The Ariel Nomad is the Atom track car’s mud-loving alter ego, and having driven both, I can tell you it’s every bit as fun.
Unfortunately, it’s even more expensive. An Atom 4 starts at $79,750 in the U.S. and the Nomad Tactical will set you back $92,250. Both are beautifully engineered, but that’s pretty serious money for something you’re only ever going to use occasionally.
But the guys at Car Throttle have a solution that gives a little taste of the Nomad experience, or at least the taste of mud flying in through the gaps where the doors should be and landing in your mouth, for a fraction of the outlay.
The starting point for their project was a scruffy Mk3 Toyota MR2 bough for just £100 ($139). Launched in Europe and the U.S. in 2000, the convertible MR2 was powered by a 1.8-liter inline-four with variable valve timing that pushed out 138 hp and 126 lb-ft of torque.
Not huge outputs, maybe, but then the MR2 was incredibly light, weighing in at just 2,195 lb (996 kg). Car Throttle managed to improve on that by junking almost all of the bodywork and interior, but then add weight back in by fitting a protective tube-frame exoskeleton, chunky off-road wheels and tires, and a hard-mounted exhaust that should hopefully withstand any knocks the car gets when put through its paces.
Later, out on a muddy playground, the car proves that it doesn’t just look the part, but can also walk the walk. It doesn’t seem to have as much front ground clearance as a real Ariel Nomad, but it looks like fun and it survives the day. And it got us thinking about what other similar cars might benefit from the same treatment. Early 986 Boxster S 3.2s are pretty cheap these days…