Driving a die-hard race car every day sounds like a good idea to any car enthusiast, gear head, automotive journalist, etc. But in reality, it’s probably not. In fact, we would most likely all be better off driving a Toyota Avalon for daily duties. But it sure is fun to fantasize. So here’s something to dream about: Having an Ariel Atom as a daily driver.
Ariel Motor Company Ltd.
In case you haven’t seen the ubiquitous and famous Top Gear UK episode in which Jeremy Clarkson gets to rip an Ariel Atom around their test track, complete with sunglasses and distorted facial expressions, we’ll link it here:
If that’s not enough of an introduction, we’ll give you a little background on it. Ariel Motor Company Ltd. is a small car manufacturer based out of Somerset, England. It’s so small that it currently only has 30 employees, which makes sense considering they only produce three different models: the Ariel Atom, the Nomad (a dune buggy), and the Ace (a motorcycle).
The small staff at Ariel prides themselves on their minuscule operation. According to their website: “We don’t have a production line and we don’t have robots, we don’t even have an automated telephone system that makes you press buttons. Just good old fashioned, British skill and hand-built craftsmanship.”
We applaud them for this, it’s nice to see a company that pays the utmost attention to detail on their products, which in turn helps us appreciate the type of work that they produce. There is a North American Ariel office as well in Virginia that operates the same way; every Atom purchased is on a build-to-order basis.
What makes an Atom?
Now that we have a good grasp on who the Ariel Motor Company is, let’s get onto the car. The Atom has been around since the early 2000s and has gone through eight different generations. There was the original Ariel Atom, Atom 2, Atom 3, Atom 3.5, Ariel Spec: Race Atom, Atom 500 V8 Limited Edition, and the Atom 4; which is the one that you can currently buy.
The Atom is the ultimate expression in automotive minimalism. There are no body panels to help with aerodynamics, no windshield, no roof; it’s basically an overgrown go-cart. Sitting behind the driver is a massive cowl induction scoop that feeds air into a turbocharged 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine taken from the latest Honda Civic Type R.
That’s right, the same 320-horsepower engine that is found under the hood of the marked-up showroom queen at your local Honda dealer is strapped to the 1,300 pounds of rolled metal and wheels that is the Atom. Bilstein coilover shocks with Eibach springs are the focal point of the double unequal-length wishbone suspension that keeps it flat in the corners and giant brakes help bring this car to a stop.
We won’t go over all the specifics, because it’s really just every guy’s childhood racecar fantasy come to life. What you see is what you get. And what you get is a 0-60 time of 2.8 seconds in something that’s bigger than a motorcycle and lighter than a first-generation Mazda Miata.
Can the Atom be driven every day?
According to the North American Ariel website, the Atom is not a “federalized vehicle” but “many Atom owners have followed the laws of their home state and registered their vehicles for road use.”
So, we know that the Atom can technically be driven on U.S. roads if you follow the rules in your state. Then you just need to wear a helmet since there’s no windshield and the only protection between you and the car next to you are some metal pipes and prayer.
In short, considering motorcycles are driven every day, our conclusion is that the Ariel Atom can be as well. Drive safe!