Carole Nash
Content Writer
Published: 26th February 2018

The British car industry has produced several memorable marques and there have been just as many that haven’t been able to keep up with the market. One of them is Alta, which was founded in Surrey by Geoffrey Taylor. It started producing high-quality sports vehicles like the Alta GP and the company competed in various FIA world championship races. The cars were memorable, though the company went out of business and we’ve decided to look into the history of Alta.

Early years

Alta produced its first car in 1929, a 1.1-litre sports vehicle that featured an aluminium block, wet liners and shaft-driven twin overhead camshafts. Taylor designed the car himself and it was offered as a 49 bhp naturally aspirated or supercharged 76 bhp model. The most advanced version of the car reached a top speed of 120 mph and could go from 0 – 60 in 7 seconds.  

In 1934, Taylor produced the first Alta designed exclusively for competition. This car made a name for itself in hill-climbs, sprints and time-trials and because of its affordable price, Alta enjoyed high sales among amaetur racers. The original 1929 car inspired the 1.5-litre and 2-litre versions that sold at a steady pace. Alta introduced front independent suspension in 1937, making the cars popular among club racers.

Before WW2 broke out, Taylor was working on a highly-advanced car, only to scrap it for the war effort.

Gradual decline

After the war, Alta became the first British manufacturer to produce a new Grand Prix car. The company wasn’t held back by austerity limitations of raw materials and the GP car came out in 1948. Taylor restarted production on roadworthy sports cars, though funding problems led to fading popularity.

This meant Alta needed to put all its efforts into the GP car. Powered by a supercharged 1.5-litre engine, the first motor was supplied to privateer driver George Abecassis, who used it through 1948 and 1949. Modifications were made for the GP2 and GP3 vehicles, which included an upgraded engine and more streamlined bodywork. The cars were built in order and supplied to Geoffrey Crossley and Joe Kelly.

Crossley entered the 1949 Belgian Grand Prix, but finished seventh. He did set a number of speed records at the 1950 Montlhery circuit. Kelly entered Irish races, with his best result coming at the 1952 Ulster Trophy where he finished third.

Alta lacked the funding to develop a Formula One car, so Taylor focused on the junior Formula Two division. Alta created a vehicle with a 1970 cc in-line 4-cylinder engine, but the bulky chassis resulted in an overweight car. This caused another shift to occur, with Alta focusing on supplying engines to other race cars and companies, the most successful being Connaught and Cooper. After Connaught shut down in 1959, Alta disappeared with them.

Although Taylor’s son Michael tried to revive the brand in 1976, he wasn’t successful. Alta are still an important part of British motor history.

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