Ariel Atom 500 V8: more details and photos

Published: 28 May 2009

British sports car specialist Ariel is beavering away on its latest adrenaline hit: a V8 version of its Atom. As if the regular Atom wasn’t barking enough, the new Atom 500 features a new 3.0-litre V8 producing 500bhp (hence the name), which propels it deep into ‘fastest car in the world‘ territory.

Ariel has shown one exterior image of the Atom 500 already (pictured), but today is the first glimpse of the new V8 engine. Ariel director and owner Simon Saunders told CAR he had contemplated using the 2.4-litre supercharged RST V8 that Caterham uses in the Levante, but decided it didn’t suit the Ariel spirit.

‘We’ve chosen a naturally aspirated V8 from the US – it’s designed by John Hartley, but we will assemble it ourselves here in Somerset,’ Saunders told CAR.

An Atom with a V8 engine… Craziness ensues?

Pretty much. Ariel is targeting a sub-500kg kerb weight, which suggests a 1000-per-tonne output. We’re talking 0-60mph ‘in under 2.5 seconds and 0-100mph in less than 6.0sec’. You’d better hold on tight!

The 3.0-litre V8 is a 32-valve, 75deg naturally aspirated unit and weighs less than 90kg. Saunders admits the Atom 500 V8 will be a pretty specialist bit of kit – the six-speed Sadev sequential gearbox alone costs £11,000.

New suspension and brakes will be fitted to cope with the thrust on hand, while the aero kit pictured will be standard too.

How much will the Ariel Atom V8 cost?

Prices have yet to be fixed, but Saunders said it would be ‘in excess of £100,000’ when sales start in July-August 2009.

That might sound punchy for a small, niche-volume sports car, but Saunders is a wily operator. He’s been producing the Atom for nearly 10 years now and has carved out a sustainable business model that’s prospering even in the hard times.

In 2008, Ariel built around 100 cars and Saunders claimed he would build a similar number in 2009. ‘We have orders until autumn 2010 and are relatively unaffected by the recession,’ he told CAR. ‘We specialise in making tailormade cars to order – we’re like the Savile Row of sports cars and there will always be a demand for our business.’

Ariel Atoms and depreciation

Saunders said his order bank was mostly unaffected by the global economy and pointed out that people were trading down from Ferraris and supercars to take advantage of the Atom’s depreciation strengths. ‘I had one guy recently who sold his 2004 car for £500 more than he paid for it originally.’

Sounds to us like Ariel has carved out a successful niche. While some British sports car makers have come and gone with the regularity of a yo-yo, this Somerset company has created a strong business by having an exact proposition, a brilliant product and a lack of greed in its ambition of scale.

No wonder it’s already sold half the Ariel Atom 500 V8s already – of a cleverly limited production run of 25 cars.

By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet