The Ariel Atom 3 is a unique open-cabin track car that has essentially pioneered a niche market for those seeking racecar-like performance on a much more reasonable budget. The Atom 3 forms the basis of the insanely quick Atom 500 V8.
Now, given the fact that the Atom 3 is not a federalized car suitable for road driving in the U.S., the car is still quite a pricey "track toy," but compared to building and operating a comparable race car, the Atom can be justified by some to be quite the bargain.
While the Atom is built by Ariel itself for European consumption, in the U.S. Ariel has tried a few different partners, and most recently has given exclusive rights to build and sell the track car through a company called TMI AutoTech Inc., based at the Virginia International Raceway, where the cars themselves are assembled.
For the latest model year Ariel, updated the Atom 3 by swapping out the Honda K20 engine in favor of a newer K24 2.4-liter four-cylinder unit that pairs with a six-speed close-ratio syncromesh transmission and a limited-slip differential. This updated powerplant produces 230 horsepower.
While that power figure may not wow you by itself, the Atom 3 weighs a scant 1,350 lbs and can rocket from zero-to-sixty mpg in under three seconds according to Ariel.
Stock brakes come in the form of PBR single piston units, which can be upgraded to Wilwood Dynalite four-piston brakes, or even more pricey Alcon track brakes with four pistons as well.
The suspension comes standard with non-adjustable Bilstein shocks, while adjustable units can be had for a bit more cash. If that doesn't tickle your suspension fancy, customers can also pay to upgrade to chromoly aerofoil wishbones and race-grade rod ends.
One of the most unique design aspects of the Atom 3 is the tubular chassis which not only supports the car, but replaces nearly the entire body that would be used on any other vehicle. This exposes virtually every component to the elements, from the front brakes to the engine, but also drops the car's curb weight to just half a ton - making it far faster and more nimble than most supercars.
Factory standard colors include silver or black powder coating for the chassis with fiberglass bodywork and fenders in black, but carbon fiber bodywork, fenders and custom colors can be added via option.
Stock wheels feature 12 spokes, but especially lightweight magnesium Dynamag wheels can be had for extra dough. The standard wheels come wrapped in Yokohama S.drive tires, which can be upgraded to the newer Advan AD48 model tires.
For the reason track enthusiasts, things like a quick-disconnect steering wheel, battery master switch, carbon fiber wing kit, intercom system, remote brake bias adjuster, roll bars and more can be added through the options list.
Other optional features include a full glass windscreen, clutch/passenger footrest, high intensity rain light, side panels and a towing eye kit.
In some regions, including parts of the US, the Atom is road-legal and can be driven to and from the track - but this is definitely limited to select regions.
The Atom 3's closest competitor is the similarly minimalistic and track-focused KTM X-Bow, while the Lotus Elise and Porsche Cayman R each carry more weight but share a pure, driver-focused character with the Ariel.