When it comes to track-day toys, there is no shortage of companies vying for your money. Lots of companies like Caterham make Lotus Seven clones, the Ariel Atom provides good looks and brutal performance and the KTM X-Bow puts motorcycle acceleration into a four-wheel package. But what if instead of making an all-new car and then fitting it with a hodge podge collection of parts, you took a car that was already great and just gave it an ultra-light track-toy body?This is the Exocet from Exomotive.
For all intents and purposes it is merely a Mazda Miata that has gone on a 1,000-pound diet. It has the same wheelbase, weight balance and seating position as the world’s favorite roadster, but thanks to a tube frame chassis it weighs less than a pair of large motorcycles. You still keep that same Miata handling and reliability, you just get a lot more speed and grip.
To put it another way, it’s F@#%&*@ epic.
Read on to find out more about the Exomotive Exocet built by Flyin’ Miata
The base car is very close to what I have pictured here, but the rear roll bar is lacking the angular and secondary cross members.
If you have ever seen an exoskeleton style kit car, you already have a pretty solid idea of what the Exocet looks like. Without any of the body panels it looks a bit like the Ariel Atom, just not quite as pretty. With the body panels it looks a bit like a futuristic, and very angry Lotus Seven. Sadly while I was at Flyin’ Miata for summer camp, the body panels for their Exocet had yet to arrive, so I only have photos of the machine in the bare metal.
Thankfully, Exomotive will powder coat the frame for you giving the car a finished look, even without the body panels. Flyin’ Miata went with a striking yellow color that really stands out.
Exomotive currently sells three separate chassis designs that all look similar but have some distinct differences. The base car is very close to what I have pictured here, but the rear roll bar is lacking the angular and secondary cross members. The chassis that Flyin’ Miata has used for this build is the Sport model. It has the extra support in the roll bar and features Domex 700 MC steel harness mounts for the use of four, five or six point harness belts. If you really need the extra protection, the Race level kit features a full roll-cage design with a full upper halo.
The only addition to the interior beyond that is a small fire extinguisher.
As I am sure you can expect, and see, there is no real interior for the Exocet. Once the floors are riveted in, the only real interior components are the seats, shifter, steering wheel, gauges and belts. The gauges are the standard kit from the donor Miata, and if you prefer something a little racier, there are plenty of after market gauge faces for the Miata.
Instead of using the standard seat for their Exocet, FM has decided to go with a set of Sparco Sprint seats matched to a set of Willans five-point racing harnesses. Considering the amount of cornering force this tiny machine possesses that was the smart choice. FM also swapped out the gauges for its custom gauge set, and the steering wheel is a smaller diameter unit that is covered in Alcantara.
The only addition to the interior beyond that is a small fire extinguisher. You know, just in case. If you don’t want to spend the money on racing seats, harnesses and a new steering wheel, no worries. The car is designed to be used with the stock Miata parts and they all fit perfectly. No need to blow extra cash.
Currently, Flyin’ Miata is discussing putting the built 2.0-liter high compression stroker motor from their other car Yolk into the Exocet.
For this particular Exocet, the drivetrain is actually pretty plebian. The motor is a stock unit from 1999. The transmission and rear differential are also stock pieces of kit. Even the ECU is completely stock. No modifications or tunes applied. The only real change is the use of an FM exhaust kit. Even that isn’t a complete kit.
Now just because this car only has a stock motor doesn’t mean that you can only use a stock motor. Because everything was built to the size specifications of a normal Miata, anything you can do to a base MX-5 can be done to the Exocet. Turbo kits, superchargers and yes, even V-8s are all fair game for the nose of the Exocet. Currently, Flyin’ Miata is discussing putting the 2.0-liter, high-compression, stroker motor from their other car Yolk into the Exocet.
FM has built a turbocharged car before, it was present at last year’s Summer Camp event, and they are currently in the middle of stuffing a supercharged LSA engine from the Cadillac CTS-V and Camaro ZL1 into one.
The Exocet is designed to be built as cheaply as possible, but if you have the time and the coin, you can stuff a lot more under the hood than a base 1.8-liter.
Suspension and Brakes
Flyin’ Miata may have left the engine alone for now, but the same can not be said for the chassis. When you are creating a car that is built for the track, you want to upgrade the track specific components first. That means new suspension and brakes. The suspension of this Exocet is a full FM V-Maxx setup complete with FM sway bars front and rear.
This brings the already impressive handling of the Exocet into the realm of sueprcar royalty. Even when pushing it hard on the track, the car exhibits almost no roll, but thanks to smart damping and a decent level of travel, you won’t be chucked off the tarmac if you hit a rough patch of pavement. I would almost even call it a comfortable ride.
The brakes of the Exocet have seen a similar upgrade. Rather than stick with the stock pieces from the Miata, FM dropped its Little Big Brake kit onto all four corners. This kit uses a set of four-piston Wilwood Powerlite calipers up front that are small enough to fit under 13-inch wheels. These are much lighter than the old kit, and they cut four pounds per wheel. The rear brakes use the same caliper, but they have smaller diameter pistons.
The rear units are powerful enough that you will feel a brake balance change towards the rear of the car. This actually makes it much easier to brake hard and helps to limit nose dive. The weight savings for the rear calipers are three pounds per wheel. That brings the total unsprung weight reduction to 14 pounds. Not exactly an insubstantial number. The rear calipers also feature a small modification to make them compatible with the parking brake, and the whole setup SCCA legal.
Pricing for the Exocet can be a bit tricky. As a kit car, you can spend as much or as little as you want. Considering it was designed for cheap and easy builds, lets stick to the lower end of things. The base level Exocet is only $6,500, but honestly you want to get the Sport model at a minimum. It carries a price of $7,200. After that you just need to source a Miata. Finding an early NB or late NA for $1,500 to $2,000 is pretty easy. So we are at around $9,200 now. Powder coating for the frame can be as much as $900 depending on your color choice which brings the price to a relatively paltry $10,100.
