You're looking for classic meets modern, yeah? Can do, sir…
By Tony Middlehurst / Monday, 18 April 2022 / Loading comments
Are young folk into it too, or is it just us old fogeys who enjoy the view down a long car bonnet? How did that ever become a thing? Was it down to the impact of Noddy’s multicoloured motor in our black and white childhoods, or was it a security thing stemming from the feeling that you would be further away from a head-on accident in a car that shape than you would be in a Mini?
Whatever it is, the long bonnet/short cabin design most definitely has serious appeal for a significant percentage of the motoring population. Odd, then, that so few companies have seen fit to supply product for that market. If you discount kit cars made out of stinky fibreglass and old Marina drivetrains – which you really should – you’d have to admit that Morgan has been covering it pretty much solo.
Unless, that is, you were aware of the Atalanta Bluebird which is currently for sale in PH Classifieds. The extraordinary story of Atalanta is nicely explained in the ad so we’ll skip over most of that for now, touching only briefly on the wonder of a firm that started in 1937 and went in double-quick time from race-competitive 1.5- and 2.0-litre fours (initially designed for Frazer Nashes) to a 4.3-litre Lincoln Zephyr V12 before switching to the manufacture of pumping equipment for the Second World War.
The 22 or so cars they did manage to make before war intervened featured innovative technology like fully independent suspension all round, twin-spark heads and lightweight materials such as duralumin and electron. They came out very well in contemporary road tests and enjoyed a level of success in both rally and speed trial events that was remarkable considering how young the company was. They even ran a works entry at Le Mans in 1938 only to be sidelined by a broken driveshaft.
The car you’re looking at here is one of three continuation cars built so far by Atalanta Motors, a firm set up in 2011 to custom-build cars blending the original 1930s Atalanta art deco vibe with the considerable benefits of more modern tech, materials and techniques. So the two-seater bodies are traditionally worked in aluminium over ash, but the chassis is a lightweight welded and bonded aluminium composite.
The Borg Warner T9 five-speed gearbox harks back to the original cars’ Warner synchro overdrive boxes but is updated with an aluminium-cased limited slip diff. The suspension is the original independent design but has upgraded castings and tailored, remotely adjustable coilover shocks. Braking is by disc with four-piston calipers on all corners but the 18 x 4 painted wire wheels are pure Rudge Whitworth style. The steering is unassisted rack and pinion with a fully collapsible column.
What’s the engine though? Well, it’s a 2.5-litre naturally aspirated four with variable timing ‘developed in house by Atalanta’ to produce 214hp with 198lb ft of torque. We’re going to let you beardy types try to identify it from the engine pic on DK’s website.
The Atalanta’s VIN plate tells us it weighs 1,127kg. Excitingly, that’s the same as the Lotus Exige Sport 350. Admittedly the Lotus had 345hp so it would perhaps be unreasonable to expect Exige-like levels of performance from the Atalanta, especially if you found yourself driving into the teeth of a strong wind, but supercharged options are available to anyone commissioning their own Atalanta.
The dash has that Morganesque ‘let’s throw some clocks at it and see where they end up’ look to it, which of course is exactly as it should be. Not sure what wood they used to hold them in place but PH’s resident carpenter tells us it’s not walnut or maple.
A car just like this (or exactly like this if it was the same car) was on display in the rotunda of the RAC Club in Pall Mall a couple of years back. It might still be there for all we know, we haven’t been back since the exclusion order was made. Point being that the RAC wouldn’t stick any old hack in its rotunda. This is a pukka machine.
Frustratingly you have to apply to DK to find out the price. What might that be? Well, when the first continuation was built five years ago we believe that prices began at £150,000 and there might well be a desirability premium on top of that now. Yes, you can get a used Aston DBS Superleggera for the same money, but how many of them do you see on the roads on an average day? Fifty or sixty? OK, maybe that wasn’t a good example, but you get the drift. And you almost certainly will get the drift on an Atalanta’s Blockley tyres.
in case you’re wondering, Atalanta was a mythological Greek huntress blessed with tenacity and speed. As we are sure you know, there was another car with Atalanta in its name, the unforgettable Sizaire-Berwick 20CV Atalanta Sporting Torpedo of 1915. Sadly, no images appear to exist of that vehicle but with a name of that magnitude you’d like to think that the bonnet was absolutely massive.
See the full ad here
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