's Great British Cars – Ariel Atom

Sun 5th Aug 2018

Great Britain, great cars. The UK motor industry is respected the world over, and though many of the vehicles are actually owned by foreign manufacturers, there can be no doubting of the fantastic heritage of the British motor.

To celebrate Britain’s famous history is launching a series looking back on some of the most famous vehicles the UK has ever seen.

Ariel Atom
A car designed by a University student and named for a washing powder doesn’t seem the most obvious contender for a British classic, however, the Ariel Atom, lives up to its name by being small, powerful and explosive.

Coventry University design student, Niki Smart, was the brains behind the Atom, originally known as the LSC (Lightweight Sports Car) he was assisted in no small part by senior lecturer Simon Saunders who acted as financial manager for the company and who described Smart as ‘the best all-round design student I’ve ever seen.’

Perhaps it was youthful naivety, but the ambition to take the project to market may have seemed fanciful in an era where the life of a British sport car manufacturer is often short, and very rarely sweet.

The Atom was revealed to the public at the British International Motor Show at the NEC in 1996 and 22 years later it is still going strong, driving a fine line between single-seat racing and road legal smarts. With a spritely 620kg weight, Lotus engineered chassis and very reliable Honda engines, you might expect to see the Atom on the start line at Silverstone, and with its most recent upgrade seeing a 500bhp V8 added to the mix, there are strong boasts that the Atom can achieve 0-60mph in 2.3 seconds.

These are the kinds of stats which get motor critics going all giddy in their driving seats, especially when the Top Gear team saw the Atom 500 break the lap record of just 1:15.1, a record was only beaten when the Pagani Huayra knocked a full second off the time. Still, the Sunday Times still rates the Atom as the third-fastest accelerating production car, behind the Bugatti Veyron and the Ultima HTE.

Years of manufacture: 2000-present 
Price when new: £19,995
Price now: £30,572
Engine: 1,998cc 4cyl petrol, 245bhp
Top speed: 140mph

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