While sitting at traffic lights, a young family began crossing the road in front of my test car when their son says: "Dad, that is the best car ever."
Cellphone photos followed the stares and pointing from passersby before a green light signalled it was time to move off. This is the sort of reaction Exocet drivers get.
Based on the first-generation Mazda MX5, the Exocet kit car takes the do-it-yourself concept and runs with it.
Created by the British-based Mills Extreme Vehicles (MEV), the Exocet is a road-legal, exo-skeletal kit car designed to thrill everyone. Tom Carpenter, of Exocet Cars New Zealand, is licensed to import Exocet kits.
The kit will cost you $9999 plus GST. For this you get the chassis - which is custom-built to fit MX5 underpinnings - exterior panels, electrics and other knick-knacks required for assembly. Buyers choose from a range of colours and must supply a donor MX5 as a base for building theirs.
No extensive mechanical skills are required to put an Exocet together.
"What separates the Exocet from other DIY kit cars is the ease of build. You do not need to be a mechanical genius to put this car together. Just remember when it comes to the wiring and electrics to label absolutely everything," says Carpenter. Estimated build time is between 100 and 200 hours.
Resembling a deformed arachnid, the Exocet is all but subtle. No matter where you go, heads will turn.
Getting in is far from elegant. Lift your legs up and over the chassis frame before plonking yourself into the seat. With your bum practically kissing the road, you can reach out and touch the asphalt - while stationary, of course.
At motorway cruising speed all other cars seem enormous by comparison. Doing the legal limit surrounded by cars twice your size is not bad, but having two big rigs on either side of you can be daunting.
All-round visibility is very good but the view from the inside rear view mirror is compromised by the extended roll bar. But most of the time you will be looking ahead, because the Exocet is no slouch.
Like an eager Jack Russell, the Exocet darts off the line. The acceleration won't rearrange your fillings, but it's fast enough for most. Open your mouth at 100km/h and prepare to eat whatever flies into it. The MX5 five-speed box is a honey. A short throw from gear to gear with the same snick-snick precision as a bolt-action rifle.
Being hunkered down you feel every bump, crest and pothole. With no power steering, every turn of the wheel gives you a direct response, like the car knows where to go before you do. Every corner is devoured at incredible speed. Left or right - it doesn't matter - the Exocet corners like a fly. More stick in mid bend and it hangs on for dear life, as do you.
As the Exocet is such a raw animal, day-long journeys are not recommended. "It was never supposed to be good at long distance cruising," Carpenter says.
Unless you have a helmet and places to rest, driving a car with no roof, windows, doors or any other luxuries, can take its toll on you. The Exocet's good value, simple build process and the thrill-a-minute driving experience harks back to the essence of driving.
There are no fripperies or additives to distract you when heading on to your favourite B-road. In an Exocet driving is all you want to do. Just remember to wear plenty of clothes and keep your mouth closed.