The 6 Ariel Atoms You Need in Your Life
Since the late 1800s, the Ariel nameplate has found itself bolted to British-built bikes, motorcycles, and a number of vintage four-wheeled racers, before dying out in the 1960s. Then miraculously in 1999, something amazing happened – it came back with a serious vengeance. The resulting creation, the original Ariel Atom, has gone on to redefine the term "fast" and leave us questioning our own speed-induced facial elasticity. That being said, these six versions of the Atom are the ones you definitely need in your life. Actually, these are the only six versions of the Atom that Ariel builds. So, you'd be luck to own any one of them. Ariel Atom
'Special' would be an understatement in describing the original Atom. It lacked doors, a roof, or a windscreen of any sort. Effectively, it was less of a car and more of an exoskeletal extension of your body, albeit a very fast and nimble extension.
The earliest Atom sported a 1.8-liter Rover K series engine, tuned for between 120 and 190 horsepower, which it sent directly to the rear wheels through a five-speed manual gearbox. The formula was written and it was good ...
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Ariel Atom 2
So good in fact that the world needed a second helping. Enter the Atom 2. It featured chassis design tweaks, but make no mistake, its new heart was the main attraction – a Honda K20A four-cylinder plucked from the Civic Type R.
The naturally aspirated base version surpassed the performance of its predecessor and the 300-horsepower supercharged version clobbered pretty much everything else altogether. You might recall seeing it rearrange the face of a certain BBC motoring TV presenter.
US versions were built under license by Oregon’s Brammo Inc., and sported GM Ecotec four-cylinders and the gearbox from a Cobalt SS. Not very exotic, but quite fast.
Ariel Atom 3
Then in 2008, Ariel’s wizards made another run at the zippy Atom, performing subtle chassis redesigns and notable suspension tweaking. The engine? An updated Honda 2.0-liter K20Z mill bumped base output up to 245 horsepower with the supercharged version holding strong at 300 horsepower. JDM fans were even treated to a limited edition Mugen-tuned version, though only a scarce 10 were built.
Zero to 60 mph took 2.7 seconds. Zero to 100 mph took 6.8 seconds. And the Atom boasted around 600 horsepower per ton. People took notice of this fast bit of scaffolding with wheels. Some people even wanted more.
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Ariel Atom V8
And more is exactly what Ariel gave them.
Fixed with a 3.0-liter Frankenstein of an engine (the product of two Suzuki Hayabusa motors), the Atom V8 spat out a mountain of 500 rampaging horsepowers, equating to around 900 horsepower per ton, and disposed of the zero to 60 mph sprint in just 2.3 seconds.
Colossal performance in every sense of the word, including price. A mere 25 Ariel Atom V8s were built, reportedly costing owners over $200,000.
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Ariel Atom 3.5 and 3.5R
Then came the 3.5, an everyday Ariel Atom built with the knowledge gleaned from its limited-run V8 brethren, along with cosmetic updates to boot. The Atom 3.5 fitted Honda’s K20Z4 2.0-liter, another masterpiece from the latest in the Civic Type R lineage, now producing 315 horsepower in supercharged guise.
Then Ariel added an ‘R’ to its badge, turned up its boost pressure, and provided the resultant 3.5R with even more brawn – a gutsy 350 horsepower. A six-speed paddleshift gearbox completed the lunacy, leaving US fans more than a bit disappointed, as it wasn’t intended for these shores. Thankfully, that despair was short-lived.
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Ariel Atom 3 and 3S (North America)
TMI AutoTech, hailing from Virginia International Raceway, took over the task of building US-market Atoms under license in 2008. And they started off on the right foot. TMI’s colonial Atom 3 churns out 230 horsepower from its naturally aspirated Honda 2.4-liter engine, though now there’s a newcomer. And it’s quick.
The firm’s latest creation, the Atom 3S, eclipses the performance of the Euro-only 3.5R, but instead of a whining supercharger, TMI opted for a hearty turbo ... to the tune of 365 horsepower. Prices start for the Atom 3S at around $90,000. Anyone interested?
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