Ariel Motor Company History
In the late-nineties, while a lot of car manufacturers looked to the past to style their cars, the Ariel name returned to a sports car that looked like it belonged to a new millennium.
Over fifteen years later Ariel Motor Company continues to go from strength to strength. Crafting small numbers of hand-built sports cars and motorcycles from their Somerset factory that sell around the world. Ariel continue to prove that low-volume, hand-built, car manufacturing is alive and well, and as viable today as it was 100 years ago.
Ariel Motor Company Origins
Ariel is a historic name dating back to the early days of the motor industry. Their motorcycles are famous but less well known is that they also made cars, including Grand Prix cars and an Ariel entered in the first ever race at Brooklands. Sadly, after over a century, the name disappeared in the mid seventies, it’s fate entwined with the rest of the British motorcycle industry.
Ariel Motor Company as we know it today, was started by Simon Saunders, an automotive designer and consultant, whose cv. includes work for many of the world’s car and bike manufacturers, big and small. In the late nineties he decided to put “his money where his mouth is”, acquired the Ariel name and set about realising the ambition of creating his own vehicle. The Ariel Atom was born.
Ariel Motor Company’s first car
Ariel’s first prototype was smaller than the Atom production car, with a different chassis and bodywork. Power came a Ford Puma engine, the tyres extremely skinny 135/70×15 and, like a racing car, the driver sat directly on the car floor, which was moulded into a seat.
Adjustment and safety dictated the car grow bigger for production but the basic ingredients were right and Ariel used the knowledge gathered from the prototype in the re-design for the first, Rover K series powered, production Atom.
The Ariel Atom was launched in 1999, a ‘Lotus 7’ for the new Millennium. Interest in track days was growing quickly in the 1990’s and Ariel’s first car was what track day enthusiasts had been waiting for.
The Ariel badge
The Ariel ‘A’ logo was designed by Simon Saunders on the back of a book cover on a train journey to London. As regards a meaning, it has many (or perhaps none) – the letter A, a plan view of a car, the road disappearing into the distance, an aerodynamic suggestion…….
Ariel Motor company today
Until 2014 the Atom was the only model Ariel manufactured, although it has evolved through many different forms over the years – Atom, Atom 2, Atom 3, Atom V8, Atom Mugen and now Atom 3.5.
In June 2014 Ariel launched the Ace motorcycle and in January 2015 the Nomad, which starts production in April 2015.
The Atom club organises events for Ariel owners and fans in the UK. Please see our Ariel Clubs page for more information.
Click the images below to find out more about each individual model and its history.