What happened to the Ariel Grand Prix racer?

This post was originally planned as two separate posts: the vanished Ariel Grand Prix racer and a rakish Ariel sports car. However, during research and writing, both converged to one, as you will see. The racer was presented at the Olympia Show end of 1907 and was a great attraction. The Autocar wrote that it was the first Grand Prix racer built to conform with the new international racing regulations (i.e. maximum bore of 155 mm and a minimum weight of 1100 kgs including oil, but without passengers, petrol, water or spares). Apparently, it was meant to compete in the 1908 French Grand Prix, but in the list of participants for this race, the Ariel is very absent! So what happened to it? In the press, I couldn't find any direct answers.

In the May 30, 1908, issue of The Autocar a small article appeared with two photos of a 'rakishly bodied 60 hp Ariel'. The car with a Hewer sporting body was built for a Mr. F. (Francis) A. Bolton and looking at it you would probably wish it would have been built for you! Indeed beautifully built with low lines, but above all: very much looking like the racer, so proudly presented at the Olympia Show. Francis Bolton (from Moor Court, Oakamoor, in Staffordshire) was a famous motoring pioneer and amateur racer, who competed successfully in many trials and hill climbs as well as regularly on Brooklands in the years before World War 1. The Ariel sports car he used in a stripped form for racing in 1908.

The burning question of course is: are these cars one and the same? The general impression is yes, it could be, although some details differ and one wonders about the spaghetti which has suddenly appeared just below the steering wheel. And if it's the same car, what happened? Wasn't the car fast enough for the 'real thing' and did the Ariel management decide to avoid further publicity? Will we ever know? Who knows ...

Words and pictures by Ariejan Bos


Published: Sunday November 5th, 2017


  • Nissan Qashquai - a modern mid size SUV.

  • It exists in spirit at least...the registration number E60 is now on a Nissan Qashquai Acenta Premium DCi -whatever that is.

  • my question is, does it still exist?


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