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Ariel Atom 3S: 272kW on just 612kg!

Published Oct 14, 2014


Alton, Virginia - British sports-car maker Ariel of Crewkerne in Somerset has made quite a name for itself with its series of Atom track-focused roadsters.

Built like a classic motorcycle with its tubular-steel 'exoskeleton' frames on the outside and specced on the principle 'less costs more', the current Atom 3 usually has a 2.4-litre Honda iVTec four delivering about 172kW which, in a two-seater that weighs just over 600kg, is enough to get both you shaken and stirred.

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And here's the kicker: Despite the fact that it has no body worth speaking of, no doors and no roof, each and every production Atom is fully street legal.

But now Ariel's manufacturing partner and distributor in the United States, TMI AutoTech - based appropriately at Virginia International Raceway in Alton, Virginia - has taken the Atom one giant step forward, with an in-house turbo conversion for the Honda four that pushes its output up by an extra 100kW, to a reliable 272kW.

Now that, in a 612kg chassis, is edging into supercar territory - 0-100 in less than three seconds and the standing quarter-mile in 10.7.

The turbo installation is fully intercooled, with an additional sponson either side of the cockpit to house the extra plumbing - which is what decided TMI to make it a stand-alone model.

Then, to make it worth your while to spend the extra $25 250 (R280 000) it put together the best of the available options and a couple of all-new features in one package and called it the Atom 3S.

Customers can choose from three transmission options: the standard Honda six-speed manual set-up, a modified close-ration 'box, or a new, six-speed, paddle-shift, sequential gearbox by French racing transmission specialist Sadev - which includes a motorcycle-style quickshifter so you can change up at full tilt boogie without having to lift off the loud pedal.

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There's also a new traction-control system, adjustable through a range of five settings via a simple rotary switch, so you can decide just how much wheel-spin you want and simply dial it in.

Suspension is by Ariel's proven pushrod layout, now with JRi adjustable dampers (specially re-valved for this application) and two-piece springs, and the 3S comes with Alcon four-piston brake callipers on fade-free two-piece floating discs (usually an extra-cost option) as standard.

The two occupants are firmly supported by race-inspired composite seats, while a full liquid-crystal display keeps them informed of speed, revs, gear position, coolant temperature and fuel level

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Each Atom is built by hand to order using a combination of CNC machining and fabrication - which gives customers plenty of scope to indulge themselves with nice-to-have goodies such a racing clutch and a carbon-fibre wing - and comes packaged with a full glass windscreen (it's a roadworthy requirement in some jurisdictions).

Pricing for the Atom 3 from TMI starts from $64 500 (R714 000), the 3S order book opens at $89 750 (R993 500).

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