back to article A thousand mile Atom merci mission: Driving from Monaco to London in an open-topped motor

Eagle eyed Reg readers who read our review of the Rolls-Royce Wraith will have spotted that there was an Ariel Atom parked next to the Rolls-Royce in Monaco and ahead of us near Rouen. Only the smartest cars get to park here This is not a coincidence. The trip to the South of France had a purpose: A friend had an Atom in St …

  1. graeme leggett Silver badge

    lack of self cancelling indicators?

    Minor pick I know, but I'm fairly sure our Ford Prefect had self-cancelling - for its trafficators.

    Is the lack of them on a 21st century car a engineering choice or a style choice?

    1. Gordon 10

      Re: lack of self cancelling indicators?

      I've never understood that. Sports cars and motorbikes - we can design engines that produce almost 200 bhp/l yet can't manage universally available self cancelling indicators.

      1. string

        Re: lack of self cancelling indicators?

        I have self cancelling indicators on my motorbike (Honda Crosstourer) and they're the work of satan. Really bad idea - they self cancel way too early on larger roundabouts, just like car indicators often do.... except it's much much easier to not notice it's happened on a bike (can't hear them, and you can't really be looking down at the dash to check while negotiating a big junction). I don't know how you implement them on a motorbike reliably. You very infrequently use much steering angle at all, and you can be steering the 'wrong' way ( or if you're going really slow, the 'right' way.

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. Dr. Mouse

        Re: lack of self cancelling indicators?

        It's actually difficult to set up self cancelling indicators on a motorbike.

        In a car, they rely purely on the steering wheel position. On a bike, the handlebars can be in all sorts of positions, and the bike at all sorts of lean angles. One aftermarket system I saw just kept the indicator on for 5s, unless you were holding the brake (e.g. sat at a junction). Other than that, I suspect they will have to judge based on speed, lean angle, steering angle, and probably more parameters in a non-trivial algorithm to determine when you have finished going round a corner.

        The other option is to let the rider decide.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Re: lack of self cancelling indicators?

          I haven't driven an Atom, but on my Kit, self cancelling ones were a utter waste of time. When you have lock to lock in 1.1 turns, the slightest turn the other way, would knock them off. I just replaced mine with non-cancelling ones (that just so happened to look a million times better as well).

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: lack of self cancelling indicators?

          @Dr. Mouse: It's actually difficult to set up self cancelling indicators on a motorbike.

          It isn't really. My 1979 750 Yamaha has them, as did many Yamahas of the era, and they work very well. If anyone is interested (and this is The Register, so I'll assume somebody is), they use a combination of distance and time. There's a little reed switch in the speedo body that provides a certain number of pulses per front wheel revolution. Then there's a little black box that counts the pulses and measures time.

          All the box does is keep the indicators on for 150 metres or 10 seconds, whichever is the longer. The result is that they don't go off early if you are sat in slow traffic; conversely they stay on long enough for you to signal your exit from a motorway.

          I'm not entirely sure why Yamaha stopped fitting them but they work very well, even on my 35-year old relic. Perhaps there were patent issues, or product liability problems or whatever. I would love to know.

          1. Dr. Mouse

            Re: lack of self cancelling indicators?

            they use a combination of distance and time

            Interesting, thank you. That's a really simple method I hadn't thought of.

          2. fruitoftheloon

            @Informative Graham: Re: lack of self cancelling indicators?


            Yup, you're right, thanks for the info.

            Have one on me!



        3. Steve Evans

          Re: lack of self cancelling indicators?

          Very difficult to set up on a bike... Due to the curved profiles of the tyres, you can (and do) steer a bike purely by leaning over on the tyres, with little or no rotation of the bars... Big movements of the handlebars are only for the shuffle shuffle shuffle of parking up somewhere at very low speeds.

          I like the idea of a system that uses the speedo pulses to cancel them after a set distance though, that sounds like a nice modification.

      4. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: lack of self cancelling indicators?

        The problem with bikes is the lack of a central steering wheel shaft to mount the cancelling snib on - I seem to recall that various manufacturers tried self-cancelling indicators in the 1980s but never really got them to work (tried timers, distance measuring et. al.). They even had a short-term fad for having beepers on the indicators to remind the rider but, for some unfathomable reason, chose something that sounded like the pelican crossing beeps.

        You just get used to pushing the indicator switch in to cancel - it eventually becomes muscle memory and you do it without thinking.

      5. James Micallef Silver badge

        Re: lack of self cancelling indicators?

        "can't manage universally available self cancelling indicators."

        The problem I find with self-cancelling indicators on cars is that if I have to make a slight 'straightening' correction mid-curve / mid-turn, the mechanism kicks in. Why make the self-cancelling so sensitive?

      6. Aberdeen Angus

        Re: lack of self cancelling indicators?

        Presumably because every junction is taken using opposite lock.

      7. Steve Evans

        Re: lack of self cancelling indicators?

        Having wrestled and argued with "self cancelling halfway through a manoeuvre" (or, you can't quite latch me on right now as the steering wheel isn't quite in the correct position) indicators for more years than I care to remember, the canceller broke in my car about 4 years ago, and you know what, I love it!

        It would probably be only a few £, and less than an hour's work to fix, but I'm more than happy with an indicator which indicates when I tell it, and stops when I tell it. There's a big flashy thing on the dash to tell me it's flashing, and the tick-tock sound, so I never forget.

