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Exocets Done Three Different Ways

The Exomotive Exocet is the second coming of the Lotus Seven. Surprised? So were we, at least when we first wrote it down on paper. Those are big shoes to fill, but the Exocet’s simple construction, low cost, and common drivetrain make it so.

Lotus Sevens, still sold under the Caterham name today, were created to go fast for little money. They used common Ford running gear, and were usually built in garages by amateur mechanics. Aside from a different donor and a slighdy different look, Exocets are a bit like those famous Lotus kits. Want to build one of your own? Exomotive has kits starting at $6999.

Why You Want One

An Exocet might look like a pile of tubes, but… well, it is. Thanks to a design that’s somewhere between an old-school sand rail and a one-off track machine, Exocets are tube-frame kit cars that are startlingly fast.

Their party trick? These kits come ready to accept all of the running gear from an NA- or NB-chassis Miata, so owning your own 1400-pound track machine is only a few nuts and bolts away. This also means that most of the zillions of aftermarket parts for a Miata will also fit an Exocet, further opening up the builder’s options. Want coil-overs? Done. Stiffer anti-roll bars? Just order them. A Chevy V8? It’s a bolt-in kit.

Because modifying an Exocet is so easy, most of them are built to be much more than just an 800-pound-lighter Miata. As Flyin’ Miata’s own Keith Tanner said, “The U.S. guys are all looking to push the performance envelope–every one is built with suspension modifications at the very least. Power upgrades aren’t universal, but they’re pretty common.”

We sampled three different approaches to an amped-up Exocet at the Classic Motorsports Mitty at Road Atlanta.

Exomotive Exocet Race Turbo XP-4

Turbochargers are the most popular way to turn a Miata’s knobs to 11, so this Exocet sported the larger 1.8 engine with a Flyin’ Miata FMII turbo kit. The Exomotive team was quick to point out that even when making 310 horsepower, the donor car’s original drivetrain had been completely reliable.

The foundation is the Exocet Race chassis, which adds a few more roll cage tubes and steel floors. Thanks to these added safety features, this chassis is also heavier than the Sport kit that formed the basis of the other two cars we tested.

How’s this one drive? It greeted us like an old friend.

Think turbocharged Miata, but lighter, more taut, more responsive, and way more fun. This car required light, precise inputs, and rewarded us with fun, clean autocross runs. We’re also big fans of the Race chassis’ extra safety equipment, both for form and function.

This Exocet had been together for the longest amount of time among our test subjects, and it showed. Time on track had allowed the Exomotive team to sort and tweak this Exocet into a true joy to drive. We really couldn’t find anything to dislike about this car. Plus, it’s by far the least expensive to build.

Exomotive Exocet Sport V8 XP-5

We were given a warning before getting into this Exocet: “The power delivery isn’t as linear as it should be, so good luck.”

Apparently the car had just been finished, and the ECU still needed a little bit of fine-tuning. We weren’t too worried, though: We were there to drive a 525-horsepower go kart, not complain about ECU tuning.

Drive it, we did. Gone was the Miata-like feel of the turbocharged Exocet, replaced with that hammer-striking-metal sensation that muscle cars exist to provide. On our tight autocross course, this Exocet was a drifty, smoky handful, and we were really just along for the ride. Smiling, of course.

Does a 1700-pound autocross car need this much power? Probably not-we actually turned slower times than we managed in the well-sorted turbo car. In our opinion, the value here lies in the car’s wow factor, and in its ability to emit giant clouds of tire smoke in any gear and at any speed. V8s are fun, and this is about as close as you can get to riding one like a jockey.

Flyin' Miata XXXocet

We’d driven a nutty Exocet: turbocharged to 310 horsepower. We’d driven an insane Exocet: propelled by a giant V8. It was time to drive what we expected would be either the best or the worst idea yet: an Exocet with the supercharged LSA V8 from a Chevy Camaro ZL1.

We started with one question: Why? The car’s owner loves going fast, and loves long motorcycle rides, but life got in the way and made riding no longer feasible. So he and his son asked Flyin’ Miata to build a proper replacement for a fast motorcycle. After a few brainstorming sessions, this missile was the end result.

