Exocets done three different ways

Tom
By Tom Suddard
Feb 22, 2022 | Mazda, Miata, exocet, LS | Posted in Features | From the Aug. 2016 issue | Never miss an article

Photography by Tom Suddard

[Editor's Note: This article originally ran in the August 2016 issue of Grassroots Motorsports.]

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 $7999.

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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Comments
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 GRM+ Memberand 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 GRM+ Memberand 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 GRM+ Memberand 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

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