        I know that also being a motorcycle rider might help me with this, but it seems far more relaxing.

        Occasionally I drive the work van... Its self cancelling is over enthusiastic... So much so that when cancelling from a right, it flies down with so much force, it goes into left indicate... This is kinda cool for indicating roundabout exits, but usually just annoying.

        I'm tempted to "convert" it to manual too.

    2. Graham Marsden

      Re: lack of self cancelling indicators/ bells/ whistles...

      The point is the equipment on the Atom is the bare minimum of what is needed. Self-cancelling indicators are not needed, they're a luxury, so they go.

      FYI my motorbike doesn't have self-cancelling indicators either, but it's hardly a chore to press the button with your thumb to cancel them after you've turned a corner and provided you check your instruments as part of your Information phase (you do scan the road ahead, mirrors and instruments regularly, don't you?) you'll notice if you've left them on.

      The Atom isn't a practical car, but if I could afford one, I certainly would buy one *and* drive it back from Nice (admittedly ensuring I had a decent set of Textiles to wear...)

      1. MrT

        "if I could afford one, I certainly would buy one..."

        ... absolutely agree there, but now the Nomad has been released there's another option - a way to avoid the autoroute toll booths, or even the tarmac altogether (green-laning from Nice to UK...? :-D ). I'm not so sure if it'd get parked up on show in the same way as the Atom though. More extreme eye-candy for front-of-Casino would be the older limited run bewinged 500 V8.

      2. DropBear

        Re: lack of self cancelling indicators/ bells/ whistles...

        "it's hardly a chore to press the button with your thumb to cancel them"

        A chore it may not be, but I can tell you with utmost confidence that I cancel my indicators at least ten times as often as I actually engage them, as a reflex - for fear of the odd "forgot them on for the last ten miles" case that still happens sometimes. Curiously though I'm pretty sure I read in the official manual for my bike (I got none with mine, it was a second-hand buy) that they _are_ actually supposed to self-cancel; naturally, they do no such thing.

      3. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Re: lack of self cancelling indicators/ bells/ whistles...

        As a rider of 30 years or so, I've never figured why motorbike indicators don't cancel on an upshift. It's the first bloody thing you do coming out of a corner, and there are already upshift switches for clutchless speedshifters.

        Edit: My '84 Sabre had an RCA 1802 with a lookup table for the steering angle to cancel the signals. The table was printed in the service manual. It worked, mostly.

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: lack of self cancelling indicators/ bells/ whistles...

          > I've never figured why motorbike indicators don't cancel on an upshift

          Because it isn't guarenteed that you'll upshift - particularly on a bigger pot-sized bike..

      4. James Micallef Silver badge

        Re: lack of self cancelling indicators/ bells/ whistles...

        "FYI my motorbike doesn't have self-cancelling indicators either, but it's hardly a chore to press the button with your thumb to cancel them... "

        Me too, except when I switched from a japanese bike to a Beemer with the 'traditional BMW' and frankly idiotic layout of individual left, right and cancel switches. The number of times I beeped the horn at innocent motorists when I was really trying to cancel the bloody indicator!!

        Thankfully I gather that they have now sensibly gone with the same switches everyone else uses

    3. Ilmarinen

      Re: lack of self cancelling indicators?

      No self cancelling means you always have to cancel them. So you never forget. And you never get caught out by self-cancelling indicators that didn't cancel. 2CVs, Dyannes and CXs & early BXs for example - presumably before good French engineering was overruled by EU diktat.

      That said, I had an SR500 once where the indicators timed out after a minute or so. That was neat.

    4. Ralph B

      Re: lack of self cancelling indicators?

      I was more concerned by this sentence:

      > The Atom has a dreadful steering lock, and some hairpins needed two bites to get around.

      A sports car of that size can't negotiate a hairpin?!?!

      I think I'll stick with my Mazda MX5 for this and MANY other reasons.

      1. Simon Rockman

        Re: lack of self cancelling indicators?

        What I don't get with MX-5s is why there are so few of them. I drove the new 1.5 last week and it's amazing. Sweet, beautifully handling and everything falls to place. I really, really want one.

        But it's not savage like an Atom. It doesn't have the grabbing the horizon and pulling it towards you brutality.

        But yes, there are lots of good heart as well as head reasons to buy an MX-5 over an Atom.

    5. Dan McIntyre

      Re: lack of self cancelling indicators?

      Just to put the cat among the pigeons - my 21st century Vauxhall GTC doesn't have self-cancelling indicators. They're on a toggle switch, attached to my throttle and brake control.

  2. Dave 126 Silver badge

    I would recommend keeping a roll of Self Amalgamating Tape - the silicone variety - in one's car to anybody. it can be used for repairing hoses and pipes, fashioning tool handles, and some have even used it as a stop-gap fan belt. It has no adhesive, but sticks to itself.

    Duck Tape and zip ties are of course essential too!

    1. K

      "Duck Tape and zip ties are of course essential too!"

      100% agree.

      Though I see you forgot to mention the other essentials, balaclava and a gag.

      1. fruitoftheloon

        K: balaclava & gag?


        Well each to his/her own I say, in my experience those items were more fun 'at home', but we may be talking at cross purposes.



    2. Anonymous Coward

      If it doesn't move and it should......WD40. If it moves and it shouldn't....gaffer tape.

      1. James Hughes 1

        WD40. It is NOT a lubricant. The clue is in the name, WD which standard for Water Displacement.

