Yeah, I'm not exactly confident in my CAD skills. I'd say they are probably on par with my design and analysis skills, though, if I'm being honest. There hasn't been a lot of work in either of those outside of fairly simple assignments from class. Most of the CAD assignments were making blocks with shapes cut out of them in Inventor. The final project for the class was a corkscrew that was to be assembled with appropriate degrees of freedom for motion. I don't think we touched 1/4 of the software's features. It's part of my motivation for this project. I've heard a lot about Solidworks, but I've never touched it. Luckily I have a free student license to most of the Autodesk software for the next year or so. I also found out while working on my machine design project (design only, unfortunately) that the Inventor library includes several bearings from SKF and a few other companies. Thanks for telling me about ViaCAD. $200 for the software, vs several thousand a year for others, is going to put it on my short list when my student licenses run out.
There's probably a lot that's changed since you were in college. It might just be the school I'm attending, but my fellow students and I feel like they are trying to cram more topics into the curriculum at the expense of a deeper understanding of the basics. There are a few required courses that we feel should have been electives, and several courses seem to have a heavier emphasis on programming than the course material.
I've seen the Ariel Atom before, but I didn't realize they were that fast! I was under the impression they were focused more on handling. I'm might have to talk to the girlfriend about reorganizing our vehicular priorities after graduation.
I considered using a FWD engine and transaxle, but I think a motorcycle engine/transmission would be simpler for a first try, even without a reverse gear. I really want to nail down the frame and suspension concepts before I go that route. It is somewhat relieving to hear Ariel is able to keep their weight down to 1300 lbs and still put it on the road. I'll have to look into how they fare in safety testing.
I may have a differential solution that would only require me to design and build a housing and attach the rear sprocket. Apparently the TorSen center diffs from the late 80's to early 90's Audi quattro equipped cars are somewhat common to see in the FSAE cars and they have been known to hold up just fine in 3500 lb cars with 400+ hp at the wheels. MIT used one on a FSAE entry.
I just so happen to have such a car sitting around gathering dust that will hopefully be seeing some significant engine and transmission upgrades in the future and won't be needing that particular differential for much longer.