The U.S.-Built Ariel Atom 4 Is an Insane Road-Legal Open-Wheeler That Costs $75K

One of the craziest machines to ever roam the streets, the latest Ariel Atom model is now also being built and sold on the North American continent after being produced in Europe for the last 20 years.
Ariel Atom 4 10 photos
Photo: Ariel Motor Company Ltd
Ariel Atom 4Ariel Atom 4Ariel Atom 4 Standard Bilstein SuspensionAriel Atom 4 Honda EngineAriel Atom 4 InteriorAriel Atom 4 InteriorAriel Atom 4Ariel Atom 4Ariel Atom 4
With no doors, roof, or airbags, the Ariel Atom might look frightening to some, but for speed-loving adrenaline junkies, its raw nature is what makes it so appealing.

Released in 2018, the fourth generation of this extraordinary vehicle was completely redesigned, with only the fuel cap, brake, and clutch pedals being carried over from the previous model.

At the base of the Atom 4 stands an all-new bronze welded multi-diameter tubular exoskeleton chassis conceived in-house by the Ariel engineering and design team.

Ariel Atom 4
Photo: Ariel Motor Company Ltd
Compared to past models, the lightweight hand-built structure uses larger diameter main and diagonal tubes, new aluminum-alloy bulkheads as well as many other small enhancements that increase its torsional rigidity by 15%.

The raw interior gains more space and legroom thanks to the redesigned chassis. The twin-seat unit from previous versions has been replaced with a pair of lightweight individually adjustable single seats, and a full-color TFT screen has been mounted behind the 12-inch (305 mm) race suede-covered steering wheel.

For the suspension, the new car retains the double unequal length wishbones configuration with inboard, pushrod operated dampers borrowed from open-wheel race cars, but the geometry of the entire system has been drastically improved.

Ariel Atom 4 Standard Bilstein Suspension
Photo: Ariel Motor Company Ltd
As standard for North American customers, the Atom 4 comes with 2-Piece Eibach race-spec springs and a set of Bilstein single adjustable shocks.

The carmaker offers two optional suspension packages that feature motorsport-derived Bilstein MDS double-adjustable dampers or state-of-the-art Ohlins TTX three-way adjustable shocks. The latter are usually found on single-seater, prototype, or GT race cars.

Under the rear cover, we find the heart of the Atom, a Honda K20C turbocharged 2.0-liter (122-cu in) four-cylinder i-VTEC direct-injection engine borrowed from the Civic Type R. It uses a new exhaust system which features a ceramic honeycomb, palladium/rhodium-rich catalytic converter and an 8.4-inch (215 mm) stainless silencer.

Ariel Atom 4 Honda Engine
Photo: Ariel Motor Company Ltd
At around 6,500 rpm, the powerplant reaches its maximum standard output of 324 hp, while the peak torque value of 310 lb-ft (420 Nm) is felt at 3,000 rpm.

Power is delivered to the rear wheels through a six-speed manual transmission that uses a lightweight aluminum-alloy casing.

For an extra $8,000, customers can choose to drastically upgrade their Atom 4 with the Performance Package that boosts engine power to 354 hp, adds a three-stage variable boost controller, high-performance radiator, race-spec ECU tuning, adjustable traction control, de-cat performance exhaust system, and a limited-slip differential.

Ariel Atom 4
Photo: Ariel Motor Company Ltd
Even without any upgrades, drivers can accelerate to 60 mph (96 kph) from a standstill in just 2.8 seconds, and if they continue to floor the pedal, the Atom 4 can reach a top speed of 162 mph (261 kph). These figures make it the fastest standard Atom produced so far by the British manufacturer.

Conceived by Coventry University student Niki Smart with input and funding from various automotive industry companies such as British Steel and Tom Walkinshaw Racing, the car was first unveiled at the British International Motor Show in October 1996.

Initially powered by a naturally aspirated 1.8-litre Rover K-series engine, it was a resounding success that led to mass production four years later.

Since the second part of 2020, the Atom has been manufactured under license in North America by TMI Autotech, Inc. in Alton, Virginia, and is available for a base price of $75,000.
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About the author: Vlad Radu
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Vlad's first car was custom coach built: an exotic he made out of wood, cardboard and a borrowed steering wheel at the age of five. Combining his previous experience in writing and car dealership years, his articles focus in depth on special cars of past and present times.
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