        Use a proper lube. You know it makes sense.

        1. Vinyl-Junkie

          Thing is...

's quite difficult to finder "proper" lubricants in aerosol cans. WD40 on the other hand works as a lubricant and can be sprayed into those hard to reach places.

          Toolkit for motorbike touring: Multi-tool, Cable ties, gaffer tape, WD40, coil of insulated wire. Anything that couldn't be fixed with that lot at the roadside long enough to get you to a garage was likely to require the services of a recovery truck in any case.

          1. x 7

            Re: Thing is...

            ."it's quite difficult to finder "proper" lubricants in aerosol cans. WD40 on the other hand works as a lubricant and can be sprayed into those hard to reach places."

            I keep telling my that to my other half but she still objects to cans of WD40 stored under the bed

    3. phuzz Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Jubilee clips are a damn handy thing to have around for quick bodges as well, and personally I like to keep a bit of 1-2mm thick wire for attaching thing A to thing B where necessary.

  3. Banksy

    Another go?

    Simon, would you and your fellow travellers now make the same journey to take the Atom back to France?

    Shame about all of the electrical gremlins on the car. It also really needs a Stack dash which I believe the 3.5 model has.

    1. Simon Rockman

      Re: Another go?

      Yes, in fact the car is currently back at Ariel in Somerset and we are thinking of a trip back to London in it.

    2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Another go?

      > Shame about all of the electrical gremlins on the car

      One might almost think it was a Ducatti (or similar Italian-bred car/bike) - what works in the nice warm, sunny and mostly dry parts of Italy don't always work in the un-nice, un-warm and distictly un-dry parts of Northern Europe.

      (One year we went to Ireland on the bikes and one of the Dutch guys was riding a Ducatti-derived bike (can't remember the exact make but it was all Ducatti mechanicals and electricals) - the regular morning routine was:

      Wake up


      Spray bike with WD-40 liberally


      Spray bike again, attempt to start


      Repeat (spray bike + attempt to start) until started.

      Once started, hover over bike and keep tweaking throttle until engine+electrics warm


      Dress in yesterdays soggy leathers, ride bikes away[1]

      Stop for coffee.

      [1] Except the one day when we got up and it was still tipping it down with rain. We decided to stay in the pub.

      1. Vinyl-Junkie

        Re: Another go?

        Ah, touring Ireland by motorcycle. You do have to love motorcycling (or Ireland) to enjoy that particular experience! I obviously do as I've done it three times (and got wet on every single one of them!).

        1. x 7

          Re: Another go?

          "touring Ireland by motorcycle."

          never done that, but toured it a few times in wet weather on a pushbike.

          Not to be repeated again - two weeks in wet weather with soaking shorts on a diet of Guinness and soda bread produced the most gargantuan haemorrhoids imaginable. Couldn't sit on the bike at the end - had to peddle standing up just to avoid the pain. It was so bad I had to endure the ferry back to Liverpool standing as any attempt at sitting risked blood loss.

          Never been back - too many memories.........

  4. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    The bloody flies (and other airborne thingies)

    means that you should treat driving an Atom just like riding a Motorcycle.

    Helmets are IMHO mandatory.

    Once you have had a bee fly up your nostril at speed, you will know that I'm saying makes total sense.

    The Atom is a great track car btw. Perhaps a review driving it where it excells is in order?

    As a former Caterham owner I know from bitter experience about the dodgy electrics. It is as if the ghost of Joe Lucas (or even worse Wipac) is hanging around just to haunt this sort of car.

    1. Anomalous Cowturd

      Re: The bloody flies (and other airborne thingies)

      Gotta agree with that sentiment.

      I copped a big fat Bumble bee in the face back in my motorcycling days. Nearly had me off my bike, and gave me a beautiful "shiner" for a week. Furry little bastard!

      Perfect icon for the occasion...

      1. x 7

        Re: The bloody flies (and other airborne thingies)

        Bumblebee...yep, I had one of those once. Open face helmet, hit my glasses, bent the frames double. I thought I'd broken a cheek bone though the x-ray was inconclusive.

        Potentially worse was when I hit a wren at ~90mph. Glasses took all the shock and were totally destroyed, I got a small bit of bruising. Lucky not to be blinded. Switched to full face helmets after that...

      2. DropBear

        Re: The bloody flies (and other airborne thingies)

        Somehow the air current swept (and locked) one of them wee buggers under my full-face helmet once. I honestly never knew that bike could stop so fast...

        1. TitterYeNot

          Re: The bloody flies (and other airborne thingies)

          "Somehow the air current swept (and locked) one of them wee buggers under my full-face helmet once. I honestly never knew that bike could stop so fast..."

          I know what you mean. For the ultimate test of how good your front brakes and tyre are, try getting an angry wasp past your collar and inside your leathers.

          Thought an early 1200 Trophy couldn't do a stoppie? Wrong...

        2. Tom 7

          Re: The bloody flies (and other airborne thingies)

          I was heading up the M6 and the lorry in front suddenly popped open a set of louvre doors along the side and several hundred racing pigeons took flight. One hit my windscreen and would have had my head off if it not atomised and covered the windscreen in un-wipeable pigeon fat. Still not sure how I made the hard shoulder amongst the ballet of cars and birds.

          I've never had the courage to ride a motor bike or windscreen less vehicle that does more than 40 ever since.