How’s it drive? It makes so much power that we aren’t even sure we ever floored it. We mostly remember fear, tire smoke, and that awesome whine that a supercharged V8 emits under load. Shifting? Why bother-there’s an infinite amount of torque in every gear, so we stayed in second the entire time.

Though all of this was good fun, we can’t help but think that a lot of the Exocet’s original design intent was lost. Exocets are inexpensive, nimble track cars that are a joy to drive. If that’s the definition, then the XXXocet wasn’t really an Exocet. That didn’t stop us from taking another lap.

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Rupert
Rupert Dork
10/9/17 7:06 p.m.

Hey look at that!  Exocet has managed to do a copy of the Lotus 7, Super 7, Chaterham 7, etc.

Not that that's a bad thing!! Actually the Miata, especially the NA and NB are as close to what Lotus used to do everyady as you'll find anywhere.  So the Miata motor is a natural!!!  Why anyone would ever destroy either a Miata or a Exocet with yet another Chevy based cast-iron pushrod valved boat anchor is beyond me!!! 

My last ever Chevy, much less US built V-8 was in my newly bought 1970 El Camino SS.  After less than a mile driving a Europa and about the same distance driving a 240Z proved to me, I really didn't want to return to the age of dinasours!!  I sold that absoultely perfect conditioned less than 10,000 mile El Camino at a loss of $1,500 and felt I got out cheap!!  Remember, this was 1971 and the El Camino cost me less than $3,800 brand new.  So a $1,500 dollar loss on a less than 10,000 mile six months old vehicle was almost half the cost of the ride. 

I have driven several Chevys since.  Including a Gen 3 Corvette which I was offered to drive for free as a 100% paid racing sponsorship.  I said "Thank you very much!  I'd rather spend my own money and drive a car I enjoy!"

The favorite car I ever drove RW was a Twin-Cam Europa!  I had a JPS on order with half the full retail price paid cash in advance.  The only reason I never owned that car is because the S.O.B. running the store in Cincinnati sold it between Tuesday when he told me it was in and Saturday before I could come and pick it up!!

Mixed emotions!!??  Huge!!  1. At that point in time I lusted after that Europa more than any other I had ever driven to that time.  2. Having said that.  Since my JPS Europa was sold without my chance to pick it up.  I discovered the '71 Datsun 240Z which cost almost the same amount and served me well for over 25 years and then I sold it for about twice what it cost me new.  And I've regretted the sale of that Z car pretty much every day since it happened!! 

TBTG:  I now have a supercharged 2002 NB Miata which I took on an over 6,000 mile road trip this Spring, blew off more than one "pretender" driver, and had Zero Issues!  How many sixteen year old 1,800cc sports cars with over 218 horsepower at the rear wheels would you, or I, trust for that same trip??

Rupert

 

 

yupididit
yupididit Dork
10/9/17 7:48 p.m.

FM + LS3 + EXOCET, I can only dream of such a machine. 

NOHOME
NOHOME UltimaDork
10/10/17 9:29 a.m.

Does a 1700-pound autocross car need this much power? Probably not-we actually turned slower times than we managed in the well-sorted turbo car. In our opinion, the value here lies in the car’s wow factor, and in its ability to emit giant clouds of tire smoke in any gear and at any speed. V8s are fun, and this is about as close as you can get to riding one like a jockey.

 

This is the crux of the matter. Wants versus needs. Be aware of which  you are building for, and you will be happy with the results.

I note the use of the word "Fear" when it came time to describe the XXXocet.

z31maniac
z31maniac MegaDork
10/10/17 9:37 a.m.
NOHOME said:

Does a 1700-pound autocross car need this much power? Probably not-we actually turned slower times than we managed in the well-sorted turbo car. In our opinion, the value here lies in the car’s wow factor, and in its ability to emit giant clouds of tire smoke in any gear and at any speed. V8s are fun, and this is about as close as you can get to riding one like a jockey.

 

This is the crux of the matter. Wants versus needs. Be aware of which  you are building for, and you will be happy with the results.

