Atom evolves into Nomad

British maker Ariel has created off-road version of revered track car

Published: December 30, 2014, 12:10 PM
Updated: November 23, 2021, 11:54 AM

Ariel Nomad

Car enthusiasts who have ever set tires on a track have been gushing over the Ariel Atom for nearly a decade. Now Ariel is giving off-road enthusiasts something to swoon over with the Ariel Nomad — the latest take on the dune buggies of a past generation.

There is one big difference, though. It’s still a rear-wheel drive vehicle. The company has admitted to its promise in mild off-road applications — forest trails, cottage dirt roads, that sort of thing — but haven’t compared it to, say, Dakar racers in the Sahara. Yet.

“We know the car is quick and stable,” says Henry Saunders, son of Ariel founder Simon Saunders. “We’re looking forward to discovering how it performs in genuine off-road conditions — in mud or crawling over rocks — compared with a traditional 4×4.”

Power is supplied by a rear-mounted 2.4-litre Honda four-cylinder engine, rumoured to make around 200-hp through a six-speed manual transmission.

Since there is not much to Atom other than a chassis and engine and two seats, there is naturally not much to Nomad. Add a tubular roll cage to the street car and you pretty much have it. All the other add-ons (bush lights, knobby tires, etc.) are up to individual preferences.

The car is expected to be unveiled at the Autosport International racing car show in Birmingham, England. The purchase cost will be in the 30,000 British pound range, roughly $54,000 Canadian.

The first Atom was built in 1996 (unveiled at the 1996 British International Motor Show) as a Coventry University student project under the tutelage of the elder Saunders, who created the Ariel Motor Company in 1991. It looks like an open-wheel race car without the skin, and anyone who’s driven one says it’s the next best thing to driving a race car.

Today’s Atom is street legal in a few jurisdictions (mostly due to lack of some required safety features, such as bumpers), but enjoys widespread use on race tracks. There is even a single marque series in England. It is made under license in the U.S., by TMI Auto Tech of Virginia, which operates the Atom Experience track days at various racing facilities in North America.

It is powered by a choice of Honda four-cylinder engines (naturally aspirated, turbocharged or supercharged), although it can house one of GM’s Ecotec four-cylinders or even an Ariel-made V8. The completely adjustable suspension is tuned by Lotus, and that’s where its track-ready manners thrill anyone who’s lucky enough to drive one.