          1. x 7

            Re: The bloody flies (and other airborne thingies)

            M6 and birds....

            around 15 years ago a lorry load of live chickens collided with another full of paint between J33 and J34............the results were somewhat sticky and it took a long time to unglue them from the road.

            Nothing to do with the subject but the M6 / bird story just struck a memory

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: The bloody flies (and other airborne thingies)

              A couple years ago, the wife & I did a ~2,300 mile road trip from Sonoma, CA to Tucson, AZ and back on our matching R 1150 GSs, to attend a wedding. We were only off the Ranch about 48 hours. No, we didn't take the most direct route. Yes, most of it was I5 and Desert Highway super-slab at ~85MPH ... Two hour nap before the wedding when we got there, and 4 hours at the No-Tell Motel in Mojave on the way home. She got her first Iron Butt license plate frame for that ride. (Like myself, she usually only needs 4 hours sleep per day.)

              Bees ... Been there, done that. Most long-term riders have stories. My "most adrenaline released" version involves no initial injury to myself ... but I had a bunch of dead bees coating my kit. Was on a street-legal track bike, at about 85MPH, about a mile away from the turnoff to Thunderhill (outside Willows, CA) for a track day. A swarm of bees decided to cross paths with me. It was coolish (60F?), so I had the vents in my leathers closed ... but how none of them managed to get into my helmet and gloves I have no idea. I pulled over on the off-ramp and took stock, cleaned my visor, carried on. When I pulled into the paddock, I took off the leathers to clean the leather before the corpses could set, and got stung about a dozen times by the corpses (I have been keeping bees since before I can remember, bee stings don't really bother me when my feet are planted firmly on the ground). The Tech inspectors were absolutely terrified about going over my bike, but because they knew my record of safety, they let me ride anyway.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The bloody flies (and other airborne thingies)

      From TFA:

      "But even the most hardcore petrolhead is going to baulk at 890 miles non-stop in a car with no roof, windscreen and a screaming supercharged engine."

      Well, actually nonstop yes, but there are plenty of motorcyclists who I am sure have done just that over a weekend. As a student (and a wimp) my weekend record was around 600 miles with a party in the middle, and that was in the very early 1970s with Lucas electrics (remember - spare everything including ignition coil.) I remember a Vincent owner telling me of a somewhat epic jaunt of around 900 miles over a weekend, in order to collect some spares for a friend and visit his granny. And surely at ordinary motorway speeds the Atom engine would be far from screaming?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        Re: The bloody flies (and other airborne thingies)

        600 round trip? I once drove 1100 miles from friday at 5pm to monday at 2am, with my girlfriend's house at the 550 mile mark. I've also driven from Atlanta to Dallas and back over a weekend, 1600+ miles. Yes, I like to drive, I really like to drive. My all-time personal best was driving from Colorado Springs to somewhere north of Nashville, only stopping for gas and food.

        1. Rol

          Re: The bloody flies (and other airborne thingies)

          My Texan friend once told me he could drive from sunrise to sunset away from his ranch house and still be on his own land.

          I remarked that I used to have a car like that once.

          Anyone know the original author of that joke as I can't for the life of me remember?

          1. Mike Flugennock

            Re: The bloody flies (and other airborne thingies)

            On a cross-country motor trip about 25 years ago, the most discouraging part of the trip was taking two days to cross Texas despite making time as good or better than I had going from Washington DC to Arkansas.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: The bloody flies (and other airborne thingies)

              "On a cross-country motor trip about 25 years ago, the most discouraging part of the trip was taking two days to cross Texas"

              But be thankful, you got out again on the other side.

          2. glen waverley

            Mah ranch is so big ...

            Can't say who was original author but I first heard a version of this in the 1970s.

            Version I heard was the Texan trying to impress an Aussie cockie by mentioning that his ranch was so big, he could ride his horse all day and still not have ridden off his own ranch. Aussie responds " Yeah, I had a horse like that once."

            Have an upvote anyway.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Mah ranch is so big ...

              -->Aussie responds " Yeah, I had a horse like that once."

              A relative emigrated to Australia after WW2 and the family consensus was that he would be back before long having failed to make it. However, he stayed and the family consensus then was that he was some kind of jobbing builder, a big come down from our increasingly middle class family. Then he came for a visit, and happened to see my Velo. "Ooh yes," he said "I've got one of them. I use it to inspect the rabbit fence every week."

        2. Jan 0 Silver badge

          Re: The bloody flies (and other airborne thingies)

          600 round trip? I thought I was a wimp because the most I've ever done in a day's ride is 600 miles. (On a Ducati M900, which makes a fine tourer.). In fact, compared with the 150 miles I've done in a day on a loaded touring bicycle, it seems woefully inadequate to only do 600 miles!

          As for other airborne thingies, I've cycled unscathed through a swarm of bees, but have been stung by wasps and bees that crash unerringly into the flesh just above my collar when motorcycling. The impact at faster'n miles per hour* hurts, but then there's the rising suspicion that you've just been shot with a white hot pellet.

          *obscure reference for Jonathan Richman fans.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The bloody flies (and other airborne thingies)

            "I thought I was a wimp because the most I've ever done in a day's ride is 600 miles. (On a Ducati M900"

            You had a 900 Ducati? Now try doing that trip (mostly A roads) on a late 60s Triumph 500 twin. (I thought the reference to Lucas electrics might be enough, kids today, what do they know?).