I note the use of the word "Fear" when it came time to describe the XXXocet.

I have to agree, I've driven ridiculously powered cars that can't put the power down. 

It's fun for a few, but then gets old very quickly.

Kreb
Kreb UltraDork
10/10/17 9:54 a.m.

I'd like to see a greater percentage of the weight on the rear if you're going to try and harness V8 power levels. It'd also be interesting to compare a Catfish versus a similarly powered Exocet at the track and thereby see what the aerodynamic penalty is. 

Blaise
Blaise Reader
10/10/17 12:03 p.m.
Rupert wrote:

  Why anyone would ever destroy either a Miata or a Exocet with yet another Chevy based cast-iron pushrod valved boat anchor is beyond me!!!

Surely you realize the miata motor is cast-iron, and the Chevy is all aluminum.


Surely.

z31maniac
z31maniac MegaDork
10/10/17 12:21 p.m.
Blaise said:
Rupert wrote:

  Why anyone would ever destroy either a Miata or a Exocet with yet another Chevy based cast-iron pushrod valved boat anchor is beyond me!!!

Surely you realize the miata motor is cast-iron, and the Chevy is all aluminum.


Surely.

Sounds like the wine-and-cheese m.net crowd.

ddavidv
ddavidv PowerDork
10/10/17 5:58 p.m.

The big V8 power is something I've seen in Roadkill's Vette Kart. It also has the ability to melt tires at will but is nearly useless in the corners because of lack of grip. 

I'd like to see lap times compared with all of these against a stock build Exocet and a stock Miata.

Kreb
Kreb UltraDork
10/10/17 6:28 p.m.

I used to have a StalkerV6 (slightly upsized Lotus 7 clone). They started off with the 2.8/3.4 liter Chevy 60 degree pushrod motors, which were plenty fast - until they started puting supercharged 3.8s in them, which were plenty fast - until they started puting LSXs in them. The bigger motors were faster, but took more skill to extract the speed from. At first they were actually slower on an autocross course. The extra power was more useful on a road course because you needed it to overcome the aerodynamic penalty.

That's why I'd like to see the Catfish V Exocet road course comparison. At speed, aero is so important. Hell, Lotus 11s were hitting 140 at road courses with little pushrod iron motors. The same mill in a 7 would probably be lucky to break 100.

So why the V8 if they're only significantly faster under specific conditions? Fun. Bragging rights. Duh.

Rupert
Rupert Dork
10/10/17 7:00 p.m.
Blaise wrote:
Rupert wrote:

  Why anyone would ever destroy either a Miata or a Exocet with yet another Chevy based cast-iron pushrod valved boat anchor is beyond me!!!

Surely you realize the miata motor is cast-iron, and the Chevy is all aluminum.


Surely.

As of when?  Although I'm surely a lot older than you, I never driven or to my knowledge even seen an aluminum Chevy block.  It's obviously not stock!!

 

Rupert

FooBag
FooBag Reader
10/10/17 7:49 p.m.

In reply to Rupert :

As of 1996, the LS series V8 engine used in the Corvette and then the  1998 Camaro have been all aluminum.  You can read about it here. As of now, even the truck engines are all aluminum.  With the exception of diesels, I don't think GM actually has ANY iron block engines in production.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
10/10/17 8:40 p.m.

Yeah, we've only had production aluminum small block Chevy engines for a couple decades now. Word might get out soon, and then people are going to want to swap them into all sorts of things laugh

It's too bad that the build quality didn't get mentioned in the article, as I know it was a talking point at the time of the test a couple of years ago. The XXXocet also needs a little more room to play than an autocross course - and everyone involved in the build knew that it was ridiculous.

Equating the Lotus 7 and the Exocet isn't really fair. I've driven both (and homebuilt Locosts, and Westfields), and the 7 is the byproduct of a different time. The difference in strength, rigidity and occupant protection is huge - although the Exocet does weigh about 200 lbs more when you're comparing like to like. You can also put a modern scale human being wearing actual shoes into an Exocet.

