TEAMSPEED FIRST DRIVES Drakan Spyder, BAC Mono, Ariel Atom

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The Drakan Spyder, BAC Mono and Ariel Atom all have one problem in common: public roads. Each one of these cars is inhibited by laws, and my lawlessness doesn’t like this. My bad side only wants to rebel against laws. Unfortunately for you, the reader, my lawful, rational side usually overpowers my devilish side, so I’m unable to report stories of how I took each one of these cars well into the triple digits. I cannot report that the Drakan was my getaway car as I led police on a high-speed chase that got me past the U.S.-Mexico border. While I cannot report that I broke any laws (allegedly) while driving these cars, I can report I still had fun in them. They are remarkable, and they are good at representing three distinct flavors in the ultra-light sports car segment.

Drakan Spyder

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A premium blend of hot rod and racer.

Rick James once said, “Cocaine’s a hell of a drug.” An eRod LS3 is a hell of an engine. It’s amazing how much a V8 engine can transform the ultra-light sports car experience. The Drakan handles remarkably, and rides as comfortably as a luxury sedan, and the other two cars do, too, but that’s where the similarities end. Just by looking at them, you’d never know how different all three of these cars are. And then you drive them, and then you feel how the LS3’s soul rumbles through the Drakan Spyder’s TIG-welded chromoly tube chassis. If this car had a 2.4L Honda engine like the others, I can imagine it feeling a lot like them, but it doesn’t. Other than ride and handling, it’s really nothing like the other cars, and I blame that on the GM V8. I’ve never driven a vehicle where a V8 makes such a difference in a car’s character, and that’s what makes the Spyder the most unique among these three.

But the GM-sourced V8 is a double-edged sword. The sound and rumble of this car makes it feel like a bit of a hot rod, too. That could be a positive for many people, but for me, I want the Drakan to feel like a racecar all the time. When you’re driving the car fast, it feels like a racecar, but when you’re driving it slow, it feels like a show car. For my personal tastes, that makes me feel awkward. I’m sure many others, however, will find that split personality appealing.

There is a solution to my dilemma. If I owned one, I would simply drive fast, and hoon, hoon, hoon. Problem solved.

Among the three cars in this article, this is the one you should buy. It offers world-class design with a visceral experience, and the sound of that 450-horsepower LS3 is as hard to pass up as other sports cars trying to pass this rocket sled on the open road.

Ariel Atom 3S

Ariel Atom

It’s just really, really fast.

This is not a car. It is a toy. No, it’s too good to be a toy. It’s a sex toy. Now, call me boring, but I’ve never used a sex toy. Imagining what it would be like to use a sex toy, however, I don’t believe I’d have a religious experience over it. When I drove the Bugatti Veyron, that was a religious experience for me. Driving the Atom fell short of speaking to the burning bush. When you place the Atom 3S chassis and its 365-horsepower turbocharged Honda 2.4L i-VTEC four-cylinder together in the witches’ brew pot, you have a potent 1,350-pound recipe, but it’s not mind-altering. This isn’t ayahuasca, but it’s a mean cup of Joe. The several times I flattened the Atom’s loud pedal, undoubtedly it moved me quickly. It woke me and my genitals, but it didn’t shatter my world. It didn’t make me go catatonic after grabbing it by the scruff of the neck.

After I drove the Veyron, I was catatonic for 15 minutes. It was life-changing. Compared with the Atom, acceleration in the Veyron (handling and turn-in, too) is like making your living room bolt around and dance like a Miata. You don’t expect a 4,000-pound-plus car to dance that way. This element of surprise adds to the excitement. The Ariel is at odds with surprising you. You expect the Atom to be bat-diarrhea fast, and it is. That’s great, but where’s the surprise? It’s still thrilling, but it doesn’t take your breath away. I think the Ariel Atom V8 500 with its 10,500-rpm, 3.0L double-‘busa motor would take my breath for a joyride. I would require a diaper to drive it, too.

The only way you’re going to have a religious experience driving the Atom 3S is if you have soiled many a sheet dreaming of the opportunity to drive one. The way I’m wired, I’ve soiled sheets over the Bugatti Veyron, but not for the Atom. My colleague Jonathon Klein is the opposite of me. The day I got to drive all these cars, Klein was with me, and when the time came to test the Ariel Atom, Klein drove first. I sat shotgun.

We had little time with the car compared with the Drakan Spyder and the BAC Mono, but with Klein, it takes less than a minute to get him riled up into a religious experience. Seeing Klein in a religious catharsis’ midst is unnerving. His voice goes alto, and you can see his skeleton rearing to jump through his epidermis. The best thing about the Atom was getting someone crazier than me to drive it so that I could begin to fear for my life, but the worst thing was seeing someone crazier than me nearly exploding out of their body once they drove it. Have you ever gotten blood and guts all over you when someone explodes from too much excitement? I ran that risk riding with Klein, and if he did explode, I was not looking forward to that dry cleaning bill.

BAC Mono

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The biggest surprise.

Before driving the BAC Mono, I was no fan of racecars for the street. I don’t know what was wrong with me. Let’s call it “racecaritis”. I think it’s a mental disorder that falls under “bad taste” in the DSM. The BAC Mono is the cure for “racecaritis”. It’s a taste-changer.

The Mono is a wonderful example of how power isn’t everything. Why? Because among the three, it’s the least powerful, and yet it was my favorite car of the day. Right now BAC claims a 305-hp maximum output from the Mono’s 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. I think the one I drove was supposed to have 270 horsepower in its state of tune, but when I drove it, it felt like the best the four-banger could do was 200. For a 1,300-lb car, that’s still fast, but it’s not “hella fast” like the Ariel or the Drakan. I don’t care that the BAC was “slow” compared with the others. It made me feel special. The way the sequential-shift transmission engages into first gear. It’s a simultaneous click, clap and bang. This transmission strums chords, and it makes me go “hnnng”.

The Mono is not a car for people who live from the mind only. It’s for people who want to get more in touch with the soul. When the Mono clicks into gear, if one could interpret it into English, it would say, “Get ready for serious business on the road ahead.” It’s an authoritative click that makes you sit up to attention in the single-person cockpit. And then you drive it, and you feel like the CEO of all the roads.

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Because the BAC Mono is the most racecar-looking among the three cars, it is also the most contrasting when sitting among traffic. The Mono feels special to begin with, but when you’re sitting at a traffic light with a Toyota Camry to your left, and a Ford F-150 to your right, the contrast ratio becomes even more pronounced. Have you ever thought of how it would feel to bring a 21st-century vehicle back to the 19th century? With the Mono, I felt like I had returned to the 21st century with a 23rd-century work of art. I was getting stares like I was Marty McFly.

Yeah, the BAC Mono can do all the things a racecar for the street is supposed to do. It’s fast, it can handle, corner, it looks good, and as an added bonus, it rides well, but the way it makes you feel light years different from everyone else on the planet — that’s what it does best. This car urinates onto the wall of the rat race. This machine fires shots at the boots of conventionality. This car is the anti-Camry, and because of that, it deserves its own national holiday.

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