Chassis No. 16
Engine No. 16
Registration No. KXD 666
+44 (0)1869 244 255
“In designing the ‘Alta’ Sports Car, the knowledge and experience gained in driving and maintaining sports cars or all sizes, makes and nationalities, has been brought to bear on the design and manufacture of the Alta, with a view to meeting the demand for a small, genuine sports car with a performance far and away above average, whilst yet providing wonderful reliability and a total absence of petty troubles and complications.” wrote Geoffrey Taylor, Designer and Managing Director of the Alta Car and Engineering Company.
The power to weight ratio of Geoffrey Taylor’s Alta cars was exciting enough, but the “power to weight ratio” of the Alta Car and Engineering Company itself was, perhaps, even more impressive. From his tiny works in Surbiton, Taylor’s small concern produced almost everything in house and built motorcars and engines that achieved race winning results at both national and international level – an achievement way beyond that which one might have expected from a company of such a small size.
The first model produced by Alta was powered by a 1074cc 4-cylinder engine developing around 49bhp un-supercharged or 76bhp with supercharging. Just 13 of these “1,100 cc” cars were made between 1931 and 1935 in both two-seater and four-seater form, but in order to give the impression of greater production numbers the chassis no. did not necessarily equate to the number of examples built. The cars were well received and were best covered in The Autocar, April 24th1931, in an article entitled “An Entirely New Sports Car.” The article covers in detail the construction methods employed and notes the use of modern materials such as Nitralloy. Taylor’s underslung design was no parts bin raid and almost everything on Alta cars was produced in house. Although introduced in 1931, Geoffrey Taylor, had indeed produced a very vintage sports car.
According to the information in the history file supplied by the vendor, this Alta, chassis no. 16, was, in fact, only the sixth built and was originally supplied by the works to a Mr. R. A. Gardiner. Chassis No. 16 was the first of a small series of open four-seaters, painted black with red upholstery. It was later converted by the works to its present two-seater pointed tail format, re-registered and re-painted with the original colour scheme reversed.
By 1934, it is thought that ownership had passed to Douglas L. Briault and both he and J.H. Bartlett competed in the Alta at Brooklands on a number of occaisions between 1934 and 1937. By the Outbreak of The Second World War the car was owned by John Jesty who wrote a charming article about his adventures in the Alta for the 69thedition of “Talking of Sports Cars” a regular feature in The Autocarmagazine during the war years. (copy on file The Autocar3rdOctober 1941) Said article includes Jesty’s hilarious account of an expedition from Cambridge to London during which the left leg of his trousers got caught in the exposed prop-shaft linkage. The garment was shredded, only to be regurgitated later, covered in oil, onto the dress of a young lady he was taking out for the first time.
The Alta was acquired in 1961 in a partially dismantled state by Robin Morgan-Giles, of the famous yachting family. The cylinder block and head were missing, having been sent away for repair by a previous owner and never returned. When the current owner acquired the car from Morgan-Giles, through Dan Margulies, 40 years later they were still missing, but Dan’s racing mechanic, the Hon. Edward Wodehouse, substituted one half of a new Alfa Romeo 8C block/head casting which fitted perfectly. This increased the capacity to 1500cc, which meant fitting new pistons and rods, but all the other Alta internals, including the camshafts, camshaft drive, valve-gear and crankshaft, were incorporated in the rebuild, as was the secondary supercharger from Dan’s Grand Prix Maserati.
In current ownership, the car has been displayed at Silverstone in a celebration of the marque’s 50thAnniversary. It was also raced at the same circuit several times in VSCC events, but was not used for several years after that. The engine has recently been thoroughly re-commissioned by Edward Way and the bodywork refreshed by Ben Brown and details of the works carried out over the years as well as a substantial photographic record can be viewed in the extensive history files offered for sale with the car.
In his sales brochure Geoffrey Taylor wrote of his sports car “…In making the Alta it has not been our aim to make a mere means of locomotion, but to make something that will give its possessor an infinitude of pleasure.” Well he clearly succeeded in his task and would surely approve of the intelligent period modifications this Alta sports has benefitted from. A superb post vintage thoroughbred in the truest sense, this Alta is available for immediate inspection at our showrooms together with the extensive history files that accompany it.