            My point wasn't a "who's the most macho" but the exact reverse, that a thousand miles on a modern bike (especially mostly on French roads) isn't actually that difficult, and that on a bike with 4 wheels that is mostly just ticking over should be easier still. Mind you, my own long distance trips down autoroutes, bahns and freeways have all involved aircon, cruise control and auto boxes. Because I am Captain Sensible.

      2. Fraggle850

        @Arnaut the less Re: The bloody flies are the least of your problems (shandy-pants car people)

        Well said sir! (And saved me having to write it)

        Despite what the buffoon Clarkson might say I personally don't think you're a proper petrolhead unless you've got love for the ultimate manifestation of the form: a motorcycle. (And no, I've never had an Alpha, Jezzer...)

        Namby pamby cage pilots. I've done Birmingham to London and back (200 plus miles), ridden around brum for a few hours and then done a return trip to Port of Glasgow that started at 2pm in Wolverhampton. That was one working day (admittedly atypically long) in just another working week when I was a motorcycle courier. That is roughly equivalent in miles to the trip in the article.

        I've had the bumble bee thing too - I'd liken it to being hit in the face by a brick (sting first in the fleshy bit in the corner of my eye at 60mph - made it to the cafe, plucked the sting out using my rear view mirror and fingers while my mate got the brews and brekkies in, before continuing with our planned 60 mile ride)

        Also: 100 miles in freezing fog wearing an open face helmet - final destination being Xmas party with fellow bikers around a big bonfire.

        Personally, I think I'm a bit of a lightweight rider - others I know are much more hardcore.

      3. Kye Macdonald

        Re: The bloody flies (and other airborne thingies)

        I did Split in Croatia to Le Harve with a 4 hour sleep on the side of the road just outside Grenoble on a 2001 Kawasaki ZX-7R that had had a run in with the tarmac just outside Dubrovnic so had no screen to speak of.

    3. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: The bloody flies (and other airborne thingies)

      Of Joseph Lucas, from

      He died in Naples of typhoid after drinking contaminated water (he was a devout teetotaller and would not drink wine).

      Let that be a lesson to us all.

      1. Fraggle850

        @Dave 126 - Joe Lucas

        The legendary Joe Lucas, aka 'the prince of darkness'. I heard that he'd figured out how to break the laws of physics: light from his systems apparently used to travel in a downwards curve rather than a straight line, providing a means of illuminating the front mudguard (on old brit bikes) rather than the road ahead.

    4. Alfie

      Re: The bloody flies (and other airborne thingies)

      Joe Lucas == Prince of Darkness

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon

        Re: The bloody flies (and other airborne thingies)

        Amongst the weirdest things I ever got hit by on my bike was a square of polystyrene.

        Was traveling on the M-Way behind a Range Rover, doing about 80mph. The RR went over this square (about 2cm thick) and it got sucked up into the vortex behind it. It was basically hovering at a constant height, spinning like mad as I just fixated on it in wonderment - until it hit me right in the forehead and nearly snapped my fucking neck that is.

        F=ma - how my applied mathematics came rushing back to me on that day :)

        Sore head icon ==>

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The bloody flies (and other airborne thingies)

      Watching a stone come off an open wheel at 70 mph in slow motion is really that bugger hurt!

  5. Chris Miller

    Sounds like a traditional British sports car - Lots Of Trouble, Usually Serious.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "As great as the hairpin is, the tunnel is better"

    Unless you're in a right-hand drive VW LT van trying to exit the loading bay for the auditorium above. You're completely blind as you enter the traffic coming from your left consisting of dickheads that all think they're Grand Prix drivers. It's the scariest thing I've ever done in a vehicle* and they only time I've been close to praying.

    *And I've driven through Yugoslavia. At night. Against the flow of a road rally.

  7. Mike Flugennock

    The Rolls is a sweet-ass ride, I'm sure...

    ...but I'd rather cruise in the Atom. Kinda reminds me of Patrick McGoohan's Lotus in "Danger Man" (or "Secret Agent" in the States).

    1. David Robinson 1

      Re: The Rolls is a sweet-ass ride, I'm sure...

      I think you mean The Prisoner, where he drove a Lotus 7.

      1. James Hughes 1

        Re: The Rolls is a sweet-ass ride, I'm sure...

        Yup, the Prisoner titles have a BRG 7, yellow nosecone IIRC.

  8. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Other than a Tesla...

    The Atom is the only 4-wheeled vehicle I'd own.

  9. Mystic Megabyte


    You are just a bunch of wimps! I've driven from London to Haifa in an open topped 2CV. The biggest bonus is that it's the only car that you can get the tyre off with a motorbike tyre lever. (Many patches on all tubes, time for each repair: about an hour) Try doing that in your fancy pussy wagon!

  10. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Great article

    In spite of all the problems you had I'm quite jealous!

  11. Gavin King
    Thumb Up

    "So the Wraith was employed as a support car."

    I hope that someone else found the concept of using a Rolls-Royce as a support vehicle as amusing as I did.

    1. graeme leggett Silver badge

      Re: "So the Wraith was employed as a support car."

      I once helped a builder load the boot of his Rolls Royce with brick rubble.

      1. DanceMan

        Re: "So the Wraith was employed as a support car."

        "load the boot of his Rolls Royce with brick rubble"

        Four or five sheets of 4x8 ply (only 1/2" and skin ply) in a Porsche 944.

    2. Guy Swarbrick

      Re: "So the Wraith was employed as a support car."

      We all did. Every time we got in or out of it!

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How small is it?

