SOMERSET has a reputation for quiet countryside and beautiful scenery, but hidden within its rural roads is one of the most innovative, hair-raising companies of the past 20 years.

Even when Ariel’s first production car launched in 2000, it was relatively slow going for the team.

It wasn’t until the Atom starred on Top Gear for the first time that everything really took off for them.

“The original airing was on Boxing Day in 2004,” said Tom Seibert, son of founder Simon Saunders.

“People hadn’t really heard of the car then, but it was a massive overnight change.

“At motor shows it went from people saying ‘what is that?’ to ‘I need to see that’.

“We became more of a household name after that.”

Now the Crewkerne-based business has starred on Top Gear again, featuring on the BBC show’s first new episode of 2020.

In fact, since its explosive debut in 2004, every Ariel release has seen Jeremy Clarkson, and more recently Chris Harris, climb into the iconic frame.

The Ariel Nomad off-road car was launched in 2015 and tore around desert terrain, and the new Atom 4 helped launch the latest series.

Although Ariel has a history dating back to 1870, it only took on its current shape after Simon Saunders launched a new firm under the then-defunct Ariel name in the 1990s.

Tom said: “It started in 2000 really, with our first production cars.

“The idea is that we have got the inside on the outside.

“You can see everything, and it is an exercise in engineering really.

“Since then, the car has changed beyond recognition, but at the same time it is still undeniably Ariel.”

Now, Simon’s sons Tom and Henry are both involved in running the company.

As well as a unique design, the company boasts a unique sales model.

Each car that rolls out of the Crewkerne factory doors is built from top to bottom by just one person.

Buyers can even meet the technician assembling their car, and if it ever gets damaged it can go back to the same pair of hands for repairs.

“It takes is 150 to 250 hours to build each car, depending on the spec,” Tom added.

“The car is very simple. It takes probably three weeks to take apart and put back together.

“With a value of £40,000 it would take quite a bit to write one off, so we always prefer to take it back in and work on it.

“It is different to your car that has walls which can get damaged and then it goes off to another garage and is never the same again.”

As well as another starring spot on Top Gear, this year has seen Ariel pick up the driver’s car of the year from AutoCar magazine, and a five star road test.

The Ariel team also includes nine people working on research and development.

That part of the site was strictly off limits to press as they work on Ariel’s next mind-bending idea.

The company keeps innovating and the cars keep getting quicker.

Tom added: “We never want to sit still.”