Ariel’s stunning new £30k Nomad, the lightweight, Atom-based on and off-roader launched at this week’s Autosport International show at Birmingham’s NEC, will offer an entirely new type of all-terrain high-performance driving when it hits the market this summer, its creators say.
The car is powered by a 2.4-litre, long-stroke four-cylinder Honda engine (used in high-end versions of the Accord) that has been configured with Ariel electronics to help it produce 235bhp at 7200rpm. Its torque output of 221lb ft is especially impressive as it matches that of the supercharged 2.0-litre Atom, which is one of the fastest cars on the road.
Latest specifications, just issued, list the Nomad’s weight at a modest 670kg, despite the bigger wheels and tyres, extra rollover protection, bulkier long-travel suspension and chassis modifications needed for it to cope with off-road use.
The result is a car with an on-road 0-60mph sprint time of just 3.4sec and a 125mph top speed, which should make it capable of beating fully fledged rally cars both on the special off-road courses where they are developed and in actual motorsport events.
Ariel boss Simon Saunders thinks most Nomads will be bought for recreational driving both on and off road, but the car has the credentials to achieves success in rally competition. Saunders believes a well set up Nomad could eventually compete “with honour” in the Dakar Rally, not necessarily winning but at least reaching the finish in good shape.
Ariel has toyed with the idea of a Nomad-style vehicle since the early days of the Atom, but the job of continuing the development of the Atom, coupled with the launch of the highly successful Ace motorcycle, kept intruding.
However, the Nomad project made progress in recent times when taken on by the Ariel founder’s son, Henry Siebert-Saunders, whose interest in off-roading encouraged him to complete the prototype and lead its development on terrain normally reserved for conventional, slow and heavy 4x4s.
“We’ve tested the Nomad on a variety of race circuits and proving grounds, as well as on various private tracks including well known WRC stages, winch challenge courses and closed forest roads,” said Siebert-Saunders.
“The idea was to subject our two-wheel-drive car to tests worthy of a conventional 4x4, because we reckoned its compactness, torque and light weight would compensate for its lack of four-wheel drive. So far we’ve been right and the Nomad has lapped it up, to the extent that the whole thing adds up to a whole new kind of driving fun.”
The close resemblance of the Nomad’s essential structure to that of the Atom’s original bronze-welded chassis is obvious, but the Nomad also has an enveloping rollover structure that conveniently provides A-pillars for an optional windscreen.
The instrument pod, gearlever for the six-speed manual transmission and the pedal box are all recognisable, while the completely different suspension layout ditches the Atom’s inboard set-up to provide the much longer travel and carry the much fatter and taller wheels and tyres needed by a car with the Nomad’s priorities.
The car features a selection of abbreviated polythene body panels, including a nose cone, engine cover, damper covers, mudguards and bonnet. Standard cars keep many of these panels black — as Atoms do — but owners will be able to choose from a wide number of custom variations, including a variety of colours for the tubular chassis frames. Add-ons such as roof lights, nerf bars, luggage racks and special exhausts are certain to be popular.