If you want the upgraded suspension, racing seats or brakes, you can always add that later. Even after all the upgrades, you should still be well under $15,000. Considering an Ariel Atom will cost you well over $50,000 the Exocet is one hell of a deal.
The same subtle chassis balance changes, quick steering and handling dynamics are all there, just as you remember them, but it has all gotten just a little better.
Getting behind the wheel of the Exocet for the first time is a strange experience. You have this mild disconnect from the world around you. You are sitting in this open chassis machine that is essentially a racecar, yet you find yourself turning a Miata key, listening to a Miata engine and staring at Miata gauges. Once you start rolling it feels hauntingly like a Miata to drive as well.
But then you start to push it and things begin to change. What started as a Miata quickly morphs into a Miata turned to 11. The same subtle chassis balance changes, quick steering and handling dynamics are all there, just as you remember them, but it has all gotten just a little better. Steering feel is a little sharper, the acceleration is a little more brutal and you can stop much later. Then you realize that you can carry more speed through the turns and you can get on the power earlier at exit. Eventually, it sort of turns into the world’s best video game.
Rather than the dedicated focus it takes to hit your line just right, brake at the perfect moment to clip the apex and then ease into the power to settle the back end without going loose you can just beat on it. At least on the Grand Junction track you can’t really outdrive yourself. The car is too damned good. You can just fling it into any corner with abandon, stand on the brakes mid turn and then floor the accelerator whenever you feel like it. The car is so well planted and sorted, it feels almost as if it is now propelled by magic and using tires made from the bones of dragons and unicorns.
If you are really ham-fisted you can get the back to step, and if you really, really tried you could spin it, but any normal driver won’t be able to get past their internal need for self-preservation to drive the thing that recklessly. Perhaps things would be different on a larger and faster track, but it was nothing but fun on the kart track.
And let’s not forget. All this fun is being had for less than $15k. It may be the deal of the century.
Building an Exocet
It is comprised of the front and rear subframes, engine, transmission, drive shaft and suspension.
When it comes to a project like this, the most daunting part for most is going to be the assembly, but thanks to its clever design, an Exocet is incredibly easy to build. There is no welding, no modifications to parts and no excessive mechanical knowledge needed. If you can manage to do some general repair work on your own car, you can probably build and Exocet.
Your first order of business is the retrieval of the “roller skate”. The Miata’s roller skate is essentially the entire running gear. It is comprised of the front and rear subframes, engine, transmission, drive shaft and suspension. Best of all, it will all come out in one piece. That is how got termed "roller skate."
Start by removing the car’s wiring harness, stripping down the body and then unbolting the subframes. From that point you just simply need to use and engine hoist to lift the body right off of the roller skate.
At this point, rivet the floor pans into the Exocet shell, run the fuel and brake lines, and then set the new shell onto the skate. Now just bolt it all in, reattach the harness, install the steering column and rig up the fuel and brake lines. Add a gas tank, seats, belts and gauges and you are done. Exomotive says the whole project can be completed in 100 hours or so. If you worked from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. you could build the whole car over a two-week vacation and still have 4 days left over to drive it.
The Caterham is the most obvious choice for a track-day competitor. It has a similar look and weight, but it doesn’t have quite the same balance as the Exocet. It also doesn’t boast nearly the same price tag. The 280 model is the cheapest Caterham you can get in the U.S. and it carries a price of $34,000. You could build a pair of Exocets for that price and race against your friend. If you really wanted to blow that kind of money on one car, you could get an Exocet, completely upgrade the brakes, suspension and seats, and then have enough money to add a nice turbo kit for extra speed.
I will admit though, the Caterham does look much nicer. Thanks to its construction and ubiquitous presence in the market, it is also far easier to get a Caterham registered for road use than the new Exocet. This benefit will lessen over time, but having a car that is already known and registered in many states makes life easier for all new owners.
It may seem weird to have a Miata as a competitor to a car made out of a Miata, but it really makes sense in the long run. The Exocet is incredible as a track toy, but it really is only that. It can be registered for road use, but that doesn’t mean that it is suitable for road use. One of the strong points of the Miata is the fact that you can drive it to the track, beat on it, and then drive home. It has a roof, it has a radio, and it has air conditioning.
All the features we love having in a daily driver go out the window with an Exocet. If you just buy a Miata, you can have the same type of experience, albeit much slower, without any of the drawbacks. If you really only have room for one car at the house, sticking with the Miata instead of turning it into a kit-based race car is the smarter decision.
Gallery Mazda MX-5 Miata Club - Driven
If you love the way a Miata feels, performs and drives, but you just want a little more the Exocet can provide that thrill. It is a Miata in every way, but made better and more exciting. Every sensation is enhanced and amplified in the best way. When you take into consideration the cheap cost of entry and ease of construction it makes the perfect project for a group of friends looking to get into racing, or for a parent/child project to get the young one invested in the art of car repair and maintenance.
For years these types of toys have been restricted to those with more money than sense. The Ariel Atom can cost as much as a Porsche 911 depending on your option choices, and buyers in the UK are paying Lamborghini money for the BAC Mono. Now this same level of fun and speed has been brought down to the common folk courtesy of the Miata.
The Miata was the car that brought affordable, reliable topless motoring to the common folk, it only makes sense that its bones would power the next revolution in smile-inducing driving.
If any of you are looking for some assistance to build a new Exocet now, give me a call. I’ll leave immediately.
- Still a Miata but better
- Super lightweight and tossable
- Very cheap to build
- No street-legal in all states
- Topless driving only
- Still needs upgrades to make it a great track car