The Original Prototype
1928 Alta Supercharged Sports Two-Seater
Registration no. PK 4053
Chassis no. 119
Engine no. 10
'The name of Alta may not have the aura of ERA, Maserati, Bugatti or Alfa Romeo, but nonetheless it holds an important niche in the history of British motor racing and was the result of the endeavours of one man.' - Denis Jenkinson, Motor Sport.
The late Geoffrey Taylor was a small specialist manufacturer with a difference. Where others concocted hybrids from proprietary bits and pieces, he not only designed but also made every part of the Alta sports and competition models, even down to superchargers. The little Alta factory near the Kingston by-pass (only demolished in the early 1960s) was largely put up with his own hands. Alta design features included cast-iron wet liners, camshafts with vertical shaft/skew gear drive, hemispherical combustion chambers and Nitralloy steel crankshafts. The frame was underslung, and even the little 1100s wore 13 brake drums.
Though blown and unblown 1,000s, 1500s and 2-litres were catalogued up to the outbreak of WW2, only very few cars were made: a fair estimate is four single-seater racers, six offset single-seater racers and 19 sports types. Post-WW2, engines were supplied to HWM and to Connaught, whose B-Type famously driven to victory by Tony Brooks in the 1955 Syracuse Grand Prix was Alta-powered.
This car is Taylors original prototype, first registered PK 4053 on 1st November 1928; thus it is the only vintage example of the make, as manufacture did not commence until the summer of 1931 when the first production model was sold to a Mr Last, of Littlehampton. The engine is a four-cylinder, twin-overhead-camshaft monobloc of 60x95mm bore/stroke for a capacity of 1,074cc. Ignition is by coil and drive is transmitted to the spiral-bevel back axle via a four-speed gearbox. With a 7ft 8in wheelbase, the chassis features semi-elliptic front springing and quarter-elliptic rear suspension, while both foot and hand brakes act on all four wheels.
PK 4053 remained its creators property until he died in 1969; in the course of its career it was used as the works hack and entered in all manner of motor sport events including sprints, grass-track races, long-distance trials such as the Lands End, high-speed trials and at Brooklands, where it was driven by Mrs Patricia Oxenden. PK 4053 was used to try out modifications that later appeared on production Altas, its specification being progressively updated until eventually it matched that of the final 1100cc models. The most significant up-grade occurred in 1934 when the car was fitted with a new type of engine incorporating plain big-ends, gear-train drive to the camshafts (soon replaced by chains), a Roots-type supercharger, reduced valve angle and one-piece construction of the block/upper crankcase. In this form the engine produced 77bhp at 5,600rpm on pump fuel, though a later dynamometer test conducted using a higher-octane brew resulted in a figure of 104bhp being recorded.
Other modifications included the enlargement of the fuel tank and its re-siting at the tail, and the fitting of an ENV pre-selector gearbox in whose top ratio the little Alta would be travelling at 110mph at 6,400rpm. The original raked radiator grille of pre-1935 Altas has been replaced by the curved, vertical-barred type found on the later sports and racing machinery, while other alterations include full-cutaway doors and a fully-framed windscreen.
When Geoffrey Taylor died in 1969, he left the car in his will to former Alta driver George Abecassis, whose own HWM cars used Alta engines. Abecassis kept the car for a few years, offering it for sale at Bonhams Syon Park auction and eventually selling it to the well-known American collector, Merle Mishne (now deceased). Apart from a solitary outing, Mishne is believed never to have used the Alta, which was purchased from him by the current owners 3-4 years ago. While in the present ownership, PK 4053 has been re-commissioned for road use and driven on a handful of occasions. It will be offered with Swansea V5 and fresh MoT at time of sale, together with a quantity of (copy) magazine articles about Geoffrey Taylor, Alta and PK 4053.
A unique opportunity to acquire a marque-founding vehicle of historical significance and impeccable provenance that guarantees entry into a wide variety of VSCC and other prestigious historic motor sport events.