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Old 22nd September 2015, 12:16   #1
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Default Build Report: Ariel Atom Replica from Kolkata

A story about an Ariel Atom replica in Kolkata!

These are the words of BHPian - Ezio Riddhi a.k.a. Riddhi Guha, one of the three friends who decided to undertake this project, nicknamed Necromancy. Read on to know how the replica came to life.

This was going to be a Caterham 7 replica! Almost!
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Yes, we started this project 'Necromancy' with the picture of a Caterham 7 in our minds.

I am Riddhi Guha, better known by my nickname, Ezio. Back in December, 2013, I was introduced to a skinny yet stout kid with glasses on his eyes - Shubharup Sadhukhan, who was a friend of my old college mate, Prasun Mandal.

Fifteen minutes of conversation, while sitting on the stairs of an almost abandoned foot over bridge at Ultadanga, we decided to proceed with this project.

With a very, very, very tight budget & with a to do list as long as Rapunzel's hair, we started looking for a suitable car and visited a number of owners willing to get rid of their junk(!). We declined lots, which included a 1999 Daewoo Matiz, which was a clear no-no with unavailability of enough spares in the grey market, and a Hyundai Getz GLS 2005, which had its first & second gears so grinded, that my grandma would've lent it teeth!

Someone from my office offered me a Honda City i-VTEC engine, only for 30,000 bucks, but we simply declined it as we were not ready to flex our funds, and later we regretted the decision more than once. An i-VTEC would've been more fun to drive.

Finally we fixed on a 1998 Maruti Suzuki Esteem VXI, which came with an expired insurance, expired tax token, no pollution certificate & the fitness was valid for merely one more year. That explains why it came cheap. When we met her, she was left on the roadside for almost two years - a dusty rust bucket and never been fired up for last one year as her owner had bought a new vehicle, and she spent half of her retirement submerged in water, as that particular street had a drainage system underneath with serious water-logging problems.

We borrowed a new battery from a workshop familiar to me and unplugged the fuel line to carburetor, cranked & to our astonishment, the fuel line gurgled at first and let out clean petrol through it, some gas was poured through the carburetor beneath the air filter & after a few twists of the ignition key, she cleared her throat and was running. Shifting gears felt smooth too. We grinned at each other and came back home.

Shubharup's father was the owner of a 60 year old petrol pump, which was sold recently, but complicity of unfinished paperwork left it distant to possession and was available for us to start.

At our first project meeting, Shubharup opened his laptop and showed us his last night's venture - a sinister looking boat like frame designed in CATIA, with the measurement synchronized with the wheel base of a standard Esteem.

And believe it or not, it was the first time I came to know about the existence of the Ariel Atom!

And matching our project name, it looked skeletal enough
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Shubharup was already obsessed with the design. It took him one full week to convince me to proceed with this, but he never gave up.

Last edited by GTO : 22nd September 2015 at 12:31.
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Old 22nd September 2015, 12:16   #2
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Dismantling the donor car and starting the build
On a fine February afternoon, 2014, the 'Esteem' arrived and occupied the drive way of our petrol pump.

We should testify against ourselves regarding two matters - we miscalculated the time to be taken and an error in calculation of the budget.

Recently I've lost my phone & Shubharup got his smartphone formatted to get rid of a nagging virus. As a result we have no initial photos of the vehicle we bought.

It was a Saturday when we started dismantling the vehicle and the entire process took two days.

Two things are worthy enough to mention -
First, working on a Sunday, we found every hardware shop in our locality closed. So, we unscrewed every rusted bolt, nut & screw without having the aid of the most essential WD40 (just imagine)!

Second, to dismantle the engine, we were searching for a portable crane. But, when we tried to rent one, it was so expensive that we went nuts. We just borrowed a 40 years old mechanical jack, which was a gem of an old instrument, used to dismantle the gearbox and engines of trucks. We separated the engine from the car, rested the engine on bricks and tiles covered with the carpet from the same car, lifted the car and pushed it off. Phew!
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While searching for the frame material, we decided on MS rods, available at the local market. The ones with a 65 millimeter inner diameter & 67 millimeter outer diameter grabbed our attention.

We bought 22 meters of the same and we went to the people, who make goal posts. They looked at our faces with an unspoken weird gaze in their eyes and asked for the dimensions and curvature.

We drew chalk lines on the footpath and they bent the rods close to the lines, by filling the rods with sand and applying measured heat and measured pressure.