    "The boot is a tiny cubby hole under the nose cone which is attached with track car type clips. It’s too small for the mandatory French equipment of hi-vis jacket, warning triangle and breathalysers"

    A warning triangle I can understand, even folded they can be quite large.

    But I could fit a hi-vis and breathalyser in my coat pockets (one in each), that must be a *really* small compartment.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've always enjoyed these Vulture on the Wheel stories but this one was exceptionally great. I wish there would have been more pictures. Both this and the RR would have deserved also more closeups of the tech - under the hood etc.

  14. imanidiot Silver badge

    One for the wish list

    The Atom is one of those cars I really wish I could afford.

    Once I finish fixing up my house the wish list is currently:

    A landrover (preferably a SII 109 Forward Control, though this might not fit in the garage)

    Something sporty. This will probably end up being a Lotus 7 derivative like a Caterham or one of them kitcars (I do enjoy a bit of tinkering).

    Here's hoping I can afford them before people think it's due to a midlife crisis...

    1. graeme leggett Silver badge

      Re: One for the wish list

      I'd like a Forward control LR too. Not sure why, but then I'd also like one of those Commer Vans with slidey driver doors and possibly an ex Mobile Library.

    2. Richard Taylor 2

      Re: One for the wish list

      Don't worry. A mid life crisis(real, imagined or fabricated) is a valid excuse

    3. fruitoftheloon

      imanidiot: Re: One for the wish list

      No you're not,

      I never got the 'mid life crisis' thing, I always assumed it was because one couldn't afford it/them in the younger years!



  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not So Clever

    First there's this:

    "This particular Atom is an Atom 2, with a 275 bhp supercharged Honda four cylinder engine. Despite being eleven years old it had done just 3,000 miles as a plaything around the roads of France and Monaco, having been trailered down many years ago."

    Right, so having been in France for many years on UK plates, it won't have had an MOT. If you had been stopped by the French Rozzers you would have been asked to produce the V5, the MOT and the certificate of insurance, and it would have to have been one that names you as a driver (given that the V5 wouldn't have had your name on it).

    Not having those things would mean the car gets confiscated and land you with a big fine. Furthermore, any car staying in France for more than 6 months has to be registered and converted to French standards (headlights, etc). Not doing so is even more fines for whoever they find driving it.

    You were taking a bit of a risk on behalf of your 'friend'. If a 'friend' ever offers you the 'pleasure' of driving their car back from France, what they're really saying is "would you like to run the risk and carry the can if it goes wrong?". Did you really think that your friend didn't know about the electrics, fuel pipe, lack of MoT, etc?

    A then there's this:

    "Over the years the rubber fuel pipe had perished and cracked. It wasn’t a simple hole; the whole pipe was rotten. When it was compressed it might hold liquid but it needed some major bodging. That came in the form of Craig very neatly wrapping a spiral tourniquet of duct tape around the pipe, which did the job of holding the pipe tightly enough to stop the fuel leaking into the tape and so dissolving the glue."

    And you decided to take a car in that condition bodged with duck tape on to the Eurotunnel? Oh that's just great. You were happy to risk leaking petrol inside a train in the tunnel with hundreds of other people stuck in there with you?

    Thanks guys. Really, thanks.

    Next time you're contemplating doing something like that can you let us all know in advance so that we can avoid you? Duck tape has amazing powers, but I'm not prepared to trust it to hold in your petrol with me stuck on the same train as you. Thanks.

    I also think it only fair that to find out what Eurotunnel thinks of that. Their Conditions of Carriage have exclusions concerning unsafe vehicles. They don't take too kindly to MoT-less cars, especially ones where the driver knows the fuel system is shot, being taken on their trains. You might not give a damn about other people's safety. Lets see how seriously they take it. GX04 VNY should be searchable in their booking history.

    Do It Properly

    If you're going to get into motoring journalism, get professional about it. Despite the mad capery for which Top Gear is renown, they're actually very careful to make sure that they're MoT'd (which is not the same as "perfect" or even "sensible"), they don't commit any traffic offences, and know how to ask for a road to be closed for a private session if they need it. They're very good at appearing to be reckless (which makes good TV) whilst not actually being so (which means they keep their licenses and their jobs).

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Not So Clever

      Exactly. Those were my first thoughts, too.

      I have a funny feeling that if I had commented on a vehicle with both a leaky fuel system and an ignition source (bad wiring) being allowed in the Eurotunnel, my post would have been nuked. As both of ours will (probably) be.

      Imagine if TEH TERRORISTS get hold of this information!

      That said, typical French pinheads in charge of so-called "security". See: Maginot.

      As for driving without lights at night? Much less on the open highway, without blind-spot visibility when changing lanes? WTF were the self-admitted perps THINKING?

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Not So Clever

        > As for driving without lights at night?

        Hey - it worked for me (for a really, really small value of 'worked') on my old Honda C70 step-through.. Pre-disastered by my older brothers - by the time I got it it lacked trivia like ignition keys (just join the wires together), brakes (they sort of worked but you had to advise them, in writing and in advance, of your intention to stop..) and a working alternator. It sort of worked but couldn't cope with running the engine *and* the lights at the same time.

        I'm constantly amazed that I survived to my 20th birthday.

        1. x 7

          Re: Not So Clever

          Honda C70? "working alternator"??????

