An excited newspaper motoring correspondent asked ‘Is this the most amazing car of the century?’ It was a rhetorical question, for the answer is clearly ‘Obviously!’ The Aerial Atom is unlike any other performance car ever made. This incredible machine has no doors, roof, windscreen, heater, sound system, carpeting or any creature comforts at all. So what exactly has the Atom got?
A striking external steel-tube chassis with a silver finish and stainless steel rocker posts. Two seats. A fuel-injected 2 litre Honda i-VTEC engine with an aluminium-alloy block. A close-ratio six-speed gearbox. Cast-alloy wheels. Rack-and-pinion steering. Sophisticated adjustable suspension. Ventilated front disc brakes and solid rear discs, all with twin-piston calipers. For those who want to cut a dash (literally) on the way to work (or better still the track), there is a road pack that makes the machine street-legal.
The Atom may look like a piece of modern art, but its entire rationale is delivering unbeatable performance on a budget. That becomes apparent when the Atom blasts through the 60 mph (97 km/h) mark from a standing start in less than three seconds, hurtles past the 100 mph (161 km/h) barrier in under seven seconds — and returns to rest inside a further four seconds. It is blistering acceleration combined with racecar handling and roadholding rather than high top-speed that makes the Atom so special — it’s the ultimate thrill-seeking driver’s car.
At Ariel’s Somerset factory a handful of skilled engineers turn out fewer than one hundred cars a year. Atoms are built under licence in the USA, where they are fitted with GM Ecotec engines. Thus far the Ariel Atom has gone through three evolutionary generations — Atoms 1, 2 and 3 — and plans are now afoot to create an explosive Atom 500 with a 500 bhp 2.4 litre engine.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
UK (also built in the USA)
1,998 cc Straight Four
Supercharged Atom 2 — top speed of 150 mph (241 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 2.7 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
For those who wish to enjoy the eye watering pleasure of experiencing just what the tearaway Ariel Atom can do without shelling out £40,000, companies are springing up in the UK that offer the opportunity to do just that on special track outings, either as a passenger or driver.