We got things back to our place, but were still not confident if this was going anywhere.
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We looked at each other and started to rip the wiring harness off, and made the vehicle looks the protagonist in 'Hollow Man'.
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The very next day, we started with the engine cage and the front crash box. We had to be cautious this time as we were trying to achieve symmetrical lengths and angles, without having a levelled floor.

To be precise, the garage had no floor at all. It was all dirt and uneven surface and once you dropped a screw or bolt or nut or small tool, it used to vanish. It took hours to locate it again with our sore eyes and numb minds.

An experienced welder from our locality came to our aid, and the engine cage was built. It took nearly 23 laborious hours to fix a crash box and a decent engine cage. Looking at it, gave us a little confidence that it was not going to fail that easy.
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Build Report: Ariel Atom Replica from Kolkata-2.91.jpg

Last edited by GTO : 22nd September 2015 at 12:28.
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Old 22nd September 2015, 12:16   #3
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The frame

We fixed the cage around the engine to avoid the expense of re-installation of the engine in the frame and to avoid complications with positions of mounting brackets.

With the crash box and the engine cage, we started measuring the length of the vehicle and sitting positions and started working on the approximate location of CG. One thing we kept in mind - if the wheelbase had to be as close as possible to that of the original Esteem, the alteration of the track width would take toll on the steering geometry for sure. To our relief no problem with steering geometry occurred, after we finished.

We repositioned the wheels and the seats again and again and took weeks before deciding on a position suitable for all of us. As I was the tallest one, I became the standard measurement for the required legroom.
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The four members were welded to the engine cage & crash box, only after hours of to and fro movements and arguments and the upper members were tilted inward equally. While welding the lower members, it took days to decide the welding point, as the engine cage was way different compared to original measurement.
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And one evening, I appeared at the garage with reels of red tape and started wrapping it around the long members in a crisscross way, and after six or seven hours and five reels of duct tape, Shubharup was convinced that it was looking symmetrical enough and closer to the original CATIA design.
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20 feet of MS pipe, got cut & edges got honed into measured angles to be welded as cross members.
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After that, I was busy at my office with the unavoidable yearly closing.

Last edited by GTO : 22nd September 2015 at 12:27.
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Old 22nd September 2015, 12:16   #4
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Suspension and brakes
I came back after March and found Shubharup welcoming me with a toothy grin, and the long members were already welded together with cross members. It was a good sight indeed.
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After this happy moment for the three of us, the third boy from left, Prasun Mandal, who was the laziest, but never lacked enthusiasm, left our group for some reason that he never explained to us, or was never able to convince us with the explanation he uttered through his lips - sounded like family matters!

Here we stood, one member gone, running out of money and Shubharup’s family members were getting suspicious about where this was leading!

We stopped answering every query and stopped listening to every criticism, and continued with gritted teeth and crossed fingers.

We learnt an essential lesson - a lot of little things are there, which can get anyone stuck for ages, especially in a project like this. We spent hours discussing the structures of bracket for suspension, calculating the angles and size of the bell cranks and choosing the right material & diameter for wishbones.

There are few things, which got us stuck for ages, worth mentioning. But actually, they were so simple.

First - what to use for the bushing in the pivot points of the wishbones. The metal bushes found in rubber mountings, mostly used at the ends of the rear shock absorbers of a motorcycle, solved the problem.
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Second - how to accommodate the rear wish bones, along with, push rods, drive shafts, and shock absorbers, along with bell cranks in that already so congested portion around the engine cage.
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Third - how to operate the gear lever, as it was a front engined, front-wheel drive earlier, but ended up as a rear engined, rear-wheel drive, without changing its face direction. We even thought about converting it into cable operated, but doing the same required a new gearbox housing from newer Maruti models and fixing the same with a customized back plate was a threat. But we overcame the same with a simple ‘J’ bend.
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Four - to keep or not to keep the brake booster air feed line. Not having it meant I was the only one to manage it without much difficulty with my heel kick, but Shubharup had no luck without using both feet.

And here came the rubber pipe, the one we use every day with our LPG gas cylinder at kitchen. 3 meters long, it served well.
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Last edited by GTO : 22nd September 2015 at 12:25.
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Old 22nd September 2015, 12:16   #5
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Body panels...and finishing touches
We managed everything and ran the show. Until we came to the point - how to make the body panels.

Rahamat is a body shop mechanic by profession, but he has a real artist dwelling in him.

Working as an in-house loss assessor at a 'Motor own damage claims department' has some benefits, including growing a certain amount of camaraderie with the mechanics and technicians around the workshops.

