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Country of origin:Great Britain
Produced in:1939
Numbers built:1
Designed by:Claude Hill for Aston Martin
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:June 26, 2014
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Click here to download printer friendly versionDespite producing some of the finest sports cars of the 1930s, Aston Martin never actually managed to turn a profit once. After the armistice, the company was offered for sale by owner Gordon Sutherland through a small ad in the newspaper. The only real asset was the experimental Atom show car, which had been developed right before the War. After driving the Atom, industrialist David Brown was sold and he acquired the company on the spot.

The design brief for Aston Martin's chief engineer Claude Hill was simply to create the smallest, lightest and quietest small saloon possible. At the time, the atom was the smallest particle known, which explains the Aston Martin's type name. Key to this was the box-frame chassis created from welded rectangular tubing. Compared to the conventional ladder frames used by most contemporary production cars, the Atom chassis proved to be both lighter and torsionally stiffer.

Specialist Gordon Armstrong was responsible for the Atom's patented suspension design. At the front two short, parallel trailing arms were fitted with coil springs. At the rear a Salisbury live axle with semi-elliptic springs was fitted. This was a first for a British vehicle for the particularly sturdy axle, which would soon receive near legendary status for its durability on the army Jeeps. Hydraulic lever-arm dampers and hydraulic drum brakes were fitted on all four corners.

Carried over from the existing Aston Martin models was the two-litre, four-cylinder engine. Equipped with twin overhead camshafts, it was good for around 110 bhp. The exotic engine, however, would ultimately be to expensive for use in a potential production model, so Hill also developed push-rod straight four, which would be mounted in the car in 1944. Regardless of the engine used, the Atom was equipped with a Cotal pre-selector gearbox with four forward gears.

In keeping with the Atom's underpinnings, the body was also of a cutting edge design. The lines followed experiments with aerodynamic shapes as seen on the interestingly styled Type C Speed Model. Thoroughly modern, the slippery Atom body featured integral front and rear fenders and no running boards. The aluminium panels were mounted on a small diameter steel tubular frame, not unlike the Superleggera construction method used by Touring of Milan.

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  Article Image gallery (20) Specifications