My Atom at the ruins of the Crest House, Mount Evans, Colorado (highest paved road in the continental US).
In 2004, I started thinking about getting a second car for fun, to augment my BMW 325xiT Sport Wagon. I didn't have anything specific in mind, other than "more fun" and "less practical". I had heard that BMW was going to be making a lightweight M6, and looked at the new 6-series (non-M) coupe at the 2004 New York Auto Show. The styling just didn't do anything for me (in fact, it completely turned me off). Additionally, the interior seemed cheaply made, and instead of a spare tire in the trunk, there were wires and a fuse box in a Styrofoam insert.
While wandering around the rest of the auto show, I landed in the Porsche booth, where they were displaying a nice Targa model. That seemed interesting, and I decided that when I got around to it, I'd wander into my local Porsche dealer and see if anything appealed to me enough to consider buying one.
This idea simmered for over a year. I was actually getting ready to drive up to the Porsche dealer one day in July, 2005 (warm summer days make me want to buy sports cars) when I read a post titled "Ariel has a USA factory?" on one of my car forums. It showed pictures of the Ariel Atom and described plans to build them in the US (rather than importing them from the UK).
I searched and found the Ariel Atom Owner's Club (AAOC), which had a link to the Top Gear video. I was immediately sold on the Atom, being infinitely fun and infinitely impractical. I contacted Brammo Motorsports, LLC, the US manufacturer, and said "What do I need to do to get one of these?". (Actually, I also asked a lot of questions about options, etc.).
Brammo responsed with a copy of their initial marketing document which answered some frequently asked questions, as well as providing some guesstimates about pricing and production dates.
I let this info sink in for a while, telling myself "I can do this... I can do this...". On September 8th, 2005 at 1:30 AM (east coast time), I received an email from Brammo offering access to a beta-test version of the Atom configurator program. By 2:30 AM that same night, I had configured an Atom and placed an order, giving me the 2nd order placed through the configurator. I sent my deposit check off the next morning, and the waiting began...
I also placed an inquiry with my state Motor Vehicle people asking what would be needed to register the Atom as a street car in my state. More on this later...
Then I waited some more, hung out on the AAOC forums, waited some more, until I received my drivetrain invoice (2nd deposit) in mid-January 2006. This is when the parts started to be collected for the build of my car.
My car was scheduled for completion at the end of July, 2006. I made plans for an extended cross-country trip (detailed on my An Atom Across America web site).
TODO - more stuff here...
You might also be interested in viewing my pages about my garage and its construction.
A number of people have asked me what options I ordered the car with, as well as what I've added / plan on adding. My car has just about everything available from the factory:
- GM Ecotec 2.0 Liter 300hp 250 ft/lbs
- Polished Stainless Steel Header & Exhaust
- Race Brake Package
- Aluminum 2-way Adjustable Dampers
- Billet Aluminum Steering Rack
- Quick Release Steering Wheel Hub
- Custom Color Bodywork
- Color Coordinated Fenders
- Custom Color Chassis
- Stainless Hardware
- 15" Front / 16" Rear - 12 Spoke - Silver
- Yokohama Advan A048 tires - 205/50R/15 Front, 225/45R16 Rear
- Masterlube Accumulator System - Ecotec Engines
- Roll Protection Bar
- Fire Extinguisher Kit
- Remote Brake Bias Adjuster
- Battery Master Switch
- Towing Eye Kit
- SPA Microdash Datalogger Carbon Dash Kit
- Additional sensors (oil temperature, battery voltage) for Microdash
- Twin Bubble Windscreen
- FIA High Intensity Rain Light
- Recaro Seating Package
- 3" Competition 6 Point Belts
- 3" Competition Seat Belt Pads
- Road Race Lighting Kit
- 12V Power Source
- Billet Aluminum Accelerator Pedal
- Locking Fuel Cap
- Passenger Footrest & Driver Deadpedal
- Blind Spot Mirror
- Indoor Car Cover
- Outdoor Car Cover
- Check Engine Light, no fault codes logged
- Upgraded front fenders (turning radius)
- Billet bellcranks
- Dual Hella horns (louder!)
- Motrax Mirally mirrors
- LED turn / brake / indicator / backup lights
- Autocom intercom system
- TomTom GPS
- 3rd Brake Light
- Oil cooler and remote oil filter
- Universal Garage Door Opener
- Rear 4-pot Alcon brakes
- New brake (2) and clutch (1) master cylinders
- Race-grade rod ends
- Rod end safety washers
- Unique Performance Rear Uprights
- TMI replacement front spacers
- Sector111/HyTech Exhaust
- Dual Chasecam system
- CAN bus to OBDII socket
- Carbon fiber body panels
- Clear protective film on all carbon and painted panels
- Ignition switch safety cover
- Additional horn buttons on steering wheel
- Protective thermal cover for rear center light area
- Brake bias display on Microdash (coming soon)
- Intercooler temperature display on Microdash (coming soon)
- Electronic Deer Whistle (coming soon)
I have created a number of DIY documents which may be of interest to other Atom owners:
- Oil Change
- Third Brake Light (CHMSL)
- BMW Universal Garage Door Opener (UGDO) (DIY writeup in progress)
- Dash Reset Fix (for reference only, not recommended)
- Remote Oil Filter and Cooler (pictures only, not a complete DIY)
Additionally, you may find the following materials helpful:
- The spares and tools I carry in my Atom
- A list of useful documents
- Connecting a Battery Tender
- Modifying old-style River Runner LED lights
Each of the images is clickable to display a higher-resolution version.
Driving on the Tail Of The Dragon in North Carolina. Photo by Darryl Cannon.
The car parked in the garage. It is getting to be a tight fit in there, with the Atom, my BMW, and my tenant's motorcycle.
I created a flyer describing my car, based on the generic one for US Atoms produced by the AAOC. The picture on the flyer (both my flyer and the generic one) is my Atom, taken by Andrew Gebhart. Note: a prior version of this page incorrectly attributed the photo to David Woolery. My apologies to both Andrew and David for the error.