For those who are unfamiliar with the term, a supercar is a type of exotic sports car which is made in relatively low numbers and offers ultra-high performance. Some of the more common names are McLaren, Lamborghini, Bugatti, Ferrari and Koenigsegg. Each of these companies make their own distinctive supercars but they all share something in common: outrageous price tags. Most supercars will set you back several hundred thousand bucks and some of the elite models can even crest one million or more. Obviously, supercars are playthings for the rich and famous, but that does little to reduce the desire for them by the masses.

Satisfying the demand

Well, a British company has been building an usual car for almost a decade that can only be described as a supercar. The company is the Ariel Motor Company and the supercar is the Atom. According to, the Atom is basically an inexpensive take on Formula One racecars. It has a nose cone, a low, wide shape and an engine mounted behind the driver. It is open like a Formula One car and lacks doors, a roof and even a windshield.

Ariel Origins

Ariel, the company that makes the Atom, was founded in 1898 and is one of the oldest names in British motoring. Ariel started manufacturing motorcycles in 1902 and produced both 350cc and 500cc bikes until the late 1950s. Ariel's most famous motorcycle was the Square Four, a model the company introduced in 1937. In the early days of its production, the Square Four engine had displacements ranging from 500cc to 997cc. The 997cc Square Four was a hot machine back in the day, putting out 45 horsepower and capable of more than 100 mph. Although best known for its motorcycles, Ariel Motor Company also produced various cars, trikes, quads, delivery and military vehicles in small quantities over the years.

Atom Origins

The Atom began as a student project at Coventry University. Student Niki Smart, a transportation design student, developed the concept in 1996 with input and funding from various automotive industry members, including British Steel and Tom Walkinshaw Racing. As fate would have it, Ariel Motor Company boss Simon Saunders was a senior lecturer at Coventry and was assigned as a financial manager and design critic for Smart and his project. The car was first shown at the British International Motor Show in 1996 where it received a tremendous reception. Soon, Ariel acquired the rights to the Atom and began production.

United States licensing

Brammo Motorsports of Ashland, Oregon signed a deal with Ariel, Ltd to manufacture the Ariel Atom in the US, starting in late 2005. Product started with the Atom 2. The Atom 2 was available with a supercharged GM Ecotec engine. There was a limited run of 10 US-built Atom 2 cars in 2006–2007, powered by imported Honda K20A iV-Tech motors. Brammo ceased production of the Atom in 2007 to focus on the manufacture of a new electric motorcycle design.

In January 2008, production of the new Ariel Atom 3 was undertaken by specialty motorsports manufacturing company TMI AutoTech at a purpose-built facility in Virginia. Since that time, all Atom 3 cars were powered by Honda Civi Si drivetrains. In January 2016, TMI moved from its 20,000 ft/sq facility to a newly refurbished 60,000 ft/sq building in South Boston, VA.

Ariel Atom 500

In 2008, Ariel introduced a mind-blowing new Atom. Called the Atom 500, it features a 500 horsepower 3.0 litre John Hartley-designed V8 engine, carbon fiber body panels, chromoly wishbones, an integrated function steering wheel and Alcon four-piston brake calipers. , and Dymag magnesium wheels. The 198 lb V8 is coupled to a SADEV six-speed sequential gearbox. Ariel claims the Atom 500 accelerates from 0–60 mph in less than 2.3 seconds.


So where are all the Atoms? Why don't we see them zipping by us on the interstate? Well, there is one catch. A completed Ariel Atom cannot be sold as a street-legal car. Due to federal regulations, the Atom is only street-legal if assembled as a kit vehicle. That being said, there are still lots of people that will be building Atoms as the news gets out about how outrageously fun driving an Atom is.

Image source: Google Images