          My C50 (admittedly very old - original "G" registration so ~ 1967 vintage) had 6V electrics and a dynamo

        2. KA1AXY

          Re: Not So Clever

          When your choice is abandoning a reserved spot on the ferry during peak season, or coaxing a van with suddenly nonfunctional brakes aboard, you are thankful (not necessarily in this order) for the handbrake, the 2 setting on the transmission and having had several cars in your youth which did not have everything working at once.

          We made the ferry. The van was repaired on island, at great cost and much inconvenience, but the holiday was saved, and we rented a Jeep for the duration (at $300/day!)

    2. hplasm

      Re: Not So Clever

      This was a public information broadcast, on behalf of the H&S party.

    3. graeme leggett Silver badge

      Re: Not So Clever

      The one saving grace (probably not the right word) of the lashup is that being open frame, any fuel/vapours leaking from the filler pipe would disperse rather than building up in an enclosed space. Still wouldn't want them wafting near electrics, hot exhaust manifold/pipe etc.

      An insert within the pipe would have made more sense.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not So Clever

        "The one saving grace (probably not the right word) of the lashup is that being open frame, any fuel/vapours leaking from the filler pipe would disperse rather than building up in an enclosed space. Still wouldn't want them wafting near electrics, hot exhaust manifold/pipe etc."

        Er, have you been on the Eurotunnel? The Eurotunnel is one of the most enclosed spaces there is on the planet for a car. It's a metal box full of people travelling at 60mph, hundreds of feet under ground and also under water with 10 miles in either direction to get back to open skies.

        It's definitely not the place to have fuel vapours or leaking fuel pipes. There's no saving grace there at all. If you want to know what fire does in a tunnel, look up the Mont Blanc tunnel fire on Google. It's deadly.

        The Eurotunnel trains have design features to contain fire if a vehicle catches fire, but you sure as hell don't want to end up relying on them. The chances of people getting out of that carriage aren't great...

        The other thing they've not been very clever on is what Eurotunnel will think. The Register has published an article where they claim to have taken a car with a leaky fuel system onto one of Eurotunnel's trains. Eurotunnel's PR department, like any other company, will look out for articles in the press about their business. Eurotunnel has to be very public about taking safety seriously, they cannot be seen to be letting people get away with it. If another journalist were to ask them what Eurotunnel thought about what The Register did, they'd have to publicly condemn it. If another journalist were to ask them what measures Eurotunnel will take to ensure that that person doesn't pose a risk to other Eurotunnel customers in future, the only thing that they can say is that they would decline to carry that person's vehicles future.

        There's also probably some law somewhere about causing public endangerment with a vehicle. Eurotunnels Conditions of Carriage make it clear that English and French law apply. Knowingly driving a vehicle in a way or condition likely to endanger others sounds illegal, and probably is.

        1. graeme leggett Silver badge

          Re: Not So Clever

          I was thinking strictly in terms of being out on the open road rather than inside a train carriage. Not meaning to denigrate your valid concerns once they were on it.

          I would have thought the stench of petrol on the train would be obvious to all and sundry. Speaking as a 40-something, sitting in traffic these days, I scarcely notice the smell of the road, until I end up begin an old car (eg T reg or thenceabouts) when the reek of unburnt hydrocarbons and ethyl lead is a shock to the nasal passages.

          1. Guy Swarbrick

            Re: Not So Clever

            There was no smell of leaking petrol because there was no petrol leaking. First, it was the filler pipe and in the Eurotunnel the fuel was far below that level, in the tank itself. Second, the complete but cracked foam rubber outer pipe was triple-wrapped, in compression. It wasn't going to leak.

        2. Simon Rockman

          Re: Not So Clever

          The owner had spent a lot of time on the phone to the DVLA in advance of the trip. It was agreed that by the simple application of money - and having an MOT booked for arrival - the problems would go away.

          In practice the car didn't attend the MOT it was booked for but was taken off-road on arrival and then trailered to Ariel the next day.

          1. Sir Runcible Spoon

            Re: Not So Clever

            I sometimes catch myself thinking about where all the 'wonder' of the world is disappearing to - and then I read these H&S arsehats and my questions are answered.

            I'm all for not burning to death in a steel tube under the sea, but I'm pretty sure that self-preservation would have kicked in had there been any chance of fuel leaking from the system during the journey. I'm fairly sure people don't keep their engines running during the journey either do they?

          2. This post has been deleted by its author

  16. Herby

    Road trips...

    My big road trip was in my nice Porsche 356, when I drove from sillycon valley to about 50 miles from the Canadian border. It only took me around 11 hours one time (I have done it several times). This was before the stupid 55 MPH speed limit they imposed on us in 1974 (and thankfully repealed!). Oh, and that included a rest period of at least 1/2 hour.

    On a couple of times my carbs would ice up and the engine would sputter. A little wait and everything was good again.

    Oh, to be young again (*SIGH*).

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Road trips...

      Guessing, Sunnyvale CA to Arlington WA ... Just under 900 miles. In 11 hours, in a VW bug. A nice bug, perhaps, but a bug nonetheless. That's averaging about 80MPH. For 11 hours. On that little fuel tank? All I can ask is "why?" ... and add that you are a more adventurous man than I am ;-)

      Side-note: There was a little gizmo that wrapped around the exhaust and directed warm air up to the carbs in conditions prone to icing. Worked by the driver, it was cable-driven kinda like the choke. Ever have to pull over at Blue Canyon to adjust the jets for altitude when heading to Tahoe?

      1. Steven Raith

        Re: Road trips...