Here's an Exocet frame beside a current Westfield frame. Yes, the floors are level with each other.

Kreb
Kreb UltraDork
10/10/17 9:39 p.m.

True, the Exocet is a much more evolved beast, but they are still spiritual brethren, and my points about weight distribution and  aerodynamics apply to both -In fact, the Exocet is probably worse in both those areas. 

 

 

wearymicrobe
wearymicrobe UberDork
10/10/17 10:05 p.m.

Holy Tar that hp/lb ration on the XP-5.

 

ON 205 section TIRES> You are all literally insane.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
10/11/17 9:54 a.m.

The Exocet has more front weight than a Seven because the engine isn't as far back - it inherits the engine location from the Miata. My Locost had a slight rear weight bias with a driver, the Exocet does not. I haven't checked aero, they're both pretty awful. They do feel quite different to drive.

Exocets are considerably faster than Miatas with the same drivetrain. The most noticeable difference is in braking points. On a fast track, the V8 power will help overcome the crap aero. On a tight track with equivalent chassis setup, I doubt there's going to be much difference. We're about to starting building a performance-based LS3 Exocet for a customer, it'll be fun to set that car up.

Blaise
Blaise Reader
10/11/17 4:21 p.m.
Rupert said:
Blaise wrote:
Rupert wrote:

  Why anyone would ever destroy either a Miata or a Exocet with yet another Chevy based cast-iron pushrod valved boat anchor is beyond me!!!

Surely you realize the miata motor is cast-iron, and the Chevy is all aluminum.


Surely.

As of when?  Although I'm surely a lot older than you, I never driven or to my knowledge even seen an aluminum Chevy block.  It's obviously not stock!!

 

Rupert

As of 1997. So that would make it 20 years now!!!

ddavidv
ddavidv PowerDork
10/11/17 4:32 p.m.

Keith, can you comment a bit more on the 'crap aero'? Is the Exocet worse that a Miata in that regard?

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
10/11/17 4:36 p.m.

Yes. Exposed wheels are really bad aerodynamically. Exposed tubes are really bad aerodynamically. And an Exocet basically consists of exposed wheels and exposed tubes laugh

Blaise
Blaise Reader
10/11/17 4:39 p.m.
Keith Tanner said:

Yes. Exposed wheels are really bad aerodynamically. Exposed tubes are really bad aerodynamically. And an Exocet basically consists of exposed wheels and exposed tubes laugh

I can comment even further. Here's a video of yours truly and a mechanically identical Exocet (stock 1.6). On a long straight, I'd fly past him. On a low-speed steep climb (hello Watkins Glen!), it'd be the opposite. Made for incredible fun.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V2uc0uJhxJM&

Kreb
Kreb UltraDork
10/11/17 6:17 p.m.

A moderately-powered Exocar or Locost is like a chameleon.  A supercar from 0 to 60, a Boxter from 60 to 90, and a NA Miata from 90 to 120 (If you can make it that far).

ddavidv
ddavidv PowerDork
10/12/17 6:41 a.m.

Hmmm.

So for the guy trying to move to a track car that won't be so horribly outclassed on the straights as my stock drivetrain E30 the Exocet (normal, non-megapower version) isn't going to be much different? Disappointing.

Blaise
Blaise Reader
10/12/17 8:37 a.m.
ddavidv said:

Hmmm.

So for the guy trying to move to a track car that won't be so horribly outclassed on the straights as my stock drivetrain E30 the Exocet (normal, non-megapower version) isn't going to be much different? Disappointing.

Correct. If you watch the vid, you can see that there's a pretty big aero hit.

That being said, its a ~90whp 1.6. With a 160whp+ setup, it would be quite diff.

Kreb
Kreb UltraDork
10/12/17 9:46 a.m.

In reply to ddavidv :

Exomotive is a pretty impressive company. They also offer the DBR1 kit which while more expensive gives you a much more slippery body. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if they were also working on a more modern body to fit on top - something like a front-engined 818 or a Catfish. Speaking of which, have you looked into that product?  

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
10/12/17 10:49 a.m.

