Archive for the 'Appearances' Category

One last set of pictures

Here is my Atom, all washed and ready to go to its new owner tomorrow. Each picture is clickable for a larger view. These are probably the first pictures where you can see the “new” (2008) full carbon-fiber body panels.





AtomFest – the AfterBlast

2 years ago, at the first AtomFest, Bruce Fielding from the UK and I brought various bottles of rare Scotch for a post-AtomFest party. There were also kegs of various beers like Stella Artois and Old Speckled Hen.

This year Bruce couldn’t make it, so it was left to me and a couple other folks to provide the spirits. I brought another bottle of the 40-year-old Invergordon that had been such a hit the first time, along with a bottle of Compass Box’s Spice Tree – the whisky that was so good, the SWA (Scotch Whisky Association) banned it.

After the closing banquet and awards ceremony, I’d arranged with a bunch of people to meet over by the campfire to crack the bottles open. When I arrived at the fire pit with a citronella candle, there was no fire and no people. There also wasn’t any kindling. I started peeling off whatever splinters I could from the logs that were there, dipped them into the candle wax, and lit them. I managed to get a small (very small) fire going, but there was no way to progress from some kindling to the large logs. Fortunately, one of the AtomFest folks happened by and saw the problem. He went over to his motor home and returned with an axe and a bottle of kerosene. I’m sure there’s a good reason why these are supplies he carries with him…

He split some of the larger logs into more manageable pieces and got a good fire going. Seeing the fire, people started wandering over. Once we had a critical mass of a half dozen people, I used my Atom key ring (which has the Atom fob, the gas tank key, and the side door key to my house on it) to cut the tape holding the box with my two bottles closed. I dropped the key ring (which I didn’t realize until much later) and poured glasses for anyone who wanted to sample the Invergordon.

I wandered up to the 3rd floor of the main building with a whisky snifter in my hand to give Ken my camera’s memory cards for the communal photo pool. When I reached into my pocket, I realized that my Atom keys weren’t in there. I left my memory cards with Ken and walked back to the garage to see if I’d left my keys in the Atom. No luck.

When I walked out of the garage, I didn’t see the ramp that leads up to the lavatories, next to the garage. I tripped over the ramp and did (or so I’m told) a 360-degree spin and landed on the ground, face up, with my eyeglasses flying into the grassy area nearby. But I did hang onto my whisky snifter and it didn’t break, though most of the whisky sloshed out.

A bunch of folks apparently saw me fall down and came running over to help. I was still mostly concerned about finding my Atom keys (I really didn’t want to be known as the idiot who lost his car keys at AtomFest). Someone brought a flashlight and we all started looking around in the banquet tent because I thought that perhaps they’d fallen out when I took the raffle ticket out of my pocket. No luck.

We all walked back to the fire pit and someone asked “Did you have your keys out here?” and I realized that I had used them to open the box the bottles came in. After that, it took only seconds to find them lying right there on the ground. At that point, people noticed that I was bleeding from the wrist, elbow, and knee. Someone suggested “Use the Scotch to sterilize it” and I went “No! Save the Scotch!”. A couple people brought first aid kits from their campers and we walked under one of the lights to get me patched up.

By the time I got back to the campfire, there was only about an inch of Invergordon whisky left in the bottle, so I confiscated it and said “This is for CalScot”, since I’d promised some to him. I cracked the Spice Tree bottle open and served folks from that one. CalScot came over and I poured the Invergordon for him. He says it’s one of the best he’s ever had – high praise indeed.

Folks were asking me if I was Ok, and I said that as long as all four limbs were attached, I was fine. I also said I’d rather crash on my face than in my car.

More and more people arrived, some with other bottles they’d brought, and we all had a great time talking about Atoms and everything else imagineable. One new Atom owner who took delivery of his Atom here at AtomFest asked me for advice on driving it home to California, and I shared what I’d learned from my cross-country drives. The discussion then turned to critters in the road, and CalScot and I both told him about the times snakes on the road had been flung into our Atoms by the front wheels. I think we made him a little nervous 8-).

