THE MODERN ALTA SOME NOTES ON AN EXTREMELY PROMISING BRITISH RACING MARQUE
THE Alta has been doing surprisingly well this season and lots of knowledgeable people predict a very stirring future for this essentially British production. At Brighton Geoffrey Taylor, designer and manufacturer of these cars, took the Course Record with a normally suspended, several years’ old blown 2litre Alta, at 80.18 m.p.h. At the same meeting his works manager, H. J. Griffiths, made best sports car time of the day with a blown 2-litre Alta, averaging 65.79 m.p.h. over the standing halfmile, and Alta s were, indeed, generally prominent at Brighton, gained third place in the Unlimited sports-class, second and third places behind Lord Howes E.R.A. in the 14-litre racing class, first and third places in the 3-litre class and second place in the unlimited class, besides the two class wins resulting front best racing and sports-car time On the following day Abecassis took his 11-litre fully independently sprung car to Prescott and, on a course calling for very different qualities from those prevailing at Brighton, easily smashed the existing record. Earlier, we had Mrs. Lace’s victory with a 2-litre Alta at the Crystal Palace at 514;1 m.p.h., Abecassis’s second place in the second heat of the London G.P., and W. W. S. Bennett’s Win in the Brook-lands “Gold Star” sports-car race, at 62.21 m.p.h. Now that the Alta has found reliability as well as the immense acceleration and speed for which it has been famous for the past few seasons, we may expect it to be very potent in future races. Certainly Taylor deserves very great credit for developing to such a pitch of perfection a marque which started in a very humble manner indeed and which is still handbuilt (in racing and sports forms) in a quite small works at Tolworth, on the ‘Kingston By-Pass, where they do not pretend to have anything large in the way of a cash turn-over. Geoffrey Taylor -owned a Riley for several years just for fun and about nine years ago he decided to build himself a special sports job. The result was the 1,100 c.c. red two-seater with twin camshaft, wet-liner engine, which used to puzzle enthusiasts in the Brooklands enclosure at that time and which subsequently ran with success in M.C.C. Trials and J.C.C. High Speed Trials. For sentimental reasons Taylor still retains this car and it was at the
work.s when we called there last month. It actually ran in last year’s J.C.C. High Speed Trial, with a blower ,added, and made Best Performance in the Second Trial. It has also won a B.A.R.C. race when loaned to Mrs. Oxenden, an Alta enthusiast resident in Jersey. Taylor decided to go into production with his special car, after getting very thoroughly acquainted with its characteristics, and
for some years this very advanced design has been in production. The 1,100 c.c.
car was followed by 1 i-litre and 2-litre cars, and the racing jobs were a logical development. The engine has undergone surprisingly few alterations since Taylor laid down the original design, though obviously, from the very notable increases of power out put, it has been rather thoroughly cleaned
up in the fullness of time. In 1933. a geartrain replaced the original vertical shaft drive for the o.h. camshafts, but this proved noisy and unsatisfactory, and was replaced by a chain drive. The drive is at the rear of the block, in two stages, the upper stage uniting the two camshafts. Normal link-chain is used and has never exhibited any short-comings. The original wet cylinder liners have been superseded by cylinders cast in blocks of two, which drop into the aluminium engine base, being sealed at the head by a special Alta pressure ring in conjunction with metal-to-metal contact and at the base by a paper washer. In effect, the wet-liner layout is retained, but the complete cylinders can now be withdrawn by removal of two bolts per pair, after head and sump have been removed, while there is added stiffness from the deep base chamber. As the 11-litre and 2-litre engines differ only in respect of cylinder bore, being practically identical even in Weight, it is possible to quickly transfer an engine from one capacity class to another. On the earlier cars the plugs were very decidedly masked, screwing into apertures isolated from the main chamber, but unmasked plugs are now used., entering the head centrally, but inclined at an angle of 34° towards the front of the unit. The valves are inclined, at 68° in relation to one another, and the inlet ports are of downdraught formation and also enter the combustion chambers at a slight angle to promote turbulence. The supercharger is a Roots type of Alta manufacture, bolted to the front of the crankcase and driven by two pinions from the nose of the crankshaft. It is lubricated entirely from the engine supply and runs at 11. times engine speed ; 9,000 r.p.m. at peak revs. It is interesting that, although the present units give off very high outputs, and their light alloy construction must conduct heat readily to the base chamber, Taylor finds no use for dry
sump lubrication. The sump, indeed, is not noticeably heavily ribbed, but it holds 24 gallons of Oil. The rocker gear is very neat. The camshafts are directly over the valves, but a rocking finger is interposed between cam and stem head. To effect adjustment, which is by shims contained within the valve cap, one merely slides each rocker sideways clear Of its valve, a spring On the rockerspindle normally ensuing correct location. Large bore copper tubes carry lubricant to the valve-gear, tiny split pins controlling the flow from each aperture. We were told that the racing engine weighs 300 lb. complete, less the Wilson gearbox. Taylor has long been enthusiastic in respect of the Wilson self-change box’, which is a Type 110 on the racing 2-litre and a Type 75 on the road cars. The foregoing notes apply to both the racing and sports engines, which differ only in respect of blower pressures and compression ratios. The racing engines are blown at 17 lb. or 24 lb. with the larger blower, and have a compression ratio of 8.5 to 1, and the road cars have a blow of 8 lb. and a ratio of 6 to 1. Abecassis’s 14-litre racing engine is blown at 12 lb. Incidentally, rumour has it that Howe’s E.R.A. had a blow of 43 lb. at Brighton. We were told that the engine in 2-litre racing form is now developing :125 b.h.p. at 5,800 r.p.m. and 300 b.h.p. at its maximum safe speed of 7,000 r.p.m.