The DBR1 is from Stuart Mills in the UK, who did the original Exocet design. Exomotive had Warren redesign the Exocet chassis for US production and ended up with a much improved product. Warren also redesigned the body. I don't believe Exomotive is working on new skins for the Exocet at the moment.

Kreb
Kreb UltraDork
10/12/17 11:11 a.m.

Since Exomotive had the DBR1 on their website, I assumed that they sold it. 

A body kit would seem like the next evolution of their product, but who knows what the plans and strategy of Exomotive is? 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
10/12/17 11:19 a.m.

They sell it, but that's the extent of their involvement.

Kevin Patrick knows what the plans and strategy of Exomotive are :)

Stefan
Stefan MegaDork
10/12/17 11:24 a.m.
ddavidv said:

Hmmm.

So for the guy trying to move to a track car that won't be so horribly outclassed on the straights as my stock drivetrain E30 the Exocet (normal, non-megapower version) isn't going to be much different? Disappointing.

I'd say it dpeends on the track and the driver.  The key with cars like the Exocet, Seven and cars with similar formulas is that you can carry more speed through the corners meaning you have to gain less on the straights to stay ahead or pass cars with a faster straight line speed.

Traffic and high speed cars are always going to be a problem, espeically if the drivers aren't skilled at situational awareness to realize they are holding others up.  I've taken to going for a spin through the pits to change the group of cars I'm running with or even mentioning to a steward as I wait to go back out that a certain car isn't quite paying enough attention to those around them.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
10/12/17 11:29 a.m.

Having run around Spec Miatas at Laguna Seca, I can tell you that an Exocet with a stock 1.8 holds station on the front straight but is faster in corners and under braking. I'm assuming those Specs would be running non-stock "Spec" engines.

Bolt on an FM II turbo and the world changes.

NOHOME
NOHOME UltimaDork
10/12/17 12:26 p.m.

I found your track day aerodynamic bodywork for the exocet.

It is the stuff they use to shrink wrap boats  for storage

 

 

 

 

 

D2W
D2W HalfDork
10/12/17 12:37 p.m.
NOHOME said:

I found your track day aerodynamic bodywork for the exocet.

It is the stuff they use to shrink wrap boats  for storage

 

 

 

 

 

I know you are joking, but that is a very interesting idea. What if you had the car shrink wrapped, and used it as a plug for a fiberglass body? You could add some additional rigid foam under the shrink wrap to help shape it. Like for a potential hardtop. Lay cloth and resin the whole thing. 

NOHOME
NOHOME UltimaDork
10/12/17 12:47 p.m.

Only half kidding. There are airplanes flying around with dope fabric fuselage, so why not this for a track car? The E36 M3 is pretty tough.

 

Other than if it tore off it would wrap around the windshield of the car behind.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
10/12/17 1:04 p.m.

Now I'm thinking I need to get a boat company to wrap our Exocet and we can announce the new body kit on April 1.

Kreb
Kreb UltraDork
10/12/17 2:41 p.m.

yupididit
yupididit Dork
10/12/17 4:15 p.m.
Keith Tanner said:

Having run around Spec Miatas at Laguna Seca, I can tell you that an Exocet with a stock 1.8 holds station on the front straight but is faster in corners and under braking. I'm assuming those Specs would be running non-stock "Spec" engines.

Bolt on an FM II turbo and the world changes.

I was thinking the same. Plus you don't need gobs of power at that weight to be fast enough to stay ahead on straights on most tracks. 

dculberson
dculberson PowerDork
10/12/17 4:16 p.m.

In reply to Kreb :

Ahh yes, the BMW 'gina!

Appleseed
Appleseed MegaDork
10/12/17 5:05 p.m.

I wonder what a Stitts Poly-Fiber covering, done rag and tube airplane style, would do for the aero. Couldn't possibly make it worse, unless it started to come loose at speed. 

Kreb
Kreb UltraDork
10/12/17 5:15 p.m.
dculberson said:

In reply to Kreb :

Ahh yes, the BMW 'gina!

I like that particular shot because it looks like a gal showing a bit of cleavage.

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