The Ariel Atom is a high performance sports car manufactured by the Ariel Motor Company from Crewkerne, Somerset, England. There have been five models produced as road legal vehicles: the Ariel Atom, Ariel Atom 2, Ariel Atom 3, Ariel Atom 3.5, and the Ariel Atom 500 V8. There were also Limited Editions manufactured: the Ariel Atom 3 Mugen Limited Edition, with only ten produced, and the Ariel Atom 500 V8 Limited Edition, with only 25 to be produced. Current production models are the Atom 3.5 and the Atom 500 V8 Limited Edition.
The Ariel Atom began at the Coventry University as a transport design project by Niki Smart in 1996. It was originally known as the Lightweight Sports Car. Funding and input for the project came from numerous companies, including British Steel and TWR. The car was first shown to the public in October 1996 at the British International Motor Show.
Licensing for the Atom in the United States was given to Brammo Motorsports of Ashland, Oregon, with the Atom 2. Production began in late 2005 and a supercharged Ecotec engine from GM was used. Ten units were produced in 2006-2007 that used a Honda K20A engine. Brammo ceased production in 2008.
In January 2008, TMI Auto Tech Inc, gained the license to build the Atom 3 using Honda engines. The car was built at a facility at the Virginia International Raceway.
The Atom’s design differs from most vehicles currently driven on the road. The vehicle has a tubular frame, no roof, windows, or doors, but a small windscreen is available as an option.
The interior does not have a radio and obviously has no need for an A/C unit. The instrument panel contains LCD lit gauges to monitor the engine’s temperature, RPMs, and pressures, as well as a gear indicator, a shift light, and a data logging facility.
There is also a switchgear behind the gear shift paddles to manage the adjustable traction control for wet or dry conditions and how the gear box shifts.
The suspension was setup by Lotus engineers and is fully adjustable. Front and rear, both have unequal length independent suspension wishbones for racecar-like handling.
The supercharged Atom 2 won the 0-100-0 test in 2005, with a time of 10.88 seconds. Also in 2005, it set the third fastest 0-60 mph time at 2.89 seconds. In 2006 it won a 0-100 mph challenge with a time of 6.86 seconds, then 100-0 in 3.8 seconds.
In February 2005, the Ariel Atom 500 was announced. It had a 500 horsepower 3.0-liter V8 engine, a six speed gearbox, and carbon fibre body panels. However, during the development of the Atom 500, the original engine was replaced by a Hartley Enterprises prepared motor with 900 horsepower. Claims of this Atom’s 0-60 time is less than 2.3 seconds.
On January 23, 2011, the Atom 500 set a lap record at the Top Gear Test track. The time of 1:15.1 made the Atom 500 the fastest road legal car to make a lap around that track. The record held for two years until it was broken by a Pagani Huayra on January 27, 2013, with a time of 1:13.8.
The Ariel Atom was unofficially used as a prototype for the Wrightspeed X1, which used an all-electric power train.
Image Caption: Ariel Atom at Goodwood Car Park. Credit: Brian Snelson/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 2.0)