We all had a great time, and by 1 AM I decided to call it a night and head back to my motel. I’m not sure how long the campfire continued after that, though I’m sure I’ll hear stories…

Note: I’ve left out almost all names, and there aren’t any pictures (that I know of) of any of this. Anybody who wants to admit they were there is welcome to chime in with their story.

Update: Here’s a picture Driver took of some of the folks around the fire. The lights in the background are from TMI’s giant trailer:

AtomFest placeholder

This is a placeholder for details on the 3 days of AtomFest

AtomFest Day -1

Monday arrived painfully early when Tim Webb picked me up at 7 AM in Randy’s new Corvette. It has one of those keyless ignition fob thingys, and we had a close call when we pulled into a gas station and Tim realized that if he shut the car off, he wouldn’t be able to get it started again.

We made it back to the track on fumes, and I proceeded to get the Atom out of the garage bay where I’d left it the night before.

Five of us had gotten together to book the track for ourselves on this day before AtomFest. Actually, I had booked it myself and when one of my friends on the Atom Club Forum contacted the track, the track told him I had it booked, so we decided to split the cost.

We all had different goals – some just wanted to have an extra day of fun, CalScot wanted to evaluate changes he’d be making to the car’s setup, and so forth. Personally, I just wanted to get familiar with the track and get some time in so I wouldn’t make an ass of myself during AtomFest proper.

During the day, more and more Atom folks rolled into the infield. The day was cloudy with occasional showers, but nothing major.

Alec and Nadine from the UK arrived in a rented camper, driving up from Texas. I could see that Alec wanted to experience the track, so I offered (after a nudge from Nadine) to let him take my Atom out. Actually, she’d just asked if I’d let him passenger while I drove, but (as I freely admit) I’m not that good (I believe in living the Top Gear motto – “Ambitious, but rubbish”) so I gave the car to him. He had a blast. Here’s a picture I took of him lapping in my Atom:

Here’s CalScot’s amazing 475HP Atom going past in a blur:

I don’t have any shots like those of me driving my car, but here’s a still from the video I was recording with my nose camera:

Once the track closed for official runs, people brought out various modes of transportation and drove them on the track in “slow” laps (though some of them were pretty spirited). In addition to Atoms, we had various cars, including a couple that were probably rented (shhhh….), motorcycles, and the occasional golf cart. There’s a sign on the pit lane entry that says “No Motor Homes” – I expect that someone was crazy enough to try to do a hot lap with a camper sometime in the past. Either that or the track owners saw the Top Gear episode where Richard Hammond tries to invent the sport of caravan racing…

Here’s my Atom #85 on the left and Eddie Hill’s #499 on the right. From left to right, the people are Tom Smurzynski, Eddie Hill, and Randy Lamp:

After everybody’s need for the track was satisfied (at least for the moment), Randy rounded us up for the traditional AtomFest eve dinner at the Rib Crib in Sand Springs. Unfortunately, they seemed to have misplaced the reservation Randy had made for 40 people. However, they recovered quickly and opened up a corner of the dining room for us. The serving staff had the impression we needed separate checks – normally there’s one tab per table and everybody throws into the pot. So they come out with 30-odd folios and try to match up bills with people. It all worked out in the end, and from what I could see, the tips were generous all around.

After dinner, we all got into various cars (we carpooled into town in “normal” cars, since it was raining off and on) and drove back to the track. I headed back to my cabin from the track, determined to make the 8 AM driver’s meeting the next morning (and hopefully catch the last of the 7 AM breakfast).

AtomFest 2009

The second US  AtomFest will be held on September 15th through the 17th. I’ll be driving there and back like I did for the previous event. I’ll be driving the shortest route there, which is on the interstate highways. But I’ll be taking the long way home, meandering through the South and sampling lots of BBQ and the best driving roads. I’ve posted a tentative calendar in PDF format here.

I’ll have the same Atom Across America hotline number as in previous years – 551-580-0100 – if you want to call in to see where I’ll be. This number will be active starting September 7th and through to October 1st. I’ll try to update the message each evening to say where I’ll be on the following day.

Here’s a group shot from the first AtomFest in 2007 (click on the picture for a full-size version):

AtomFest 2007 Group Photo

You can find more information about AtomFest at

Atom Across America featured in Sports Car International

The January 2008 issue of Sports Car International has a road test of the Atom as well as a feature on my Atom, with some pictures of the car in New York City. This issue is at newsstands now (November 2007) through the end of December (or whenever the issue sells out). Starting in January 2008 it will be available for purchase as a back issue from the above link.

