Ariel - Cars and Motorcycles

In the world of vehicles, the name Ariel can refer to two things:

  1. Ariel Ltd is the name of a modern sportscar manufacturer.
  2. Ariel is a historic British bicycle, motorcycle and car marque.

Ariel: the modern sports car manufacturer.

Founded in the 19th century, British Ariel made cars as well as motorcycles. The motocycle production carried on into the 1970’s, while the car production was dropped much earlier. In 2001, Solocrest Limited (founded 10 years earlier) decided to reuse the Ariel name and changed their name from Solocrest Limited to Ariel Ltd. Solocrest Limited had no previous connection to the Ariel company.

Ariel Ltd is now based in Crewkerne, Somerset and is one of the smallest automobile companies in the United Kingdom. As of today, the company produces less than 100 cars each year and has no more than 7 employees. 

The most famous Ariel car is the Ariel Atom, an extremely light-weight, high performance car. There are two versions of this Ariel car: the UK version and the US version. For the UK version of the Ariel Atom, a Honda Civic Type-R engine and gearbox is employed, while the USA version is available with a supercharged GM Ecotec engine.

Atom Ltd produced the first road-going exoskeletal car in the world – a car without any bodywork or roof. This exoskeletal Atom car was built entirely around the tube chassis, and this makes it possible to create an extremely lightweight car. By keeping the weight under 500 kg, Ariel managed to give the high performance supercharged model a power-to-weight ratio that exceeded 600 bhp per tonne. It should also be noted that this was achieved at the fraction of the normal cost for a conventional supercar.

Ariel: the historical bicycle, motorcycle and automobile marque

Ariel was once a bicyle, motocycle and automobile marque manufactured in Birmingham, and later Coventry, in the United Kingdom. The company history goes all the way back to 1847 when an early pneumatic-tyred wheel for horse drawn carriages was created. In 1870, the Ariel name was revived when James Starley and William Hillman invented the wire-spoke wheel; a wheel type that made it possible to build a much lighter bicycle than before. The two inventors named their light and speedy bicycle Ariel. In Shakespeare's The Tempest, Ariel is the name of an airy spirit. Starley and Hillman also put the name Ariel on the factory where they were already making sewing machines and penny-farthing bicycles (bicycles with one small and one giant wheel). In 1885, Starley made yet another groundbreaking creation: the Rover Safety Bicycle. This vehicle was chain-driven bicycle with rear-wheel drive and to similar-sized wheels. This is still the basic design of modern day bicycles.

The name Ariel “disappeared” from the market for a while, but it was to be revived again in 1896 – this time for motorised vehicles. The first motorized Ariel was a tricycle fitted with a 2.25 hp De Dion engine at the rear. In 1901, Ariel also began making motorized quadricycles and after that, the step was not far to full-blown car production. Ariel Cars were produced over two periods; 1900-1915 and 1922-1925.

In 1902, a company named Components Ltd and owned by Charles Sangster bought Ariel, but the company was subjected to a series of financial crises during the early decades of the 1900’s. Spells in receivership occurred in 1911 and in the early 1930’s, and Components Ltd went bankrupt in 1932. When this happened, Jack Sangster, the son of Charles Sangster, purchased the Ariel subsidiary from the receivers at a very low price. He renamed the company Ariel Motors (J.S.) Ltd and resumed production.

Examples of Ariel Car Models


The first Ariel car was a 10 hp twin-cylinder car produced in 1902.

The second Ariel car was a 16 hp four-cylinder car produced in 1903.

In 1904, Ariel began the production of a six cylinder model built on a tube-frame chassis.

In 1905, a new range called the Aero-Simplex was announced. Aero-Simplex had four-cylinder designs of 15 hp and 25/30 hp and a six of 35/40 hp.

In 1907, Ariel began production of the 50/60 hp six. This Ariel car had a 15.9 litres engine.

After World War I, Jack Sangster designed the small Ariel Nine which was launched in 1922. It had a flat-twin, water cooled engine of 996 cc. That same year, Ariel Nine was joined by the 1097 cc four cylinder Ariel Ten.

Famous Ariel Motorcycle Models

Ariel Square Four
Red Hunter
Models A - G
Ariel Arrow
The Military Model WNG 350
Trials HT5
Trials HT3
Scrambles HS




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