, Okuyama specifies a four-cylinder engine of either 1.6 or 2.4 litres as the hypothetical powertrain, mated to a six-speed manual transmission.

Never mind the motor; it is the Kode 9’s shape that accelerated heart rates in Tokyo. Okuyama deftly spins connective tissue from a number of iconic sports cars – the Jaguar E-Type, Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray, Lotus Elan and even Speed Racer’s Mach V among them – before finding his own expression of future-classic speed. It may never see a road, but it will run circles round our imaginations for years to come.

Read more about the Kode 9 Concept here.

Second Opinion

Citroën Cactus


The Citroën Cactus concept is not merely some clever flight of fancy, it is genuinely innovative – brimming with smart ideas that bring to mind the 2CV and the original DS. Consider such features as external surfaces covered in a dent-proof, rubbery material called Airbump, an interior designed for psychological as well as physical comfort, and a hybrid drive system that uses a lightweight, inexpensive tank of compressed air – rather than a heavy, expensive battery – to store and release energy. The only thing fanciful about the Cactus is its name. – Matthew Phenix