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Motor Mouth articles 2011

Atalanta next on revival list

An original pre-war Atalanta sports tourer

THERE seems to be no end to the trend for all things retro, which is probably a good thing as far as the contents of my wardrobe are concerned.

The latest revival in the world of motoring is the imminent resurrection of Atalanta Motors, a small British sports car manufacturer that ceased production during the Second World War.

No, I hadn’t heard of it either but pictures conjure up images of something like a vintage MG or Morgan, and very nice too.

Atalanta was established in Staines, Middlesex, in 1936 so it was clearly rather short-lived. The firm had produced only 21 individually configured, bespoke sports cars before Hitler put the kibosh on British car production.

Now Staffordshire-based motoring enthusiast Martyn Corfield is relaunching Atalanta. Plans have been drawn up for a traditional coach-built prototype which is said to be based on the original works car that competed at Le Mans in 1938. It is due to be unveiled next spring.

He says: “Atalanta is one of the greatest untold British motoring heritage stories. The cars and the team that delivered the original concept were so ahead of their time. What might have been had the war not interrupted development?

“It is my objective to sensitively bring the original Atalanta design up to date, delivering modern motoring needs of safety, reliability and performance but remaining true in spirit to the Atalanta sports car ideals and deliver the quality of product that this marque deserves.”

Initially the Atalanta was offered with underdeveloped 1½-litre 78bhp and 2-litre 98bhp engines that had been trialled in some Fraser Nash cars. A supercharged option was also available and later in 1938 a more reliable 4.3-litre V12 Lincoln Zephyr engine producing 112bhp was introduced.

Atalanta cars were available in a variety of configurations, each tailored to the particular requirements of its wealthy purchaser. Variants included an open two-seat sports car, a two-seat sports tourer, a two-door fixed head coupé and saloon, and a two-door drophead coupé.

These advanced and expensive sporting cars were regularly tested by both their owners and the works in competitive events with some success in the late 1930s. All Atalanta models benefited from a lightweight construction that contributed to delivering excellent performance and revolutionary roadholding.

Corfield is no stranger to challenging projects. He recreated a 1954 Austin Healey for a record attempt. Not content with simply overseeing a car restoration with immense attention to detail, he delivered 17 international and national speed distance records, including the current ‘fastest 100 miles’ UK record for any type of car, irrespective of age or class. He was set on breaking the record using only technology that was available in the 1950s.

It will be interesting to see the 21st century Atalanta – let’s hope it makes a more lasting impact than the original.

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