While the cars in modern racing always seem to be manufactured by major car companies, this was not always the case. In racing, for example, some independent teams built their own cars and the 1935 Alta 2-Litre vehicles showcase their innovation. Below you’ll find information on this historic car and its importance to racing.
Before you can understand this particular car, you need to understand a little bit of the background surroundings its development. The team known as Alta (a shortened version of Alberta) was headed by Geoffrey Taylor (1904 to 1966). He had a strong background in automotives thanks to building components for motorcycles and other vehicles when he was still in his late teens.
In 1928, Taylor built his first car. He used a chassis frame from the A. B. C. auto parts company for whom he worked. He also added a 1,074 cc engine with an aluminum block – the engine was fabricated completely from scratch by him when he was just 24 years old. He raced the car, known as PK4053, in a London race in 1930 and did place in the race.
After this incredible success, the car was put into production in 1931. Taylor’s engine was used in the production but the chassis was replaced with one from Rubery Owen. All of these early models were open bodied, two-seaters. They weren’t about giving the rider a smooth ride but instead getting the fastest speeds possible. And they succeeded. The vehicles could reach speeds of between 85 and 110 mph – an impressive accomplishment in the 1930’s.
However, the cars weren’t just about speed. They also had amazing acceleration which made them an ideal choice for sprints, races, and trials. In 1934, the Alta car even broke a speed record.
Big Changes & Success
Just one year later, the original car went through some modifications. One-seater bodies were developed so the car could hit other racing circuits. Plus, two more versions of the engine were put into production – the 1,496 cc and the 1,961 cc. Both of these models included chain drven camshafts – another important innovation to the model. Just two years later, the 1,496 cc model was altered to be “supercharged.” What this meant was changes in the car’s design had significantly reduced its weight. And lighter cars are capable of reaching faster speeds in less time so the car was believed to be headed for greatness on the race track.
Thanks to the improvement in the weight of the car (mainly due to changes in the nose of the vehicle) the Alta vehicles were able to win a number of races and showed tremendous promise as a front runner for racing dominance in the years to come. Taylor was already hard at work on new designs and a new chassis that he thought would make the machine an even more impressive powerhouse. Unfortunately, things were not too turn out that way for Taylor.
The Unhappy Ending
All of Taylor’s plans were brought to a halt thanks to World War II. Because of a shortage of the very supplies Taylor needed for these vehicles, he was unable to continue building or designing. All of those materials had to be used for the manufacturing of weapons. However, he continued planning and was intending to pick up where he left off as soon as the war ended.
Of course, the war did not end quickly. The war lasted from 1939 to 1945. Even after the end came, however, shortages on the materials Taylor needed kept him from getting back to his work immediately as he had hoped. By the time he did manage to return, the car he managed to design and develop was sadly under classed by those being created by major manufacturers. His car would no longer be able to take the limelight on the race track.
Eventually, Taylor gave up the car making business. When Formula 1 racing debuted, the idea of independent car makers like Taylor developing their own vehicles was a thing of the past. Although the engines he had designed continued being manufactured under a different name for a long time, Taylor was not involved and after being ill for a long time he died in 1966 without any further victories for his Alta vehicles.
However, the achievements of his 1935 Alta 2-Litre did leave quite an impression on the history of racing and on car enthusiasts for decades to come.