This might not look like a 1999 Miata but it is. It’s a stripped down version of one, only consisting of the bare essentials. This is the Exocet from a company called Exomotive. Starting around $7,000, you can build one yourself by getting a hold of a donor NB Miata (1999-2005), ripping it to shreds and throwing on a tube frame and chassis that’s built by Exomotive. Of course, there’s a teensy bit more to it than that.
The idea is to disassemble your donor Miata until you’re left with its engine, transmission, driveshaft, wiring harnesses—the basics. Then you mate the Exocet chassis that you purchase from Exomotive to the Miata drivetrain, install the steering wheel, pedals, seats and safety harnesses. And after about 50-100 hours of work (depending on your experience level), voila, you have the best toy an auto enthusiast could have.
The Exocet I drove is owned by Lukas Giley, who reached out to me one day with, “Hey, check out my car that no one knows about.” He’s right. Hardly anyone knows about the existence of these and neither did I. But that’s not surprising because I live in my own world, generally oblivious of everything that’s going on around me.
Lukas did the smart thing here and, instead of building an Exocet himself, he bought one from a guy who put in blood, sweat and tears to create one. He went all out, too, and upgraded the engine, suspension and many other stock Miata components. My favorite upgrade is the Flyin’ Miata Turbo Kit that produces 245 horsepower to the rear wheels.
This car (kart?) only weighs 1,500 pounds, which translates to a power-to-weight ratio of only six pounds per horsepower. In comparison, a 650 HP C7 Z06 has a ratio of five and a half pounds per horsepower. Make no mistake, this is one crazy fast go-kart!
Coping with 245 HP in such a light car was too much for the original 205 mm wide tires. So they were replaced with beefier 245 mm wide tires that not only look nicer but can put all that power down to the ground properly.
The Exocet might be street legal thanks to its Miata roots, but its race car-grade engineering makes it challenging to just hop in and go fast. First of all, getting into the car is tricky and requires a fair amount of physical contortion. It might not be a bad idea to take a yoga class or two beforehand to avoid pulling any muscles.
Once inside the cage, you then strap yourself in tightly with a four-point seatbelt. As you get situated, you’ll find yourself sitting inches off the pavement, about to enter a dangerous jungle full of road rage-filled workaholics and half-asleep big rig drivers daydreaming about sipping piña coladas on the beach.
The Exocet is so light and has such a sensitive throttle that it always wants to go. I was taking off from every stoplight like a bat out of hell. Not because I wanted to, there was just no other way to drive it. Drivers in a Ford Focus and a Land Cruiser gave me strange looks as I flew past them, screeching tires and all. Everyone looked at me and wondered if I had somehow confused a normal road for a racetrack.
Since you’re strapped onto the seat so tightly with the four-point seatbelt, it’s tough to lean forward to adjust the sideview mirrors. It takes some huffing and puffing to reach out and position them correctly. But all that work is for nothing because as soon as you start picking up speed, the wind pushes them out of place and you have to re-position them again.
You would think that visibility would be good in something as open as this, but it’s not. The mirrors that you work so hard to adjust and adjust and adjust again are useless so you just end up turning your head all the way to check for other cars before changing lanes.
Besides checking your own blind spots, you have to watch every other’s blind spots, too. Because the Exocet is so low to the ground, you have to assume that you’re invisible. A mother in a Prius, busy yelling at her kid in the backseat would have no clue that only seconds ago, she smothered you and your Exocet all over the pavement.
While that cut-down speedster windshield looks cool and saves weight, it means you must do without any kind of visor. That didn’t seem like a problem until the sun was so painfully bright that I had to use one of my hands to shield my eyes, while steering and shifting at the same time. It became clear that multi-tasking is of utmost importance when driving an Exocet.
I thought it was scary driving a tiny 1967 Mini, but this was a hundred times worse. You’re acutely aware at all times of impending death. One time I found myself behind a truck with giant wooden planks that were bouncing around in the bed.
I was worried that one of those planks would fly off any second and shear my head off because in the Exocet you have no protection. If a semi’s tire happens to blow and all that rubber comes flying at you at 70 mph, then you can only hope that you’ve lived a great life. Why was I driving this car again?
There were more things to be scared about in the Exocet since everything’s manual with no ABS. A simple mistake or pushing too hard in the Exocet could easily mean that you wreck and end up in a mangled mess of equal parts Miata, Exocet, and human.
I’ve never felt so much fear and enjoyment at the same time. Everything you feel, hear and encounter in the Exocet is heightened. In what other car can you listen to the wonderful noises made by the turbo, hit 60 mph quicker than a Porsche 911 and breathe in the emissions of a Range Rover with its tailpipe right next to your head in traffic? This was a pure, untainted experience modified by nothing.
Usually people go to the track to feel alive and amp up their driving enjoyment. With the Exocet you can find the same thing on normal roads. Even rolling around at 20 mph in traffic can be a blast.
Driving an Exocet is excellent therapy. You won’t think once about all those bills you need to pay, your annoying coworker or that strange noise coming from your attic. (Must be a ghost.) You’re guaranteed to lose yourself in the experience of driving an Exocet.
Yes, driving a Miata is a blast, but you know what’s even better? Getting rid of all the stuff you don’t need and sticking with what’s absolutely necessary. Try it and maybe you’ll realize you never needed that stuff anyway.