If you’re just coming to the Atom Across America site because you read the article, welcome! Feel free to explore. You can start with the categories to the right – The Build, The Trip, etc. Note that the posts are in reverse order, with the newest at the top. Also, please look at the Links section to the right – the official web sites for both the US and UK factories are there, as well as the Ariel Atom Owner’s Club, which has a huge amount of information for anyone interested in the Atom.

Here’s an image of the part of the article dealing with my Atom. Sorry about the blurring of the text, but I assume the folks at SCI would prefer that you purchase the magazine from them. Once it is off the newsstands, I’ll see about getting reprint permission to show the article here.



Thursday morning started with driver instruction, first in the classroom and then follow-the-leader on the track until we all got comfortable with the layout and lines of the track. Here’s a few of the Atoms lining up for tech inspection before heading out to the track:


After that, we alternated in two groups on the track. After a break for lunch, it was “take a Brit to the track”, since the UK Atom owners weren’t able to bring their cars to AtomFest.

I let Joe (the resident track expert) drive my Atom on the track to give a UK owner a better track experience than I could deliver. Unfortunately, a short way into a lap (turn 4, for those keeping track), a coolant hose popped off the coolant tube on my Atom, leaving behind a cloud of coolant which turned the track into a slick surface, causing the next 4 or 5 cars to do some interesting spins. Here’s my Atom venting coolant:


This had my Atom in the service bay until late Friday morning. Unfortunately, while the shop was able to get the coolant line repaired and the engine checked out, my instrument cluster started acting up again. This meant that I wasn’t able to get an accurate reading for engine temperature (it read 61 degrees below zero). With that, I wasn’t comfortable pushing the car hard on the track, since I wouldn’t know if the alarms I was getting from the dash were real or a hallucination from the dash. I did a few [relatively] easy laps on the track, but spent most of the time taking pictures.


This is Eddie Hill’s Atom:


This is CalScot’s amazing 400HP Atom. It sounds completely different from the standard Atom:


Some intense video action:

Competition heats up:

Tight in the turn:



I’m leaving today for AtomFest, the first large-scale gathering of Atoms in the US. As usual, I’ll be posting from my various stops along the way, as well as from AtomFest. 

Cruise Down Memory Lane – Pictures

Of course, what was initially forecast as a beautiful weekend changed (after everyone had arrived) to “scattered showers in the afternoon and evening”. However, after a relatively brief period of rain, the sun came back out and the attendees deployed their towels and squeegees to clean up the cars. 


The show is limited to classic American muscle cars (1973 or older), Corvettes of any age, and newer American cars by invitation only. When I pulled up to the entrance, the staffer there said “Please tell me that’s an American car – I’d hate to have to turn you away”. I told him it was (made in Oregon) and that I had cleared it with the event co-ordinator beforehand.

Vineland closes about 1 mile of their “main drag” in the heart of town for this show, and cars park on either side of the street:




The Atom received a lot of attention, though I couldn’t walk away and take pictures – a lot of the other attendees just rolled up their windows, locked their doors, and strolled up and down the street to check out the other cars.


After 2-3 hours of static display, cars pull out and cruise up and down the closed section of the street. The police and organizers hope that this occurs in an orderly fashion, but the spectators cheer the drivers on to do burnouts, etc. The police mostly tolerate this, as long as they aren’t enveloped in a cloud of burning rubber. The police also have a classic police cruiser (complete with “gumball machine” light) in the cruise.

This cruise happens at very low speeds – 5-10 MPH, with frequent stops to allow more cars to pull into the street and cruise. After 2 laps, a number of cars exited the show. I went for 3 laps and then exited, as the fumes from the burnouts and old engines were getting to me.

Overall it was a great experience and I’ll be back next year if scheduling permits.

Cruise Down Memory Lane – Vineland, NJ June 9th

Look for the Atom Across America at the 2007 Cruse Down Memory Lane in Vineland, NJ on June 9th (weather permitting). More info on the Cruise at