212-horsepower thrill rides! By the staff of Dirt Wheels, Photos by Pat Carrigan
Drakart Scorpion off-road cars look like what they are—limited-production, built-to-spec, high-performance UTVs. And while it may look like Drakart is cashing in on UTV popularity, the truth is, Drakart cars came before modern UTVs. The first Drakart single-seat car was built, designed and raced in Europe from 1990 to 1997 by Alan Fricker. Those early machines were the European automatic-transmission leaders in the super-light 500cc and 600cc categories. Those categories don’t mean much to enthusiasts in the U.S., but those are important classes in countries where you have street cars with 500cc engines.
Fricker was fascinated by North American wide-open spaces, and the Drakart was then adapted for and made available to the North American market and built in Canada from 1998 to 2001. In 2001, Drakart Inc. moved to Lake Elsinore, California, to better serve the American off-road community. In 2008, Drakart designed new cars for the Dakar Rally. The cars we tested are two-seat and four-seat Scorpion models powered by modified Suzuki Hayabusa superbike motorcycle engines. The standard engine is 190 horsepower, but our machines had 212. Going turbo can boost (pardon the pun) output to 350 horsepower. These machines are chain drive, so there are no belt issues. It also means that the cars are (presently, 4WD is coming) rear-wheel drive with manual shift and a foot clutch. A superb billet-aluminum transfer case converts chain drive to independent suspension and supplies reverse gear as well. One thing to remember—a CVT system doesn’t get all of the power to the wheels, but a chain is more efficient. It may seem like a small jump from a Polaris Turbo’s 168 horsepower to the Drakart’s 212, but the difference in acceleration is stunning. Steering with the electric power assist is infinitely adjustable with a custom billet rack.
When you look at the specifications and the actual construction of the Drakart, you see that it is built like a custom UTV would be if you could have every trick on your wish list. Though the frame is production Drakart, it is nevertheless hand-fabricated using high-end 4130 chromoly tubing of generous cross section. The long-travel suspension is constructed with the same tubing to supply 21 inches of front-wheel travel and 19 inches of rear-wheel travel. You can choose between Elka or Kings 2.5 large-body shocks. Giant Wilwood brakes slow things down.
The dream list continues to the body and interior. Fiberglass and carbon fiber make up the body and interior structures, and the finish (everywhere, even the frame and suspension parts) are as glossy as a show car. No need to convert to a rear-mounted radiator. The Scorpion comes stock with that protected mounting. No paying extra for doors here, either. The Scorpions have hydraulically assisted gull-wing doors. Inside you will find custom Beard seats and full five-point belts.
DRIVETRAIN AND SUSPENSION
With a width of 80 inches, the Scorpions are large and in charge. This is a machine that feels at home driving across a slope! All of the suspension components are made from scratch by Drakart. They are all robust in size, but they look light thanks to its clean construction. At this point Drakart uses 2.5 shocks on the Scorpion. You can choose between Elkas or Kings. We asked about 3.0 shocks, but since the claimed weights of the machines are a feathery 1200 pounds for the two-seater and 1400 pounds for the four-seater, the larger-bodied shocks are not needed to control the wheel travel for such light machines.
With the Suzuki Hayabusa engine mounted in the rear of the machine, it needs only a short chain to connect the powerful engine to the billet-aluminum transfer case. The case is beautifully made with chain power entering the top part of the case and the axle shafts mounted low in the case. Drakart machines the case and all the internal parts in-house. A stunning percentage of the Drakart parts are fabricated in-house—disc rotors, hubs, spindles, suspension arms, radius rods and more. It even makes the molds for the body.
Despite having generous ground clearance and 19-inch rear- and 21-inch front-wheel travel, the overall height of the machine is a low 63 inches. The sleek design of the cab cage is responsible for that. Both cabs are roomy enough, though, and the Beard seats are luxuriously accommodating. Gull-wing doors make entering the car fairly easy, but the reverse lever is mounted to the driver’s-side doorsill, so you must keep your feet clear of that.
