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Behind the scenes: drifting a little Nomad in a big field

TG takes you on a step-by-step guide to doing a daft film in a daft little car

  1. A couple of weeks ago we ran a little film that features the Ariel Nomad. It’s called Field Trip and involves messing around on a farm. If you haven’t seen it yet, click here before you read any further.

    Done that? Good. Right, I thought you might be interested in some of what went on behind the scenes, plus a couple of the little mishaps that happened along the way.

  2. It was filmed in a single day on a mate of mine’s farm. He’s a good chap, massively into his cars and machinery and was very happy for us to come along and have a bit of fun. That’s his JCB in the background. We wanted to open the film with it driving through the yard. The initial plan was for him to drive the JCB and us to shoot it driving through shot so you couldn’t see who was actually driving. It would then be my boots jumping down from the cab and walking back to the barn. But then he showed me just how simple the JCB was to operate…

  3. For the opening sequence after the credits we wanted one long shot of the Nomad romping out of the barn, skidding around a bale and tearing off out of the yard. It was quite a complex shot as it involved mounting a camera on the front of Neil Carey’s Discovery, putting that in the barn behind the Nomad, then driving it slowly forward as the Nomad blasts out.

    This was the first take. Personally I wasn’t that happy about it as I wanted to be closer to the bale. On the second take I was, but the speed was necessarily much lower, and the back wheels didn’t spray as much muck about. I think we did a third take as well, but it was the first one that worked best.

  4. We then went into a sequence where the Nomad charges down a lane, romps off the side, and pops up back onto the track. Again, this was the first take – I wasn’t going that fast because a) the grass was very slippery and b) it was the first take and I wasn’t too sure how rough the going would be. Now, we used it because if you look just behind the car, you can see a big stone has been kicked up by the back wheel.

  5. Here it is again. Much closer to the chase car. A split second later it walloped the Disco’s undertray. Quite an impact according to Neil and Chris…

  6. We then went into the field sequence. The one warning I’d been given was not to hit a bale. Why? Nothing to do with damaging the bale, but the fact they each weigh about a ton and would happily take the front wheel off the Nomad if I collided with one.

    It was super slippery in the field. It had rained the previous day, but on the whole the ground underneath was very smooth. Provided, that is…

  7. …you drove the right way along the field. Go along the line of bales and all was well. Go across them, which I’m doing here, and it was another matter altogether. This is due to the direction the field has historically been ploughed in…

    This was one of the faster shots we did – I think about 55-60mph - and while it looks smooth enough in the film, at a couple of points across the field the steering wheel was nearly being jarred out of my hands. I could have softened off the suspension, but I wanted it reasonably sharp and nimble for the track sections, and the stuff where I needed to be more accurate.

  8. Such as this. We wanted a drone shot of me doing a donut around a bale. But I’m clearly more of a perfectionist than Ken Block as I didn’t want any previous marks there already. I just wanted ‘pristine’ ground and a set of freshies. The fact the tracks stand out so well shows you how soft and wet and easily cut up the ground was.

    This was much trickier than I expected. Turns out farmland, unlike tarmac, isn’t exactly consistent. There would be patches of grip, then none at all, you’d have more in one direction than another. You can see the lines of how the grass has been sown in this shot. That makes a difference. So does elevation.

  9. The top of the field was drier and grippier than the bottom, this sheltered slope held more dew. It all made a difference. Plus the field was full of flint. Flint is sharp and cuts stuff to pieces.

  10. At the end of the day, the rear tyres looked like this. Covered in strakes and slashes, with chunks missing. Not a pretty sight.

  11. The rest of it looked like this. Thanks god for those Perspex side panels – absolute face-saver.

  12. And this. Mud got everywhere. The main reason I tried to do most of the skids as right handers was because on opposite lock the front tyres threw more muck on to the passenger side.

  13. Ah yes, the jump. We wanted one and this was the best we could come up with. Looks quite dramatic here. Felt very dramatic from where I was sitting. But the front wheels barely came off the ground. The trouble was twofold: the ramp length and angle out of the field and the Nomad’s layout.

    Basically the front wheels, which don’t have to deal with so much weight, rode up the ramp easily, while the rears thumped into it more heavily, then rebounded, kicked the back end into the air and leaving me pulling an endo on the track opposite. Again this was the first proper take. I hit it at 50mph. I wasn’t particularly keen on doing it again.

    Having said that, nothing about the car’s behaviour gave me any cause for concern whatsoever. It was perfect. The back end touched down lightly and gracefully, it didn’t ground out, there was no secondary ricochet. Honestly, the Fox suspension on this thing is just astounding.

  14. Yes, I did do all the driving in my wellies. And those huge gloves. My mate had lent me his overalls, the cap was my own (and blew off a couple of times when speeds got too high).

    I was impressed at how much car control I had in the wellies, actually, although I think that’s more to do with the Nomad’s pedal set up. It’s an utter delight to heel n’ toe in, the gearbox and clutch are a joy. If there’s one car that’s built to flatter clumsy footwear, it’s this one.

  15. I love this angle. You only see it for a split second in the film, but as with every shot, a lot of time and effort went into getting it. I think we tried three different positions and lenses before getting the right angle.

  16. It’s ridiculous how much speed you have to give something to make it look fast. This still was 70-75mph. When we tried to recreate it for the film, the front wheels wouldn’t play ball and pop off the ground. So we spent a bit of time on a corner sequence, instead. I think that looks mighty as you can see the earth being sprayed up, the suspension pumping away, the wheels searching for traction and so on.

  17. My friend has a plane. Here it is in its ‘hanger’. We explained what we’d like to do – donut around it and then chase it as it took off. Sounds simple, but was complicated and did require a few takes because above all we had to make sure it was safe.

    We walked through it on the ground a number of times – actually paced it out ourselves, three of us playing the parts of Discovery, Nomad and plane, walking around – before we even did a first attempt.

  18. This was the ending we really wanted. We knew how tricky it might be, so initially we did film an alternative ending that involved me getting out of the Nomad and climbing in the plane and then that taking off by itself. Not with me actually flying of course. A JCB I could turn my hand to. A Cessna? Not so much.

    Anyway, after Disco chasing plane down runway had gone well, we added in the Nomad. Of course it all took a while because we had to wait for the plane to circle and touch back down each time…

    I knew this take was good from the moment I started sliding into shot. The runway had been double-seeded for smoothness which makes it very slippery indeed. My friend also reckoned his old Cessna didn’t accelerate that fast and had a takeoff speed of about 50mph. He was wrong on both counts. Nomad and Disco had a heck of a job keeping up, I was trying to juggle the desire to slide a bit for the camera with traction/acceleration, the Disco was huffing along behind and it wasn’t until we were up past 65mph that the plane lifted into the air.

    The plan was then for me to skid to a halt and that would be the end. However, another thing my mate had asked was that I didn’t make a mess of his nice, smooth, glossy runway. Hence why I jink to the left before grabbing a bit of handbrake and attempting to control a slide to a stop. The whole sequence felt good to me, and when Neil and Chris climbed out of the Disco almost skipping with delight I knew we’d got it in the bag.

    At the end of the day it’s just a daft film about doing something daft with a daft car. But to me that’s what the Ariel Nomad is all about.

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