1936 Alta 2-Litre Grand Prix
- One of only six examples built
- Exceptionally rare and desirable single-seater race car
- Set new class F record at the Mountain Course at Brooklands in period
- Competed with the likes of the P3, Type 35, and ERAs
“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 endeavors of one man.”- Denis Jenkinson, Motor Sport
Geoffrey Taylor was a small specialist manufacturer with a difference. Where others assembled 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 the superchargers. The little Alta factory near the Kingston bypass was largely put up with his own hands.
Completed in 1929, Taylor’s first Alta was an 1,100 cc sports car. The Alta engine featured cast-iron wet liners, twin overhead camshafts with vertical shaft/skew gear drive, hemispherical combustion chambers, and Nitralloy steel crankshafts, making it one of the more advanced designs of the day. Engines were available in supercharged and un-blown form, producing 76 or 49 bhp, respectively. Lightness and low build were two of Taylor’s objectives, so the frame was under-slung, and even the little 1100s wore 13-inch brake drums. It is estimated that 13 cars were made, of which five are believed to survive.
In 1934, Taylor produced the first Alta to be designed solely for competition: an offset single-seat model. Though supercharged and un-charged 1100s, 1500s, and 2-Litres were catalogued up to the outbreak of World War II, very few cars were made; a fair estimate is four single-seater racers, six offset single-seater racers, and 19 sports types.
This Alta, chassis 52S, was the first true Alta single-seater and was originally delivered on 20 July 1935 to Alastair J. Cormack in Scotland. Cormack was the original driver of 52S, racing it extensively through the 1936 season. Cormack competed with the Alta at the 1935 Brighton Speed Trials, 1935 Grossglockner Hill Climb, 1936 R.A.C. International Car Race, 1936 Monaco Prince Rainier Cup, and the 1936 Pescara Grand Prix. Cormack’s highlight would be his impressive Class F Mountain Circuit lap record at Brooklands in October 1935. Beating his own Class G record from the year before, Cormack’s lap time was an impressive 54.61 seconds and an average speed of 77.13 mph. In the late 1930s, Robert Cowell also raced 52S and would later make news with the British press as Roberta Cowell.
After World War II, Cormack sold 52S to Geoffrey Taylor of Alta Cars, and it remained in England with several subsequent owners before being exported to New Zealand in 1952. By the 1980s it made its way back to the UK, where it was fully restored and driven in vintage racing events by its previous owner, Dan Margulies. For a time it was even road-registered in the UK.
The current owner has owned 52S for nearly 25 years and has driven it in many vintage racing events in the past, including at Laguna Seca. After recent mechanical work, it presents a rare opportunity to return this beautiful and historic car to the track once again, where it would be a welcome and unusual sight.