I found Rahamat, and convinced him to do this. Though it was a new thing to him, after going through the pictures of the original Ariel Atom, he answered in the affirmative, without thinking much.

He started with the bonnet, under Shubharup's supervision, and won our hearts and respect with his skills.

Now he is making body panels for the 'Falkner' group at MCKVIE.

Again I seek mercy, the snaps of the panel -making are lost with my phone.

While the panels were being built, we were counting and fixing all the holes, and brackets, nuts & bolts and washers, making sure they would hold the suspensions, seats, canister, coil, lamps, harness, fuel tank, radiator, cluster, ABC pedals, steering tight, while running with her skirt held up in her hand.

We were sure, there was no way of using the 45-litre stock gas tank and the same was replaced with a custom 11-litre one, concealed in a way that nobody could locate quick.

But the one man who suffered most in this project, was the owner of the nearby lathe shop, who let us use his lathe and served us in every possible way. We became his regular visitors and he used to serve us with a frown under his nose. We made every component for a special purpose there and rectified every component several times. That certainly irritated him, but he never refused. The job he hated most was to rectify the length of an internal thread.
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And it was a September 2014 when the car got out of garage for the very first time - a rust bucket, but adorable.

I remember, recently somebody mentioned it as a 'MadMax Ariel Atom' on Facebook, after I posted this picture.
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But we still had a lot of work to do.

We gave a final weld to front extension, steering member position, suspension mountings, brake booster & master cylinder mounting, headlamp & tail lamp mountings, fixed the fuel tank position, radiator position, adjusted silencer muffler mountings with bent pipes welded together.

The front shock absorbers came from the 'Baja' team of MCKVIE. The rear shock absorbers came from a Maruti Wagon R (front shocks got replaced due to bend in bracket & got fixed in lathe). Those were chosen after a number of failures with other shocks and different push rods with different lengths.

Sheet metal was fixed under the body, and there were tough plywood floors, which proved capable enough to tolerate my father's 120 kg weight without creaking!

We got the brakes working, the Mikuni carburetor was cleaned and the nozzles were replaced with new ones, and the wiring harness was fixed, with unfathomable extensions, which were linked between the main fuse box & the engine fuse box. We couldn't manage this harness business unless there was a man, 56 years old and with heavy glass on his eyes, who spent hours helping us out of this webby trauma.
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After we made sure that every electrical end was working, the headlamps were beaming, the tail lamps flicking, the indicators blinking, the fuel pump feeding, the radiator fan spinning, the engine grunting and the cluster showing the signs right, we went for the much necessary test drive, conquered bumpy roads, made the needle fling to three digits whenever possible and tried to locate any unwanted creaking or flapping or rattling noise.

To be truthful, there were plenty and after a number of runs we were able to fix those, but we felt that, this cutie needs regular attention with every part. After everything was assembled, we faced the hardest dilemma - which color to choose!

The answer was simple. Whoever follows Top Gear knows that they declared our very own HM Ambassador as the toughest cab on earth. We were brought up noticing those cars with characters zooming around with the yellow black combination.

Top Gear rated the Ariel Atom as the craziest car of the world.

There is another simple answer, black & yellow is Shubharup's favorite.
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After the painting was complete, we had to re-assemble everything, avoiding scratch and dirt.

Shubharup's father felt so enthusiastic, he finally got everything for her, which she needed badly to grab eyeballs - new set of 13-inch alloy wheel wrapped in Apollo tubeless tyres, new seat covers, a MOMO steering with MOMO pedal covers & and a new battery. Cool father! Isn't he?

And she was ready to go! Thanks to all those people we knew at several workshops & garages, who never refused to help and never hesitated in sharing their knowledge whenever we needed.

It was February 2015, when she started her regular rampage out on the road.

It is still running with quick dodgy movements, and never fails to draw attention!

Last edited by GTO : 22nd September 2015 at 12:24.
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Old 22nd September 2015, 12:16   #6
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Ariel Atom replica specifications

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Ariel Atom replica at a glance:

• Overall length: 3,745 mm
• Overall width: 1,580 mm
• Overall height: 1,230 mm
• Wheelbase: 2,450 mm
• Track width (Front): 1,375 mm
• Track width (Rear): 1,370 mm
• Ground clearance: 132 mm
• Kerb weight: 540 kg
• Carrying capacity: 2 persons
• Min turning radius: 5.5 m
• Engine: 1,298cc Maruti Esteem engine (1998 carburetor model)
• Max power- 70 BHP @ 6,000 rpm
• Max torque- 100 Nm @ 4,500 rpm
• Engine displacement: Transverse rear
• Power to weight ratio: 129.6 BHP/ton
• Acceleration: 0-100 kmph in 12.7 seconds
• Cooling system: Liquid cooled
• Brakes: Solid discs at front & rear
• Suspension: Front and rear- double wishbone, pushrod operated dampers.
• Transmission: 5-speed manual
• Steering: Manual
• Rim: 13-inch alloy wheels (114.3 mm P.C.D.)
• Tires: Apollo Acelere (185/60 R 13)

Some fun moments!
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Thanks for sharing, Ezio Riddhi.