—from four cylinders of 79 x100 min, bore and stroke. The engine is said to go so easily up to 12,000 r.p.m. or over that in the past blow-ups have happened solely on account of careless handling. In this connection .Taylor tells a delightful story of how he makes a practice of fitting a leather washer to the oil-gauge when a new driver is practising with one of his ears. When the car conies in Taylor asks how the oil pressure is and invariably is told, it is quite in order. ” What pressure was it at ? ” he persists. ” I didn’t notice ” the driver will reply ” but the hand was right round here ”whereas the hand does not register at all with the washer in place Under such circumstances it is not surprising that engine limits are overlooked. There is one well known driver, now racing an Italian car, who complained of valvehreakage. Taylor took his car round the outer-circuit at 7,000 r.p.m. and had the head removed, when every valve was perfect. As soon as the owner went round, keeping, he said, below 5,000 ram., the trouble returned . . • Both Geoffrey Taylor and his brother have told as that Abecassis Owes much of his success to taking careful account of engine speeds—photographs of his Alta in action show how frequently he studies his rev. counter (or, to be accurate, his tachometer). In racing trim the 2-litre does about 5 m.p.g. and the *litre about 64 m.p.g. Taylor uses R.D.I. for the racing engines and ordinary Cleveland Discol for road work and finds
Champion NA14 plugs equally satisfactory for both purposes.
Geoffrey Taylor is interested in sportscar racing, but is debarred from events like the T.T. and Le Mans because of his blowers. At the beginning of the year he sought to institute a programme of unblown cars, not because supercharging had been found in any way unsatisfactory, but on account of the saving in first cost possible by using unblown engines. Clients were not at all interested. And, as Taylor says, why bother about unblown cars when your blown sports two-seater does 800 r.p.m. in top without oiling up, 120 m.p.h., and 23 m.p.g. ? Actually, Bennett’s blown lt-litre car won the “Gold Star” Sports-Car Race, averaging 62.21 m.p.h. for seven laps of the Campbell Circuit, and Bennett and Gammon will drive Altas in the Crystal Palace Sports-Car Race on August 13th. So far as the racing-cars are concerned, although Taylor is now mainly interested in the larger engines, we gather that a 3-litre Alta is not at present contemplated —Taylor, along with lots of others, eagerly awaits the 2k-litre E.R.A. Last season the fully independently sprung Alta chassis was introduced, following the use of front independent suspension on a car prepared by Bellevue Garage for O’Boyle, which, however, had softer springs than those used by Altas—O’Boyle’s car is at present for sale at k1.95. The fully independent chassis is a remarkable construction. It has straight side members, not particularly heavily crossbraced, yet it is so stiff that it is possible to jack up one side and remove a wheel
on the other. Tubular cross stays at each end carry the guides for the coil suspension. Five of these chassis have been constructed—we believe the number is made up of those supplied to Abecassis, Hunter, and a South African client, two more nearly built and the one written off in the I.O.M. crash. Hunter’s car was assembled by R. R. Jackson from parts supplied by Altas, and fitted with a distinctive body. The sixth chassis of this type is now under construction for Beadle, who has previously raced an Alta. It will have the 2-litre racing engine and has certain important modifications over the earlier fully independently sprung ears. The wheelbase is 5 in. longer, or 8′ 5″, though the track remains at 4′ 3″. The body is of similar width, but is considerably lower than that on Abeca.ssis’s car, owing to the use of a double reduction axle which enables the propeller shaft to be dropped 5″. The fuel tank holds 85 gallons and new brake drums are used to obviate overheating experienced in the case of Abecassis’s car. The new drums are heavily ribbed and the master rib is actually of greater diameter than the wheel rim—asked what happens if you completely lose Mr. Dunlop, Taylor replied that it is better to motor on the brake
drum than on the rim . . . Abeca-ssis will have had these new brakes fitted for the B..A.R.C. August Meeting. At the small works at Tolworth they go quietly about the further development of the Alta, which has progressed from an obscure sports-car to one of the world’s leading small racing-cars in a matter of just over half-a-dozen years. In this country small concerns often show initiative and skill unsurpassed by the biggest organisations in the industry, and for producing a British racing-car of real and growing potency Geoffrey Taylor and his henchmen deserve the thanks of every one of us. The sports models are, however, not neglected in consequence of racing activities and are priced as follows :-9 h.p. blown two-seater, £498; iflitre tourer, £498; 11-litre ” Competition ” two-seater, b575 ; 2-litre tourer, k498 ; 2-litre ” Competition ” two-seater,
5’75. A Heenan and Fronde brake is used for engine testing, but Taylor makes use of Brooklands on non-race days and expects the racing 2-litre to accelerate from approximately 60 to 100 m.p.h. in top gear in under 5 secs. He is enthusiastic, by the way, over the possibilities drivers have of picking up place prizemoney as arranged by Harry Edwards at the Palace. The 2-litre racing job is priced at £1,250, or £850 with the older chassis, the 1 i-litre at £850 and the 1,100 c.c. at #350.