A Colorado Exo (Part 1)
Part 1 - the selection: Why build an Exocet?
Many car journalists and enthusiasts share a special place in their hearts for the little Mazda Miata. Even though these cars will never slaughter pony cars on a drag strip. If you're in the drivers seat, you won't be able to hide your giant smile while you're whipping through the corners. Although lacking power and sheer manliness found in other cars, the Miata has established itself as a force to be reckoned with on autocross courses and tracks throughout the country. With an entire aftermarket ecosystem that revolves around the little sports car, it is no surprise that the ultimate modification is make it even more impractical and increase the fun factor by about... a million.
The hunt began to look for my next project when I started looking into kit cars. I liked the idea of buying a kit car and putting it together more or less in my own way. If I wanted to tweak something here or there to make it fit my needs, I have the option. But I didn't need a full fab shop since most everything bolts together. While searching I stumbled across a picture of an Exocet. There it was, no fenders, tube chassis, and it made me smile just looking at it. The best part about this kit is that it is based on a Miata. Which meant that parts where easy to come by. Once I researched the kit, I stopped by Exomotive HQ while traveling for work. Kevin from Exomotive was nice enough to give me a tour and let me check out their V8 car, the XP5. I immediately decided that this was something right up my alley.
Kevin from Exomotive was nice enough to let me sit in the XP5.
Kevin showing me around the shop. Seeing how it's made.
I could've easily purchased a Miata and modified it like countless others have done. I could've also bought a Z3 or Boxter to cruise the canyons. But none of those options appealed to me. I grew up traveling around the country from dirt track to dirt track with my family while my Father raced Sprint Cars. He raced in several series over the course of 30 years including World of Outlaws, All Stars, NCRA, ASCS, and local Colorado tracks. When he retired from driving, he bought a 600cc Mini Sprint and we spent a winter putting it together. The idea was to build it and sell it. After letting me drive it at a practice session at a local dirt track, within about the first 5 laps I was hooked. That practice session turned into me racing the car on both on dirt and paved tracks for 4 years. After many wins and a couple track championships, I sold the car. I was in my early 20's trying to wrap up college and decided to shift my focus from racing to wrapping up my degree in Business. But I missed the experience of racing and the joy of pure driving. I missed the connection of just me and the car. No driver aids, just a pure driving experience.
That's me leaning on the tire after my Dad won at Black Hills Speedway in Rapid City, SD in 1990
Waiting to go on the track at I-25 Speedway in Pueblo, CO
Since those days I've settled down, got married, have a 4 year old son, and recently bought a house with my very own garage. I just had to build something again. I thought about building another Mini Sprint or Midget, or even a Sprint Car. However, I also had a budget. And that budget didn't include a new truck or a new trailer. It also didn't include the running costs of a race car. Like spare parts, fuel, tires, pit passes for family and crew, and at times, a hotel when traveling (CO tracks are few and far between and often race in other nearby states). Even when trying to run a low budget operation, it can still cost $1000+ a night just to race. That also assumes you roll the car back onto the trailer in one piece at the end of the night. That just wasn't in the cards.
With a dedicated race car out of the picture I was looking for something that I could enjoy cruising around in the mountains on nice sunny days, but be able to go out to a track or an autocross event and try my hand at something a little different (turning right!). Rather then having to trailer a car to the track I wanted to build something that I could drive to an event, have some fun and then drive back home. There are a lot of folks out there that do this all the time but I wanted something different, something special. So I chose to build an Exocet. This was a perfect choice for me. A lightweight, open wheel, tube frame car similar to what I was longing for. So, I called up Exomotive and placed my order, and the hunt for a donor Miata began.