Last edited by GTO : 22nd September 2015 at 12:23.
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Old 22nd September 2015, 12:34   #7
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Default Re: Build Report: Ariel Atom Replica from Kolkata

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to Technical Stuff. Thanks for sharing, Riddhi!
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Old 22nd September 2015, 12:57   #8
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Default Re: Build Report: Ariel Atom Replica from Kolkata

Just look at her sitting in the middle of imports and looking like it belongs ten-fold!!
Amazing project, Brilliant outcome!!!
I just cant find fault with the execution(dont want to) seeing how you guys have poured your hearts out. Its apparent in your write up, and the accompanying pictures.
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Old 22nd September 2015, 12:57   #9
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Default Re: Build Report: Ariel Atom Replica from Kolkata

Thanks for the post Aditya. I saw this car in flesh last year at the Drag Race held in Kolkata. Awesome work done by the boys
However, one question - With 129 bhp per ton, the 0-100 timing of 12.7 seconds seem to be too high. Is it due to lack of traction?
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Old 22nd September 2015, 13:13   #10
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Default Re: Build Report: Ariel Atom Replica from Kolkata

Woah! Great Job! That looks amazing! These guys are a true inspiration to many of us here on the forum!

One question I have is, what is the legality of driving such a car on the streets here in India?
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Old 22nd September 2015, 13:27   #11
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Default Re: Build Report: Ariel Atom Replica from Kolkata

Awesome guys !

Wish I could see it in the flesh !
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Old 22nd September 2015, 13:54   #12
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Thanks for the post Aditya Sir!
I was lucky enough to get a ride in this beauty in the open strech of Rajarhat, Thanks to Shubharup Da. This car is a crowd puller, people started taking pictures of it wherever we went. We went for a photoshoot in the Rajarhat drag lane and ultimately ended up clicking just few pics due to the crowd filling up alongside the car.
Hats off to these guys for making up such a master piece all by themselves.
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Old 22nd September 2015, 14:41   #13
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Default Re: Build Report: Ariel Atom Replica from Kolkata

You guys rock! I'm all floored. While most of us could only manage dreaming you went ahead and made the dream a reality!

I must also mention that the simplicity and honesty in your narration completes the experience for us, readers.
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Old 22nd September 2015, 14:45   #14
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Default Re: Build Report: Ariel Atom Replica from Kolkata

It is really inspiration! This achievement is something unique considering that these teenagers built that mind-blowing DIY vehicle that grasps the eyeball of petrolhead enthusiasts.

Hoping that events such as AutoExpo, Car Show, etc reserve some section of their platform for uprising teenagers which will help them showcase their products & innovations! If that gives them opportunities and guidance, this type of news will shake us almost every month!

Last edited by GTO : 23rd September 2015 at 15:17. Reason: Language
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Old 22nd September 2015, 14:52   #15
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Default Re: Build Report: Ariel Atom Replica from Kolkata

Great work Guyz.

Hats off to all of you. It was a dream when we owned a garage in the past and still remains a dream for me to build a car by myself and due to other priorities now, it might just be a mere dream. I/ anyone reading this post should have to admit that your knowledge, detailing and the parts made all by your skills are commendable. I understand how difficult it would have been to build everything all by yourself with just raw materials.

How did you guyz match the IP similar to that of Atom, would wish to see that in picture of how it looks from drivers view. Mindblowing stuff on your detailing.

Couple of questions that I would like to ask are

1) In the first picture out of the garage, I could see the wheel arch over the tyre but in the final model it is not there, is it due to some change in any tyre profile? or some other reason? The initial picture exactly replicates the Atom in that tyre region and it looked good as well in your vehicle.

2) Why was a front wing added to your vehicle, for aerodynamic purpose as it is meant for or for some other reason?

Over and above everything, a Great work and wishing you a very best for your future prospects.

Last edited by informmaha : 22nd September 2015 at 15:03.
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