Auction of the Day: Ariel Atom

Ariel Atom

Photo from Ariel

Ever since Jeremy Clarkson’s helmetless face flapping uncontrollably in the wind while driving an Ariel Atom became a tired Internet meme, automotive enthusiasts have been enamored with the tiny manufacturer from Somerset, England. It’s with good reason, too: the Atom is one of the purest sports cars on the market today. It’s like a Lotus Elise if the Elise had been stripped away down to the frame because all the body panels were just excess poundage. Despite the intense interest in the Atom, the car is extremely difficult to find, especially in the States, where the manufacturing of US-market Atoms is licensed to TMI AutoTech Inc., which manufactures the car at Virginia International Raceway. Up for grabs today on JamesEdition (née JamesList) is an Ariel Atom 3 powered by the engine from a Honda Civic Si making 245hp. That may not sound like a lot, but when stuffed into the back of a barely legal street car that weighs just over half a ton, the Atom is one of the most powerful cars in the world from a power-to-weight ratio standpoint.

Essentially little more than bucket seats attached to a frame, the Atom handles like nothing else on earth. Its explosive acceleration led Jeremy Clarkson to say, “I have never ever driven anything that accelerates so fast!” about the old 300hp supercharged GM-powered version. At one time, Ariel started huffing paint behind the tool shed and replaced the GM unit with a 500hp V8. That model set a record around the Top Gear track that stood for several years until the Pagani Huayra came along.

The car on sale today is rare indeed, one of the only Atoms I’ve ever seen listed for sale in the United States. For a smidge under $73,000, this Atom includes an engine swap that produces an extra 15hp and a list of features that makes it seem the seller checked off nearly all the addons from the options list. The Ariel Atom isn’t exactly inexpensive or practical, but such is the price of purity.

Jeremy Clarkson on the Ariel Atom:

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About Cameron Rogers

Cameron Rogers is the founder and lead writer at Downshift Autos, the only automotive blog on the Internet*. Born in the back of an AMC Gremlin, Cameron vowed to never let this extraordinarily embarrassing detail define him, so help him God. He drives a GTI but absolutely will not shut up about it if somebody asks. He will not hesitate to let people know that no, they shouldn't get a Porsche 911 when a Morgan 3 Wheeler is so obviously the superior choice. He is obsessed with the seats of a Carrera GT and the steering wheel of a Fisker Karma. He once sat in the driver's seat of a Tesla Model S, his greatest accomplishment to date. He is just now realizing that writing an autobiography, however miniscule, in the third person is odd and unnerving. *As of this writing, Cameron has been informed that there are, in fact, many websites and blogs centered around cars and car culture. He regrets his grievous error.

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