Ariel Atom US Owner Community Finds Design Flaws, Tunes the Atom to Fix Them [Updated]

tuned Ariel Atom in the UK 3 photos
tuned Ariel Atom in the UStuned Ariel Atom in the US
Earlier this week, we talked about certain design flaws with a kit car called Exocet XP5, which is basically America’s take on the Ariel Atom, we got to thinking - what if the Atom has it fair share of shortcomings? We did a bit of digging and it turns out the street-legal British track machine does come with certain aspects that could be improved.
The problems with the Atom haven’t gone unnoticed with the US owner community though. These people are enthusiasts to the bone exoskeleton, so they decided to... crowd fix everything. One of these Atom guys recently opened up on Reddit, letting the world know how the community designed the tuning parts and then tested them on the track for fine tuning. By the way, the adjacent images show his ride.

Here are the main bits of the Atom the community upgraded

  • Apparently, the stock exhaust is unnecessary twisty, so they replaced it with one that brings a lower backpressure.
  • Suspension is some sort of a heart for a handling-obsessed car like the Atom and they tuned the pushrods, bellcranks, rod ends and springs, claiming that both performance and reliability benefits resulted from this.
  • The man claims there have been cases of rear uprights failing after heavy circuit action, so these were upgraded. As a bonus, the Atom can now work with grippier tires. The new uprights were made using a CNC machine.
  • Sticking to the all-important rear end, the aficionados replaced the 8-inch wide rear tires to 10-inch units. As a result, the Atom gets extra traction and sees its tendency for power-on oversteer reduced. Then again, the latter part is something subjective - perhaps some prefer to have sideways fun in their Atoms rather than go faster.
  • The rear lights reportedly had a tendency to burn bulbs due to vibration, so they upgraded them to LED.
  • Carbon fiber parts were installed, with passenger compartment sidewalls being the best example here.
  • Last but not least, the Ariel drivers added digital details such as track telemetry, digital gauges and others.

Don’t imagine that these upgrades were performed in a major carmaker’s facilities though. To get an idea of the manner in which the work was performed, we’ll quote the man on the design of the exhaust.

[We used] eyeball flow analysis--removing most of the turns (there were a lot of unnecessary 180* turns with the OEM setup), upping the system from 2" piping to 3" piping, shortening the header path, eliminating the OEM restriction to 1.5" at the collector, eliminating the cat, Increasing the size of the muffler/changing it from glass pack to a distributed baffle system, and going from single tip out of the muffler to dual tip (to further reduce muffler backpressure)."

Hmm... is all that legal?

Right now, you’re probably wondering how the decatted part copes with the street-legal status. Well, the driver explains he bought his Atom without an engine and since he installed the powertrain himself, the Californian law allowed for his Atom to be street-legal and emissions exempt.

Both the Atom and its papers were inspected by the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) and the CHP (highway patrol), with the state subsequently generating a VIN for the contraption.

All this only comes to confirm that Ariel Atom owners love their cars to an extent that should make their SOs jealous, or, if they haven’t done this already, turn them into copilots.

Update: as our readers pointed out, most of these shotcomings were left behind when Ariel released the Atom 3 back in 2008. Thus, if you go for an Atom 3, or the current version, which is the 3.5, you should have the aforementioned issues covered.
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About the author: Andrei Tutu
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In his quest to bring you the most impressive automotive creations, Andrei relies on learning as a superpower. There's quite a bit of room in the garage that is this aficionado's heart, so factory-condition classics and widebody contraptions with turbos poking through the hood can peacefully coexist.
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