Alta 1100 Le Mans Sport: Fast, green, good

Gudrun Muschalla
Alta 1100 Le Mans Sport in the driving report
Subscriptions & booklets

D he question is whether one is considered more sensible A person who has already survived a few dozen years of life in good health, who really wants to do this here - thread his legs into a skin-tight aluminum tube. Burn your hand when getting in and then burn your entire elbow on the outside exhaust when sitting inside.

Press your ankle against the boiling hot gear due to lack of space. Without earplugs, be exposed to all the rattling, rattling, coughing and hammering that shoots from the engine compartment into the ear canals. Press his already stressed lumbar vertebrae number 4 and 5 a full 15 centimeters above the speeding asphalt into hardened leather.

A dozen Le Mans since 1932

Mosquitoes, flies, dragonflies and maybe even birds are slapped in the face at full speed. And rely on 75 year old drum brakes that rely on the Alta 1100 Le Mans sports bikes look no wider than the women's sandals from Gucci's last summer collection. The answer is: Of course you want that, because the opportunities for such an exquisite ordeal are more than rare. Nobody knows how many Alta 1100 Le Mans Sport are left, only 12 of the one-liter series were built between the two world wars.

This vehicle, a special one-off production for Le Mans, is still number 14 - because for some inexplicable reason the numbering began with 10. Since its creation in 1932, the Alta 1100 Le Mans Sport completely original. Including its still first engine, which makes incredible noises in front of us. Are glowing chunks of metal flying around our helmetless heads? 'What makes so noise is the vertical shaft', smiles Alta 1100 Le Mans Sport owner Gabriel Wieler. That means: everything is normal. With carefully measured double-declutching, he shifts into the next gear without any cracking.

Every tone that can be heard here can also be felt: The Alta 1100 Le Mans Sport vibrates with a wild concert of fine to brutal vibrations that overlap, incite and reinforce one another. Piston, connecting rod,Shafts, gears, axles - every part of the Alta 1100 Le Mans Sport has a noticeable life of its own and does what it pleases. Without losing sight of the big picture: the little Alta 1100 is really fast. He carries, yes flies his two passengers with wonderful ease over the Swabian country road. And, by the way, invalidates one of the initial fears, because its cable-operated drum brakes are astonishingly effective and stable. Almost as if he wanted to say: It's great that I can show how carefully I was designed 80 years ago. Constructed? In the case of the Alta 1100 Le Mans Sport, it is probably without exaggeration to speak of composed.

68 hp at 5,200 rpm

The young man Who began designing his first masterpiece in 1927 at the age of 26, was a Mozart of automotive mechanics: Geoffrey Taylor had little money, but plenty of excellent ideas. In his father's small motorcycle parts factory in Tolworth in south-west London, he spent two years creating a sports car based on very personal ideas. And they had little to do with the usual style of the time. Giants like the Blower Bentley, more reminiscent of trucks than racing cars, were not Taylor's thing. Its debut should be small and light, and for good road holding it should also be much lower than the long-legged cars that were previously known. And there was something else that Taylor did differently: he did everything himself. The frame and the chassis came from him. Taylor also drew the pretty body with its streamlined, sloping radiator, which also extends perfectly over parts of the wheel suspension. Underneath, he moved the engine and transmission slightly to the left so that the driver's seat could be positioned as low as possible. Speaking of which: Taylor also built the unsynchronized four-speed gearbox, as did the engine. Not in any way, of course: the block and cylinder head of the small four-cylinder engine with a displacement of 1074 cubic centimeters are made of aluminum.

On top of it, two camshafts are turning. And in the case of number 14, there are other finesse. After all, his customer, Mister Ludovic Ford, not only wanted to get fish and chips with the car, but also wanted to take part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. That's why Taylor ennobled the engine with a vertical shaft. Together with some other measures such as connecting rods made of aluminum, the result was a very respectable 68 hp, at a frivolous 5200 rpm at the time. Around 100 miles per hour could be achieved in this way, 20 more than with the production engine. The remaining details on the small car, which was listed as “Racing Sports” in Geoffrey Taylor's order book, were also tailored to the intended use - lightweight construction as far as the eye can see, right through to a magnesium oil pan. In addition, there were finesse such as the dampers on the rear axle, whose hardness while drivingHandwheel can be adjusted. A separate instrument in the cockpit shows the current setting. Also to be admired today is the large extra oil tank with which Taylor wanted to counter the thirst for oil that could be expected during the 24 hours. The vital juice flowed automatically into the engine from the container in the passenger footwell.

