We've had a bit of drama on here with the story of what's essentially a dramatically re-bodied Ariel Atom (well, for an Atom, maybe just bodied) called the Rezvani Beast. First I suspected some questionable PR, then we covered the story of a disgruntled designer for the company. But now I think it's real. Because I've seen it.
As you can probably guess, Ferris Rezvani, the man behind the Beast, wasn't thrilled about the sort of coverage his project was getting. After some more unpleasantness with the former designer, I'm happy to say that the whole situation has taken a pretty dramatic turn.
The designer contacted me to let me know the issues with him and Rezvani have been settled amicably, and, more importantly, Rezvani invited me to come out and get some actual, hands-on proof that this whole venture is really focused on actually building and selling cars, and isn't some convoluted scam.
And that's precisely what happened. Last week, I drove out to the facility currently producing the first Rezvani Beast, which already has a buyer. I can't reveal the buyer's name, but I can say that he's an NFL Hall-of-Famer from Texas.
The facility producing the Beast for Rezvani is a company that already has a solid track record in producing limited-run custom cars: N2A Motors. N2A already produces the 789 Bel-Air/Impala mashup car, and while it's not to everyone's taste, the examples I saw do seem to be built to a very high level of quality, and, importantly, they've built nearly 80 of them so far.
They've also built 14 of their sleek Anteros car, as well as building one-offs for concept car use, or television/movie cars and other vehicles. They also, under a name I can't mention, do a lot of prototype one-off work for the defense department, producing things like full-size aerodynamic wind-tunnel models for drones and other aircraft.
They also seem to like to make these gigantic coins. Doesn't Batman have one of these?
The upshot of all this is that this does seem like a firm and facility with the ability and the resources to actually produce a car like the Rezvani Beast. Even better, this isn't just a hypothetical conjecture, since I was able to see the Beast actually being built.
What you see here is the first step in manufacture of a low volume, carbon fiber car like the Beast. The car-like object here is what Gene Langmesser, president of N2A, called a "plug." That is, this will be the mold onto which the carbon fiber sheets will be laid in order to make the car's various body panels.
We're seeing it about a halfway point here. The plug started as a big block of high-density foam, and that huge machine actually carving the shape is 5-axis Gantry Milling Machine. Essentially, it's a highly precise drilling rig that can move on 5 axes, essentially letting it dart around in three-dimensional space, carving the block into the Beast's actual shape.
At this point, the basic shape has been carved out, and the much finer-resolution finishing process will be starting, then a process of hand-finishing takes place to get the plug to the ultra-smooth condition it will need to be in order to be used as a mold for the body panels.
I did see some parts already at this state, like the rear diffuser here, and the surface quality is quite remarkably smooth. I was able to see, touch (and, when the weren't looking, taste) all these parts, and I'm very comfortable saying that this would a ridiculous amount of effort to go through if there was no intention of making the car. I think they actually intend to build the Rezvani Beast.
The donor Ariel Atom will provide, along with the full chassis and drivetrain, the instrument cluster, maybe some of the lighting, and that's about it. The Beast will add an actual body to the normally-naked Atom, and provide a leather-trimmed interior with a good bit more creature comforts than the speed-obsessed cage of the Atom.
There still won't be much stowage room, but the Beast should be a car that will take a lot less convincing to get your spouse to hop into. I was also assured, at length, that details like license plate mounting, marker lights and other bits of grim reality would not be ignored, like some other exclusive cars I could mention.
The Beast will come in two flavors: the 300 and the 500, and those names reflect the HP available. The 300 will use the stock Ariel Atom drivetrain, while the 500 will add a supercharger from Jackson Racing. They say the cars will cost $130,000 for the 300, and $149,000 for the 500, and both those prices include the cost of the donor Atom.
I spoke with Ferris Rezvani for quite a bit, and he does seem to be a man who truly loves cars, specifically a certain type of no-compromise performance car. He told me there's a hole in the high-end sportscar market right around the $150,000 range where there aren't that many truly exclusive, performance-focused options, and that the hole the Beast intends to fill.
We also discussed the difficulties of starting a small-volume sportscar company, with so many things, from government regulations to the saturation of the space with genuine scam artists like Super Replicas clouding the market for everyone.
I asked Rezvani if there was any communication between the smaller-volume car producers, or if there was ever any talk about pooling resources to make a common, flexible platform that would meet federal crash and emissions standards, and while he said there wasn't, he was interested in the idea.
The Atom (and, of course, Atom-derived cars like the Beast) are only sort of street legal in most states. There are ways to register and drive them like a normal car, but it's still not as easy as buying and registering your Fiat 500 or whatever.
Rezvani's next goal would be a "car with doors" — that is, something even easier to drive and register for regular people, but still having the dramatic styling and high performance that makes these things fun.
After seeing the progress on the Beast, I'm happy to say that I saw no evidence that this is any sort of scam. I think this is a genuine attempt to produce an interesting low-volume sports car, and I hope they succeed. The car's proportions are pretty dramatic, and I suspect the final product will be a very striking and desirable car.
They tell me I'm on the list to drive it when it's ready, so hopefully we'll have that follow-up story soon for those of you with 150 large burning a hole in your lamé fanny packs.