As you've probably noticed, the motor industry tends to shut down at this time of the year. Sure, there are occasional press releases giving details of total global revenues in German, or the slightly desperate ones about why Santa would pick a certain brand of car to help him reach 260 million households in a single night. But very few of any real interest.
Which is why we were surprised when Ariel got in touch with some renderings of its new model, the Nomad off-road buggy, ahead of its official unveiling at the Autosport show next week. It's a very dramatic departure for the Somerset-based sports car company - following on from the Ace motorbike - and an answer to the question of what the company should do next that boss Simon Saunders posed in his PH interview in November - congrats if you got it right, by the way.
That's next year's Christmas wish sorted then
But Ariel isn't just sending out press releases. When we called Saunders for a quick chat about the company's latest new direction we found that he was still at the factory, working flat-out on getting the Nomad ready for its Autosport debut.
We've only got two renderings to go on for now, but the Nomad is a handsome little thing and although clearly related to the Atom substantially different. It has a similar welded framework structure, but one that goes much higher to offer roll-over protection. Suspension travel is far greater - as you'd predict - with outboard-mounted springs and dampers instead of the Atom's pushrod-worked units. And there's even a full-length windscreen and a wiper mechanism, although Saunders says these will be an option. "Although one you'd probably pick if you were going to use it off-road," he adds.
We'll have to wait a week for the full mechanical details, but Saunders says the Nomad is powered by a 2.4-litre Honda four-cylinder engine rather than the Atom's Civic Type R derived 2.0-litre, and that this has been tuned for torque. It's heavier than an Atom, but not by much - we're promised it will still weigh under 700kg. And despite only being rear-wheel drive, Ariel is convinced the combination of lightweight construction, ground clearance and aggressive tyres will enable it to perform properly in the wilderness.
"We've driven it in woods and rally stages so far - we're still trying to get onto some sand dunes, but we're not well known for deserts in Somerset," he says, "and it really does work well."
There's something of the 70s Dune Buggy about the Nomad. Saunders admits there's a slight connection. "I nearly swapped a motorbike for a purple dune buggy when I was a teenager... I've always thought there's something in it that was waiting to be reborn," he says, "but we've been thinking about doing something like this for a very long time - nearly as long as the Atom in fact. Shortly after we launched the Atom we got a call from a guy in the States saying 'could you do one with really long suspension travel for off-road use?' We were snowed under, but we thought it sounded like an interesting idea."
Orders will open at the Autosport show, with the Nomad set to be priced at a relatively modest supplement over the equivalent Atom, suggesting a start from the low 30s. We'll be able to tell you more next week.