When PH celebrated the best of British last year, the Ariel Nomad was by far the cheapest car of an exceptional trio. Against the serene Bentley Conti GT and the ultra-precise McLaren 570S, Somerset's finest was an unapologetic, ear drum-pummelling hooligan. Yet despite its lack doors, roof and just about anything else to keep the wind out, the spaceframed off-roader felt in no way out of place next to a brace of £160k alternatives.
The Ariel’s technical setup is one fit for motorsport – you don’t need a protractor to know the struts are set at racing buggy angles because they’re all there on show, with no panels or shields to hide them. Like the Atom, the Nomad is bare bones, developed exclusively to be driven at silly speeds off-road with nothing to compromise its abilities on dirt, mud or just about anything you can point its bug-like nose at. To drive a Nomad is to be strapped to a Honda 2.4-litre i-VTEC. Most drivers will add at least 10 per cent to the total kerb weight, which stands at 670kg sans human.
Such sprightliness means the base, naturally-aspirated car is a riot out of the box, but the optional K24 supercharger (a £5,215 addition) is a must-have option because it provides 299hp in the most explosive, landscape-blurring fashion. 62mph comes in 3.4 seconds, but it feels even faster thanks to the Nomad’s brutality, the result of a rear-driver that typically wears dirt tyres and has the accelerative pitch of a Stadium Super Truck at full pelt.
To some extent this stuff was all expected when Ariel announced the Nomad in 2015, what with the firm’s Atom having blazed the trail since the turn of the millennium. With that in mind, many rate the way the Nomad rides as a surprise party piece; it's built to crest a hill at Rally Finland pace - which makes it rather adept at rolling down your average B road. It’s not physics defying stuff, of course, but the result of super high-quality damping coupled to a featherweight structure.
A car equipped with the optional Ohlins adjustable dampers, which have hydraulic bump stops and two-piece springs (a £5,294 upgrade), will shame many a luxury GT over drain covers and speed humps, while requiring no heavy anti-roll tech to tighten things up on the twisty stuff. And they laugh in the face of the kind of lumps and bumps you'd find on the average off-road route. There are few other vehicles you can stick numberplates on that offer this kind of unstoppable freedom.
Still, a Nomad is unequivocally a toy - one with an extensive and decidedly moreish option list. Many if not most Ariel buyers reportedly spec their car with some care (not breaching £50k is typically the target, PH has previously been told) but there are always those unconcerned with the idea of doubling the thirtysomething starting price. The most expensive of five Nomads presently on the PH classifieds, this green-framed one has just 65 miles on the clock. It also has the supercharger, those special dampers and Alcon brakes, as well as a shorter final drive for the six-speed manual and (wry smiles at the ready) a hydraulic handbrake, to name just a few of its many additions. It’s ready to roll, in other words. For a wait list-dodging £73k.
SPECIFICATION - ARIEL NOMAD
Engine: 2,354cc, 4-cyl supercharged
Transmission: 6-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 299@7,200rpm
Torque (lb ft): 251@4,300rpm
First registered: 2019
Recorded mileage: 65
Price new: £33,000 (base before options)
Yours for: £72,995