When Britain’s Ariel first showed off the Atom back in 2000, the automotive enthusiast world was blown back.
This was a company taking the idea of focused engineering to a new level. The Atom is essentially a race car that can be registered for the road—legally. In 2015, Ariel did it again when it launched its buggy; the Nomad. That mad machine is essentially an Atom that can hit the dirt, and one just found its way into Jay Leno’s Garage.
You take the same basic concept of an Atom, which is a lightweight little beastie with a shouty Honda engine providing power. The Atom upscales everything with off-road suspension, aggressive tires, and every sort of auxiliary light you’ll need.
There’s a 6-speed gearbox metering out 300 horsepower courtesy of a 2.4-liter Honda K24 engine. Ariel slaps a supercharger on top of that, which pushes it to the 300 number. With a curb weight below 2,000 pounds, that’s a fantastic power-to-weight ratio that can only lead to tremendous fun.
Leno learns all about the Nomad and he puts it to the test in the dunes outside Pismo Beach, California. He also tackles his local Burbank roads and then some rough trails to really soak up the Nomad suspension travel.
It’s clear that Jay doesn’t need to be in some ultra-exotic hypercar or impossibly rare vintage machine to see a smile creep across his face. The Nomad accomplishes that goal with ease both on the road and off it.