Frequently Asked Questions

Visit TMI Autotech for more info.What the heck is it?

It's an Ariel Atom.  It was designed and first built by Ariel Motor Company in the U.K.  Brammo Motorsports in Ashland Oregon then acquired the rights to build them in the U.S., and I purchased mine from them.  There quite a few Atoms on the road across Europe, but less than a hundred in the U.S. as of this writing (late 2007).  Jay Leno purchased the first one built in the U.S. and was instrumental in getting the supercharged GM Ecotec engine offered in the vehicle.  Check out this Wikipedia article for more info on the origin of the car and the people behind it.

Is it street legal?

Atom owners have been successful in getting the car registered in quite a few states.  Since there are very few in the U.S. at the moment, many owners find that the registration process does take some time to work through.  It depends a lot on the state that you live in and the option list that you order the car with (lights, signals, fenders, windscreen, etc. all cost extra).

Is it a kit car?
Did you build it yourself?

The car can be purchased in the U.S. with a self-assembly option, or owner-installed drivetrain option.  You can also purchase the car ready to drive.

Is it quick?
What engine does it have?

Yes - you can see the numbers on my Specs/Stats page.  Mine has a 2.0 liter supercharged GM Ecotec engine (great cutaway video HERE) which was available in the car on a limited basis.  Today, a Honda engine is standard.

What's it like to get in one for the first time?

I have a difficult time trying to describe it since it is very different from any other car - the view it gives you of your surroundings, the attention it gets on the road, and how it seems to be able to bend the laws of physics.  These guys have done an outstanding job of describing it: Jacob Potts, Normansan, J Edwards.  Please take a moment to read what they have to say.

One of the best quotes I've read so far on this topic comes from a Car & Driver Magazine article dated 6/2009: "To reproduce the sound of an epic lap in an Atom in your garage, throttle a circular saw about 12 inches from your right ear." (in reference to the sound of the supercharger).

Or another related to the sound, from Top Gear NZ dated 5/2009: "We tried talking to one another, but it was like having a conversation inside a vacuum cleaner."

What kind of gas does it take?  How about the mileage?

Unleaded fuel of 91 octane is specified as the minimum, but the engine will benefit from 92 / 93.  On my longest trip so far, I had a high of 29 mpg on the highway.  Aside from that, the average seems to be around 21 mpg with mixed city/highway driving.  But when you're in this car, good mileage is often the last thing on your mind.

What happens when it rains?

You get wet. If you wear a helmet and the proper waterproof clothing, it makes the drive much more enjoyable in the rain.  The car itself is pretty waterproof, but the engine's air intake (located between the driver's and passenger's heads) doesn't like huge downpours.

How much did you pay for it?

People will often ask me this, and it surprises me because it's a very personal question.  This car is not the cheapest, but it is an all-out bargain when you look at its performance stats (can be viewed here) and compare them with other cars several times its price.  The website for TMI (current North American manufacturer of the Atom) should be able to provide you with pricing information.  Note: The base price shown on the TMI website today is significantly higher than when I purchased mine in early 2007.  In fact, if I had to pay what the cost is now, I seriously doubt that I would choose to.

Is that [in]famous car that was on the Top Gear TV show?

If you're talking about the clip where the ride distorts Jeremy Clarkson's face and sets his cheeks flapping, then yes - that's the one.  The impact of that video clip alone is largely responsible for my decision to purchase this car.  It also made more people aware of Ariel Motor Company, the Atom, and the car's capabilities.  If you haven't already seen it, you can view it HERE in high quality.  It is well worth the time and is guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

Is that the electric car?

No.  Wrightspeed purchased an Ariel Atom chassis and converted it to be electric.

The Atom pictures on this site show different colors - are they all the same car?

The photos are all of the same car.  There are only two fiberglass panels on the car that typically receive a finish paint job, and additional sets of panels are available from the factory for a reasonable price.  Many owners pick up an additional set of panels to paint a different color.  It only takes about two minutes to swap them out as they're held in place by Panex/Dzus-type quarter-turn fasteners.  When I first bought the car, I had black panels.  Then I bought a second set and painted them a copper color.  Most recently, the green fire airbrushing was done on my original black panels.  Image galleries showing many photos in each color can be found here.

How do they get this motor to produce this level of horsepower (compared to the Chevy Cobalt SS & Saturn ION Red Line it is also in)?

Internally, the motor is very similar to the Chevy & Saturn mentioned above.  There are a number of things that are different externally however, and you can read about them in my post on the ION Red Line Forums here.

More to come...