The May 81 Jenks Alta feature linked in post 2 rekindled a few memories that appeared over later 1981 Motor Sport issues.
Here's the first response from June's issue and if I've got the correct car this time is 66S (again easier to give the link)...
D.S.J.’s interesting article on Alta history has motivated me to assemble a few memories of a 2-litre blown sports Alta owned by me for just over a year during 1961 and 1962. My Alta was ex John Heath and a truly impressive sports car by any standards. The exhaust system had the lot! An enormous bunch of bananas, Brooklands silencer beneath the driver’s right elbow and a fishtail for good measure. There was a huge Roots supercharger sucking through a 2″ SU, I remember 8-10 p.s.i. as being the normal reading on the boost gauge; a highly sophisticated light alloy, twin cam engine of 1,990 c.c. with wet liners, ENV110 preselector gearbox, 16″ brake drums, no doors, flared wings, rounded tail and aeroscreens completed the ensemble. I now know that only seven sports Altas with 1 1/2 or 2-litre engines were ever made. Although I didn’t appreciate the fact at the time, this was a pure-bred racing car with an extra seat and a few less pounds boost: a sort of road-going ERA.
I bought her from John Grice at the VSCC Prescott meeting in 1961 for £375. The delicious whiff of Castrol R which seemed to permeate every inch of the car was certainly a deciding factor in the purchase. I towed her home behind my 1927 2-litre Lagonda.
The Alta, for all its complexity and state of tune, turned out to be entirely usable and reliable. The only trouble I experienced was with the ENV gearbox. In theory, the friction bands in these gearboxes are self-adjusting as long as the gear-change pedal is pushed to its limit each time before being released. Competitive acceleration through the gears in a potent car usually means rather hurried pedal work and consequently the linings slipped, became hot and bothered and wore out quickly. The mechanics at a local corporation bus depot proved exceedingly helpful and knowledgeable about the repair of pre-selector boxes.
The excellent braking, direct steering, stiff suspension and predictable handling allied to shattering acceleration up to an easy 100 m.p.h. meant that twisty roads became twistier and the long straight bits shorter and narrower, which makes for a far more interesting and exciting journey and is what sports car motoring is all about.
I became an avid Alta fan and began to read up and research all the literature I could unearth on the marque. I found many references to what must have been my car when compaigned by John Heath in the years immediately prior to and after the war. Birmingham’s Central Reference Library was particularly helpful. But, the more I read, the more I began to discover that the highly developed blown engine that I had been using for trips to the pub, shopping and general daily use, much as one might use a TR2, had a long and, to me, disturbing history of unreliability and fragility. The gas-filled rings separating coolant from combustion chamber, previously the objects of purely academic interest, now became the cause of increasing awe and considerable respect. Temporarily putting pessimistic thoughts to the back on my mind I continued to treat the Alta as if I expected it to be utterly dependable and, luckily, so it was.
I entered the occasional sprint and continued to enjoy the car, but my growing knowledge of Alta matters brought on an increasing awareness that I was driving an exclusive, and rather precious motor car. And, more to the point, any serious mechanical failure could entail financial disaster, thus I reluctantly decided to sell her. One of my advertisements in Motor Sport eventually produced a buyer, at £400. It was with mixed feelings that I watched her being driven away to Weston-super-Mare, I think it was, before going to America.
GPL3 came back to England in 1978, thanks to Dan Margulies, and I think he still has the car. Apparently several undignified modifications were carried out in the States and she can never properly be called “original” again.
How things have changed in 20 years with the exception, in the nicest possible way, of Motor Sport.