        Ha, my dads plane (bug engined) had the same setup for de-icing the carbs; he said you'd get progressive loss of power as the carbs iced up, and then when you pulled the redirect it'd start to cough and choke even more as it was trying to burn hot, not cold air - so less expansion in the cylinders, and less bang. If you didn't know better you'd panic and try to undo what you'd done (and end up back at square one), but if you knew the thermodynamics going on, you'd wait a bit, and then the engine would level out and be happy again, with clear jets once more.

        I thought that was a modification for aero installs, didn't realise it was on the car platform too - interesting!

        Steven R

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: Road trips...

          Nearly all the light aircraft using the Lycoming and Continental type engines (so the Cessna and Piper 2 and 4 seat singles and their ilk) have that system for carb de-ice.

          The usual effect of pulling the carb ice knob during your standard en route checks out is a reduction in power, but at cruise it doesn't get rough. If you have encountered some icing then you are likely to get an increase in power as the ice melts through.

          When testing the carb heat on the ground during pre-flight power checks, there's a max RPM drop allowable that will be shown on the checklist. Like the slight RPM drop when the alternate ignition systems are tested.

  17. bpfh

    Breathalyzers are no longer obligatory in France

    Recommended but not obligatory, and no penality or fine of you don't have one.

    The law was repealed by President Hollande as the fact of having one in the car and it blowing negative would cut no mustard with the law who would still control you anyway and do you if it came back positive.

    The fact that this law was ramrodded through by the previous président, Sarkozy before the end of his term - who just so happen to have a mate who owned the biggest French breathalyzer company - had no bearing at all on this obligatory freedom to self test being pushed into law and flogging 40 million extra units at 3 euros a pop...

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Breathalyzers are no longer obligatory in France

      Is there a silly rule about having to carry spare standard halogen bulbs even if your car has HID lights?

      And as for "jaune selective..."

  18. cageordie

    Ha! Nice to see Paul is still enjoying his driving.

  19. Yugguy

    Track yes, road no

    I had a headache after 5 minutes in a colleague's S2000.

    I like my open top cars plusher.

    Yes, I am a raving softie.

    1. James Hughes 1

      Re: Track yes, road no

      No arguments from me.

      (Had a home built Westfield as only transport for 18 months - nice commuter car! No heater, but hot air from transmission tunnel was welcome when it snowed. You could tell when the thermostat opened)

  20. bigben

    Happy memories

    I have done the same trip in an Atom a couple of times and have never come across a hairpin that I couldn't get round. I had an Atom 1 and later and Atom 2 both were great cars and I will have another.

    Here is a video of two of us doing a lap of the track. We were there just before the GP so most of the circuit was in place.

  21. Dan McIntyre

    Thanks for the story, which I loved reading. I'm road tripping Europe for a fortnight in a fortnight and wildly excited about it. Must remember to pack duct tape.....

  22. Floydian Slip

    My first time in an Atom

    The first time I was a passenger in an Atom and I thought the driver was screaming when he put the hammer down.

    It happened on every straight and I really began to worry - until I realised that I was hearing the supercharger, not the driver.

    Felt a bit of a fool so I decided not to tell anybody.....until now

    1. Guy Swarbrick

      Re: My first time in an Atom

      > The first time I was a passenger in an Atom and I thought the driver was screaming when he put the hammer down.

      You're not alone.

  23. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge


    > Waterproof trousers mostly are

    Until they are not.. I have yet to have a set of motorbike waterproofs that don't leak eventually (and usually at the crotch which can lead to embarassment on disrobing). Gloves (with proper dubbin) can usually take one-days worth of rain but, unless they dry overnight and are re-dubbined, are completely unwaterproof the next day.

  24. OwenMc64

    Not a sales plug, but as a biker I find that Nikwax Visor does a great job on keeping the rain off the front of the visor. I had an anonymous bottle of something similar picked up from a German service station that lasted for years and years - Nikwax was the best replacement I could find.

    For the misting, check the biker shops - loads of options there.

    Might make for a different passenger experience if you MUST drive in the rain :-)

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hmmmm JRSC Honda Civic Type-R

    Used to own a JRSC Civic Type-R, same engine as Ariel Atom. Biggest laugh I've ever had in a car, the shriek of the super charger is truly addictive. Until I had the LSD fitted you spin the front wheels 1st, 2nd & 3rd if the roads were a bit greasy and you gave it enough provocation.

    1. fruitoftheloon

      Re: Hmmmm JRSC Honda Civic Type-R


      That sounds like a very fabby bit of kit indeed.

      I have a most interesting (well I think so) MK2 VW Scirocco, the owners spent a silly amount of money on the engine, gearbox (Quaife etc) & suspension, it could easily keep up with the BMW V8 535 (E39) with M suspension bits I had at the time.

      I didn't need the 'spare' Sparco seat, so it is mounted on standard office type seat base in my study, visitors love it, kids especially so!!!

      One of my friends had trouble parking it, he told me "the steering is broken", my reply: "you power the steering, it doesn't..."

      Also it is only one of two things I have ever bought that have gone UP in value...

      Mid-life crisis? Nah I was 35 when I bought it!



  26. JeffyPoooh

    A thousand miles... ...puh.

    That's like driving from a point well inside eastern Canada to another point well inside eastern Canada. Basically the middle third of eastern Canada. An easy one-day jaunt. Go back home the next day.

    Of course, my car has a windshield.

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