Reviews

Atom Splitter: Driving the Raucous Rezvani Beast

Coachbuilding is alive and well in Southern California.

This is the first public reveal of the Rezvani Beast. We are the first media outlet in the world to see it, and we’re the first to drive it, as well. There are no bright auto show lights, and this is no catered press event. Instead, we’re outside a Starbucks on an uncomfortably humid morning in Irvine, California, about 15 miles from Rezvani Motors headquarters. That’s right. The car named “Beast” is built here in Southern California.

Ferris Rezvani, the car’s creator and company founder, is trying to give me the scoop, but he’s finding it tough to answer more than a few of my questions without passersby barraging us with queries of their own about the waist-high, doorless, carbon-fiber-bodied sports car parked streetside. The most asked question is, “What is it?” followed closely by, “How much horsepower?” and “What’s the price?” Ferris answers each inquiry politely, graciously. After all, we’re not far from a stretch of Pacific Coast Highway lined with Ferrari, Maserati, McLaren, and Porsche dealerships. These might be more than looky-loos. These might be customers.

All have understandably never heard of the Rezvani Beast before, so Ferris enlightens them. It shares its basic bones with the Ariel Atom, the diminutive, skeletal British supercar that’s about as practical as a motorcycle. The base Atom is powered by a mid-mounted, 300-hp, supercharged, 2.4-liter Honda K24 I-4. It has two seats, a steering wheel, a gear lever, some pedals, and not a whole lot else. In stock form, an Atom is about the closest you can get to driving a formula race car to work. The Beast is no stock Atom.

As a boy growing up in Texas, Rezvani had dreams of flying. The son of an Air Force F-4 Phantom pilot, he parlayed childhood dreams of jet fighters into a career building supercars. Fast cars, he figured, were the next best thing to supersonic jet fighters, and Rezvani ended up cutting his teeth at Dutch boutique automaker Vencer, producer of the $450,000, 622-hp Sarthe supercar. As spectacular as the Sarthe’s stats are, Rezvani felt the need to create a car of his own that spoke to a broader audience.

Visually, the Beast is a striking automobile from any angle. The car pictured is bound for a new dealer 
in Dubai.

“I felt that the market was missing an enthusiast car in the ’60s spirit,” he explains, “something lightweight with classic design and a lower price point.”

While the Beast’s $130,000 base price hardly qualifies as affordable, there might not be anything else for the money that looks quite this radical, this exotic. In a locale where supercars are almost commonplace, the Beast demands attention from nearly everyone. Credit its sculptor, Samir Sadikhov. Born in Azerbaijan and now residing in Cologne, Germany, Sadikhov is a young automotive designer with experience at both Ford’s German arm and Lamborghini. He and Rezvani formed a friendship via the Internet, and after they chose the basic canvas, it wasn’t long before Sadikohv had drafted a carbon-fiber skin to stretch over the Atom’s steel skeleton.

“We had a really nice package to start with that gave me a lot of freedom,” Sadikhov says. “Usually there are so many restrictions, which just block creativity.”

Once Sadikhov finished the sketches, a CAD program analyzed the aerodynamic performance of the car’s virtual carbon panels. In fact, all design work was done via online collaboration. The Beast’s body is a mix of form and function, its lines angular and aggressive yet practical. “Car companies these days are putting grilles and blades everywhere,” laments Sadikhov. “They don’t work, mostly. They’re just makeup.”

The massive rear diffuser is functional, says Rezvani, helping to suck air out from under the car. The Beast’s bodywork also knocks the Atom’s disappointing 0.65 drag coefficient down to 0.35, even with a track widened by 10 inches in the front and 8 inches in the rear. Overall, the Beast is as wide as a Lamborghini Aventador but about 2 feet shorter and 6 inches lower.

Following the CAD work, the transition was quick from computer screen to a real, driving, street-legal vehicle. “This car was quite an unusual design process for me because usually, when you’re working with a full-size car, you’re working with clay,” says Sadikhov. “This car was done all in one shot, digitally.” Rezvani says the process from napkin sketches to fully functioning vehicle spanned about 18 months. In fact, Sadikhov flew in to see the car for the first time in person three days before our meeting, a moment he describes as “beyond belief.”

The company’s Santa Ana, California, shop is about 10,000 square feet, and there are just four employees in the build process. Each car takes about three months to complete. The process starts with an Atom shipped from England, which is torn down to the chassis. Reassembly then begins, with steel underbody supports added to mount the bodywork. A flat, underbody floor is also added to improve aerodynamics, and the track is widened. Then the interior trim, in-house-designed wheels, and rear LED taillight assembly are installed. Customers can specify paint, interior materials, and color among a host of other custom options.

The racy cockpit is a surprisingly comfortable place to be.

Climbing into the Rezvani Beast is tricky at first, but it gets easier with practice. The method that seems to work best is throwing your right leg over the side, standing on the seat bottom, and then pulling in the left leg. Once I’m settled in, the carbon-shell seat proves surprisingly comfortable. Four-point, cam-lock harnesses are adjusted and fastened. A look around reveals a cabin far from plush but that’s also hardly a bare-bones Ariel. There’s carpeting and sound deadening, faux-suede-trimmed door panels—even a radio and rearview camera. To fire the engine, you flip a silver switch up then hit a start button mostly obscured by the steering wheel.

The Beast barks on startup and then settles into a surprisingly quiet idle. Today I’m driving a Beast Speedster, the base-level 300-hp car. It feels plenty quick given that it weighs just 1,650 pounds, about 300 pounds more than an Atom. The Rezvani responds to the controls instantly, as if you were driving a racing car. The conventional six-speed manual gearbox has short, precise throws, and the medium-effort steering is highlighted by
addictively quick turn-in.

Winding out the engine produces a manic howl from the supercharger almost as loud as the exhaust. Rezvani’s standard Beast makes a whopping 500 hp from a Rotrex-supercharged Honda K24 built in-house.

Driving at sane speeds reveals the Beast is equally at home tooling around town. It’s as easy to drive slowly as it is quickly, and it’s pretty darn livable for something that looks so aggressive. As Rezvani demonstrates, there’s a small trunk behind the engine that will fit the all-important set of golf clubs.

Plans are underway for additions to the Rezvani lineup, including a new car: a 700-hp Beast X coupe based on a Lotus Exige tub. Sadikhov is working on the design, and Rezvani has his eyes on growing the workshop to the building next door. We won’t be surprised if with each potential customer’s test drive, steadily increasing demand for the Beast more than warrants the expansion.

Rezvani Beast Specifications

  • On Sale: Now
  • Price: $130,000/$150,000 base/as tested (est)
  • Engines: 2.4L supercharged DOHC 16-valve I-4/300 hp @ 7,650 rpm, 225 lb-ft @ 5,850 rpm; 2.4L supercharged DOHC 16-valve I-4/500 hp @ 7,350 rpm, 374 lb-ft @ 5,950 rpm
  • Transmissions: 6-speed manual, 6-speed sequential manual
  • Layout: 0-door, 2-passenger, mid-engine, RWD roadster
  • EPA Mileage: N/A
  • L x W x H: 165.2 x 80.1 x 38.3 in
  • Wheelbase: 92.3 in
  • Weight: 1,650 lb
  • 0-60 mph:

    • 2.7-3.5 sec (est)
  • Top Speed: 165 mph (est)

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