First use, first accident

On June 13, 1932 the car was delivered to Ludovic Ford. However, the planned Le Mans race ended early: because his mechanics had not filled the clutch bearing with viscous grease but with thin-bodied engine oil, the Alta only got two laps. Participation in the next race was hardly more pleasant for the driver and the car - the ARDS Tourist Trophy near Belfast on August 20 of the same year: Ford drove the Alta, apparently driven by great appetite, into a butcher's shop on the fourth lap.

The fact that the axle housing and the suspension were damaged in the process can no longer be seen on the Alta 1100 Le Mans Sport. But the marking of the organizer, the Royal Automobile Club RAC, which was mandatory at the time, was very much the same. It has survived on the engine block until now. After direct contact with the butcher's shop, Mr. Ford's car evidently became a sausage; he sold it a few months later. Before we follow the path of the green, back to its builder Geoffrey Taylor. He worked diligently on further expansion stages of his vehicles.

Alta with dual ignition and compressor were soon available. Taylor later even invented something that might be advertised today as a 'practical interchangeable cylinder': thanks to exchangeable, wet cylinder liners with the corresponding pistons, the displacement could be adapted to different vehicle classes at any time. A total of 29 Alta were built between the two world wars, in addition to the 12 one-liter vehicles, some monoposti for sprint competitions, mountain ratings and short-distance races.

Back in 1937, Taylor created a monoposto with a new chassis, front independent suspension and 180 hp. His work on a Grand Prix car with two four-cylinder engines and a common crankshaft, however, was ended by the onset of World War II. After the war, some Alta took part in GP races, even in the first years of Formula 1. For example, privateer Geoffrey Crossley achieved ninth place in Spa in 1950, five laps behind the winner Juan Manuel Fangio.

Taylor also tried his luck in Formula 2 and as an engine supplier for Formula 1 chassis from HWM, Connaught and Cooper. With HWM he celebrated a class win at Le Mans in 1950, and in 1955 a Connaught Alta even won the Syracuse GP.

Hardly a part that did not have to be revised

But such successes remained isolated cases. Eventually Taylor retired from racing. He died in 1966 at the age of 63. And the green number 14? NearlyThe Alta 1100 Le Mans Sport survived the turmoil of the next decades unchanged. He counted another five, mostly long-term owners in the British Isles, as can be seen from the original logbook that still exists: Mr. Fowell, Mr. Jackson, Mr. Harley, Mr. Eames and Mr. Baxter. By chance, Gabriel Wieler found out about the car in 2003, immediately traveled to England and shortly afterwards picked up the Alta 1100 Le Mans Sport on a trailer.

'When I saw him in the barn, I knew: It had to go to my garage. The shape, the story, the originality - everything fascinated me.' A lasting fascination - although the Alta 1100 Le Mans Sport demanded and demands full financial commitment. Gabriel Wieler gave his little ones into the care of Patrick Kaiser, the accomplished specialist from Hohentengen, who otherwise prefers to take care of large-volume US cars with plenty of cubic capacity and nitrous oxide injection.

Kaiser was a good choice; you should have at least one noble surname to take on a vertical shaft motor. Especially when it is the last known vertical shaft motor from Alta. But primarily it was not the complex camshaft drive that kept Kaiser so busy. Rather, he spent countless of the now more than 400 workshop hours installing original cork seals instead of the mundane silicone sealant that British improvisation artists had used to spoil the old engine of the Alta 1100 Le Mans Sport.

In general, the engine. 'Everything was warped,' says Kaiser. 'Cylinder, cylinder head, valve cover - this alone by a full two millimeters'. There was hardly a detail of the Alta 1100 Le Mans Sport that did not need to be overhauled. Bearings, valves, valve guides, pistons, alternator, starter and ignition system were in need of repair. And all this without any spare parts or documented setting values.

Acceptable engine running thanks to the SU carburetor

Adjusting the carburetor on the Alta 1100 Le Mans Sport was also time-consuming, only converting the original Amal quadruple Racing carburetor without idling on the SU carburetor finally resulted in an engine running acceptable for today's road use. The result was a workload that put a strain on even Kaiser's natural patience. 'Sometimes I would have loved to set the car on fire,' he says with a smile about the difficult times. You can tell from his loving handling of the Alta 1100 Le Mans Sport that he would never have had the heart.

Despite all the problems, he hardly carried out any real modernizations. The only concessions to today's times are retrofitted, stylish brake lights and indicators, a switchable additional fan and a steering damper on its Alta 1100 Le Mans Sport - this was the only way to train the Alta 1100 Le Mans Sport to run smoothly. The TÜV gave its blessing for without further adoa street legal. And is just as enthusiastic about the originality as its owner. 'First gearbox, first engine, complete history - where else can you find that in a 75-year-old racing car?' says Wieler. He has that quiet smile on his face again that probably every Alta owner knows. It's a shame that there have never been very many of them.


Leave a reply

Name *