Sam Philip28 May 2009

Atom 500: the world’s fastest?

Will the V8-powered Ariel be the world’s quickest-ever production car?

When we first saw the Ariel Atom 500 last year, it's fair to say we were excited. Well, wouldn't you be? A skeletal track special with a 500bhp V8 wedged in the back and a power-to-weight ratio of 1,000bhp per tonne, twice that of a Bugatti Veyron?

Then it all went very quiet. We were sad. Had the financial downturn claimed another victim?

No. Ariel has just given us a whole bunch of new details on the Atom 500, and confirmed that it will build 25 of the insane lightweights this year.

Here's the number you really need to know: less than 2.5 seconds. That's how long it'll take the Atom 500 to hit 60mph, and it'll rack up 100mph in less than six seconds for good measure. Ariel reckons it could be the fastest production car ever made.

All that speed comes from a 3.0-litre, naturally aspirated V8 developing 500bhp. It's a neat little unit, weighing in at less than 90kg and channelling its power to the rear wheels through a six-speed sequential gearbox. For the moment, you'll have to change gears with a manual shifter, but Ariel says it is investigating the possibility of paddle shifters.

Like the Caterham R500, the Atom 500 features adjustable traction and launch control... but we'd imagine it'll still be a Stig-spec task to get all that power down on the start line. Revised brakes and a stiffer suspension set-up should come in handy when you arrive at that first corner far, far quicker than you expected.

As for the price... well, Ariel says it hasn't been confirmed yet, but asserts that ‘standard specification will be very high'. We're not completely sure what options boxes you can actually tick on a Atom order form (steering wheel? Passenger seat?) but that doesn't seem to have put off potential customers: almost half of the 25 planned 500s have already been sold.

It's going fast, in other words. Would you expect anything else?

Now watch Clarkson get his face reshaped by the Atom smasher:

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