How Can I Own One?
People ask me how I came to own an Ariel Atom. Well, I was inspired by a piece on a British car show, Top Gear. I've loved the show Top Gear for many years. It's a bit sarcastic and they take pleasure in making fun of, and have a great time thrashing super cars (and the super cars are something I've drooled over most of my life).
Then one day, Jeremy Clarkson, the host of the show decided to compare a particular car against super bikes. Now, I've ridden sport bikes and super bikes most of my life and so this episode really caught my attention. Racing a car against a super bike? That car was the Ariel Atom.
I've watched Jeremy Clarkson drive everything from the Ferrari to the Lamborghini, Porsches -- every kind of car you can imagine. So, when Jeremy Clarkson enthused about a car, it really caught my attention. If you watch the video you'll see that he described driving the Ariel Atom as "Nirvana" and said it was the best car he's driven in his life. (You can see the video here) It's the episode that really set off the burning desire in me.
After the burn set in that I had to have an Ariel Atom, I had to temper it with the reality that I live in Southern California and I figured the importation fees would be a nightmare. So it kind of went on the back-burner for about a year. Then I was cruising through You Tube and saw the Clarkson interview again. I found a link to a company making the Atom in the States called Brammo Motor Sports. Brammo had a great track record in building fast cars and Ariel UK had done a deal with them to actually make the cars over here. At that point I realized I needed to look into Brammo Motor Sports and see what they were doing with the Ariel Atom. When I checked the prices I said, "Wow, for the price of a mid-range BMW I could actually own an Atom." Then having to watch Jay Leno pull out of his driveway in an Ariel Atom was far from pleasing when I didn't have one.
So, I'm perusing the Brammo website and saw that a person could configure their own Atom. Now I was in a business that I had built up over the last 12 years. The business was ok, but realistically I wasn't in a position to buy what my wife would consider a "toy." So again, the burn went from the front burner to the back burner and sadly remained there until I was able to sell my business and I got into a different venture called Vetraceuticals, which is company involved in Pet Nutrition. At that point I realized I could actually do something about getting an Atom.
I found myself surfing the Atom forums to find out what was going on with the car. I used to get regular emails from a guy named Bill Feagin at Brammo who would inform me on the production schedules and so on. It was clear Brammo were going to have a price hike so they sent out a mass email that if you purchased before Father's Day 2007, you could lock in your price (which would amount to about a $7,000 savings). I thought about it and thought about it but had to temper my zeal with the fact that I was going through a major transition in my business life, etc. I'm sure you can already guess what happened next: by the end of Father's Day I had submitted my order to buy my Ariel Atom.
Come Monday morning I woke up and realized what I'd done. I'd wired a deposit (1/4 the purchase price) on a car that I'd never laid eyes on. The Atom that I configured had 300 horsepower, which is a crazy amount of horsepower for a 1,400 pound car. But like my mother used to say, there's no point in watching your feet with your socks on. So I figured, if I was going to jump into this car, I may as well have the b*lls-out version. So I got it configured and barely dipped my toes into the buyer's remorse phase, because I knew I'd done the right thing. First of all, I'd have the sheer pleasure of having an Atom and secondly, I'd bought a car that is ironically an appreciating asset. Not only due to the price hike, but also for other collectors who may not want to wait 6 months to have one built. I figured I could already make $15,000 more than I paid for it. So, having committed to it, I made sure I was fully committed to it and that I'd have a way to pay for it.
The Ariel Atom is no mass-produced car, this is not something churned out at the Porsche factory. The factory of origin back in England I believe only has seven employees. Brammo in Oregon only has about five employees. These are hand-built cars so it's not something you're going to get overnight. I had sent my deposit in so I knew I was in for at least a 4-month wait, but I was drooling over the car and couldn't wait to get it in my garage...
I had to buy my Atom from Brammo as a kit for self-assembly. Because I wanted the car to be completely safe, I actually paid someone to assemble my car that really knew what they were doing.
It should be noted that Brammo Motor Sports in Oregon are no longer involved with the production of the Ariel Atom. They are now focused on their Enertia motorcycle. The Ariel Atom production in the United States has been taken over by TMI Auto Tech, based at the Virginia International Speedway. Obviously for those of us out in California, it's a bit more of a pain being across the country. But everything I've read about TMI is that they will be an absolutely fantastic company to make the Atom and I'm confident they will handle production in a very efficient manner.
Thanks to TMI you can actually thrash about in an Ariel Atom at various race tracks. I highly recommend going on one of their Ariel Atom Experience Track Day events. Try contacting TMI for schedules. Also check ArielAtom.com where you can go through the configurator and spec your car out like I did before purchasing.
If you have a burning desire to own an Ariel Atom, you'll need to go through TMI. If you want one already street legal, you can buy used. Downside is you'll likely pay more money. Be aware if you're a California resident and you miss the January 1st deadline to file the SB-100 (see legal page) to get your Atom street legal, you might have to wait a year before you can apply again.
If you're serious about owning an Atom I would recommend joining the Ariel Atom club where you can contact experienced owners.