A budget Ford version of the Ariel Nomad would've been a top runabout | Top Gear
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Sunday 24th September

A budget Ford version of the Ariel Nomad would've been a top runabout

Who doesn't secretly dream of a dune buggy for the supermarket dash?

Ford EX concept front three quarters
  • What is this crazy looking car?

    Ford EX concept side view

    This is the Ford EX concept, an off-road buggy that may or may not have been lined up as a potential replacement for its Ka city car. The draughty little number was first shown at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit way back in 2001. 

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  • Would it have made a good city car?

    Ford EX concept grille detail

    Well, why not? Everyone seems to waft around in huge SUVs these days, why not a pared back vehicle with the ability to take kerbs and speed bumps without slowing down? It would be brilliant for knocking 10 minutes off your jaunt to the shops. Too much traffic? Cut through the park. The hefty spotlights at the front of the car would scare everything into jumping out of your way, including trees.

  • Was there fancy tech for… driving through parks?

    Ford EX concept front three quarters

    Of course – Ford threw the lightweight alloy kitchen sink at the EX. This might not have been the £12k runabout we were hoping for. The frame is made of tubular chromoly steel, a fancy fusion of chromium and molybdenum – all very fancy – while the body panels on the car are composite. The windscreen unclips and folds down for the true flies-in-your-teeth driving experience. 

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  • It all looks a bit scary, to be honest

    Ford EX concept wheel detail

    Not at all – safety first, remember. Look at those massive grippy 33-inch off-road tyres (on 17-inch wheels). This car means business. And it’s not so much that the EX has a roll cage as it just IS a roll cage. Because it’s going to tip over at some point. Fortunately you’d be pinned in by four-point harnesses and the EX has airbags up front.

  • What’s the EX like inside?

    Ford EX concept seats

    The EX doesn’t really have an inside, It’s rather exposed wherever you try and hide onboard. There are some nice ‘interior’ details, though – such as the steering column-mounted instruments and the wheel that swings out of the way to make it easier to get in and out of the car. The floor has plugs in it – apparently for hosing out the car, but if it rains too hard you might need to yank them out to stop your shoes getting too damp. 

  • What’s under the bonnet?

    Ford EX concept engine detail

    The EX got a supercharged 4.0-litre Ford V6, pumping out 375bhp and 410lb ft of torque to all four wheels via a five-speed manual transmission. With a kerbweight of 1,179kg you don’t need an especially fervent imagination to guess how quick this thing would have been. 

  • Why didn’t the Ford EX go into production?

    Ford EX concept dash detail

    It could be that Ford looked into the cost of building the EX, assessed market demand in comparison with, say, the Fiesta and decided that it just wasn’t feasible to press ahead with actually selling the thing. Boo. It could even be that the whole thing was a marketing exercise to try and convince you that the folks at Ford are the cool kinds of folks who like to build exotic, wacky machinery that’s really fun and a little bit naughty. And then you end up buying a Fiesta. 

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  • What if I wanted a car like this though?

    Ford EX concept rear three quarters

    Surprisingly, there have been a number of chances to own the very prototypes that Ford showed off at NAIAS back in 2001. The working cars (one in silver, one in red) have been sold through auctions a number of times in the last 20 years, most recently for £73k in 2019. So it turns out that the £36k Ariel Nomad is itself the budget option in this scenario. Oh well – better get one of those instead. 

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