When you enter the Scorpion, the interior is both sleek, race-car-purposeful and comfortable. It is obvious that the cars were designed by a serious and dedicated driver. Adjust the five-point belts and you are ready to roll. The engine fires quickly, and it isn’t overly loud, but it does sound healthy. When you order a Drakart Scorpion, it is built to specifications. Any aspect of the car can be personalized. The cars we drove were set up with short-throw gas pedals and short-throw clutch pedals. Just a slight touch on the gas pedal snaps the engine rpm way up. A shift light on the dash lets you know if you are revving the engine too high, and that is a handy item for a machine that revs this quick.
The flywheel effect is light, so getting the machine moving takes careful coordination of the throttle and clutch. Once you are moving, the Scorpion is easy enough to drive for those accustomed to driving with a foot clutch and a stick shift. Shifting is sequential, so there is no shift pattern. Acceleration is stunning, shocking, brutal and a host of other adjectives. Slam the throttle and row the shifter and your local riding area shrinks in a hurry. We tested the machine in the sand dunes and in rough desert terrain, and both cars’ easily soaked up rolling whoops at speed.
We started to get a feel for the power in short bursts of acceleration, so we headed for some steep dune faces. Immediately, we were getting slammed into the seat as the Scorpion clawed at the face of sand. Then, we noticed the tachometer—5000 rpm. Doh! Downshift and try that again. You know that scene in Star Wars when they switch to light speed? All other sport UTVs accelerate like golf carts compared to the Drakart. You almost can’t shift fast enough to keep up with the rpm and the acceleration if you keep your foot in it. It accelerates that hard.
It is hard to evaluate the turning, suspension and braking when the power is overloading your senses like this machine does. We don’t even want to think about the 350-horsepower Turbo version. That has to be an incredible rush.
The monster-wide sand paddles and the immense traction they provide actually made the car a little daunting in the dunes, though we are sure you would get used to the power and acceleration. When we went to the desert, the machine was equipped with 32-inch desert tires, and it was far easier to drive when the tire can slip a little more. Once control is easier to grasp, you find that the chassis is enormously capable in the rough. We hit speeds in the rough that we only dream of in standard UTVs. You do feel the terrain, but the car never hobby-horses or kicks in whoops. With the 80-inch width, it can slide or do U-turns that would be sketchy in a narrower car, but the Scorpion stays dead flat.
Every aspect of the Drakart Scorpion is solid, capable and positive. The suspension and handling are legendary. This is truly an amazing machine, and it needs to be. The car itself cannot be fussy to drive, because the engine is somewhat demanding. The hardest part is pulling smoothly away from a stop without stalling the engine. Once you get that dialed, you simply need to keep yourself from getting distracted by the stunning acceleration. There is clutching and shifting to be done, and that demands your attention.
At $44,999 for the two-seater and $48,999 for the four-seater, these are not cheap machines. If you started with a production UTV and tried to get this performance and level of construction, you would spend a great deal more. These cars truly have the clean fabrication fit and finish of a high-dollar street rod. They are rolling metal sculptures. They aren’t for everyone, but they are for talented, dedicated drivers who love spending life slammed back in the seat and throwing roost out behind.
2017 DRAKART SCORPION & SCORPION X4 SPECS
Engine 212-horsepower Suzuki Hayabusa EFI in-line, liquid-cooled 4-cylinder
Fuel system Electronic fuel injection
Fuel capacity 8.5 gal.
Starting system Electric
Final drive Chain
Front Dual A-arm w/ 2.5 Elka shocks/21”
Rear Trailing arm w/ 2.5” Elka shocks/18.5”
Front 30 x10-14
Rear 30 x 12-14
Brakes Wilwood 4-wheel hydraulic disc brakes
Wheelbase 100”/123.5” (X4)
Length/width/height 130”/80”/63”; 152”/80”/63” (X4)
Ground clearance 16.5”
Payload capacity N/A
Towing capacity N/A
Dry weight 1,200 lb./1,400 lb. (X4)
Colors Any color
MSRP $44,999/$48,999 (X4)