Miata is always the answer, unless you need to go off-road. An American company named Exomotive has developed a way for the fun to continue even when the pavement ends. Meet the Exocet Off-Road, a dune buggy that received a heart transplant from an older Miata. It’s like an Ariel Nomad for a fraction of the price.
The Off-Road model started life as a standard Exocet, which is like a supersized go-kart designed for the track. The four-cylinder engine, the transmission, most of the electrical system, and the steering components are sourced directly from either a first- or a second-generation MX-5 Miata. The suspension is all Mazda, surprisingly, though it receives a three-inch lift. With over a foot of ground clearance, the rear-wheel drive Exocet Off-Road lets you drift on roads less traveled, even if getting there requires climbing a sand dune or powering through a foot of snow.
The Mazda bits are bolted to a tubular chassis developed in-house by Exomotive. The Off-Road weighs considerably less than a Miata, though the final figure largely depends on how it’s configured. Power also varies depending on what engine it’s equipped with; the Miata’s engine certainly isn’t a powerhouse, but a nearly endless list of aftermarket tuners will help you squeeze as much power as you need out of the four-cylinder. In other words, you can dial in your own power-to-weight ratio.
The Exocet Off-Road starts at approximately $14,000. The catch is that it comes in pieces, and you have to build it yourself by following instructions, Ikea-style. You also need to source the mechanical components on your own. They’re not included in the kit; Exomotive isn’t in the business of parting out aging Mazda roadsters.
Luckily, there’s no shortage of cheap first- and second-generation MX-5s on Craigslist. Drag home a rough-but-running example that’s rusty beyond description, yank the engine and the transmission out of it, and you’ll have the coolest dune buggy around. What are you waiting for?
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