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Exceptional 1950 HWM Alta Jaguar to Feature at Silverstone Auction

1950 HWM Alta Jaguar

Raced by Stirling Moss, John Heath, Lance Macklin, George Abecassis, and Rudi Fisher – this 1950 HWM Alta Jaguar can trace its origins to those charismatic ‘Garagiste.’

The Silverstone Auctions Race Retro Live Online Auction is set to feature this beautiful 1950 HWM Alta Jaguar in its initial sale for 2021.

HWM or Hersham & Walton Motors are frequently viewed as the most prominent contributor to British motorsport growth in the post-war international race scene.

George Abecassis and John Heath created their vehicles from their Walton-on -Thames premises. 1950 marked a turning point; they entered four works cars intended to be raced in the new 2-litre Formula B (Formula 2) class and sports car events throughout Europe.

1950 HWM Alta Jaguar

Despite having a minimal budget and facing ominous financial, physical, and logistical problems, the full team of British cars pushed on, and John Heath’s little Ecurie ended up racing at nineteen British and Continental races in 1950 with relative success.  

The team famously provided breaks to young inspiring drivers, with Sir Stirling Moss provided his first works drive debuting at Goodwood at the Easter Meeting on April 10, where he finished in 2nd place.

Silverstone Auctions offers the first of the four works cars with rich race history, having been raced by John Heath, Stirling Moss, Lance Macklin, Rudi Fisher, and George Abecassis. It was raced for fifteen times across Europe, including the Grand Prix de Geneve, Reims, and Grand Premio De Bari.  

1950 HWM Alta Jaguar

All four cars had minor bodywork differences, with the car on offer being the 1950/A – the prototype. 

In October 1950, Stirling drove it to victory at Castle Combe. Soon after, the car was sold to Oscar Moore in 1951, where Moore continued to race the example with great success. He even registered the example to be driven on the road, having a North London registration of XMC 34. The current owner purchased it in 1965, where it has been driven at Midland hill climb events. 

History of the 1950 HWM Alta Jaguar

To prepare for the 1949 season, Heath wanted the team to design and build their own car for Formula Two and sports car racing.

Historical photo of1950 HWM Alta Jaguar

The dual-purpose car had a 2-liter Alta engine in a twin-tube chassis and wishbone front suspension. It was also given a transverse leaf spring, Citroen steering rack {HW Motors were Citroen dealers), Standard 12 uprights, a live rear axle, and an ENV pre-selector gearbox. 

The HW-Alta was a great success, as the viceless handling gave Heath victory at the 70-mile 1949 BRDC Race in the loM, and he was a close second at the GP de l’ACF for sports cars at Comminges just behind Possi’s Delahaye. 

HWM Alta Swiss Grand Prix
HWM-Alta, car number 16 at the pits at June 4, 1950, Swiss Grand Prix Formula Two race held in Bremgarten. Source: Revs Institute

Spurred on by their success, Heath and Abecassis modified their design of the HW-Alta for the 1950 season as their three-car team’s heart. 

After being offered an entry at Le Mans, they were encouraged to have a dual-purpose design, but when they realized that only prize-money was on offer, they dropped the Sarthe entry, and throughout 1950 the cars were raced as open-wheel single-seaters.  

Front of 1950 HWM Alta Jaguar

Initially, they planned to build a prototype and four team cars, the fourth to be used as a spare. Eventually, the team consisting of Heath, Alf Francis, Rex Woodgate, Tom O’Hara, and Jack Tolly, a part-time welder, only constructed four cars, including the prototype. There could be an additional, unfinished chassis laid down, though not completed.

The four units were given engine and chassis numbers FB101, 102, 103, and 104. FB was the prefix that Geoffrey Taylor gave the Formula B Alta engines, FB as the forerunner of F2.  

interior of car
side of car

The first three numbers were supposedly the cars that the team was going to use, with the last number given to the prototype.

The prototype was created without a number and was designated 104 since the other numbers were already allocated. They were planning on selling the prototype to a locally based privateer, Baring. However, Baring ended up purchasing the brand-new 103, so the team ended up using the prototype. The new cars from HW Motors were dubbed “HWM.” 

Windscreen of car

In 1950, they were only able to finish two cars for the Easter Monday Goodwood event, and they let privateer Alistair ‘Buster’ Baring drive one, given they were planning to sell the fourth car to him. At the Chichester Cup Formula Libre race, Stirling finished sixth, and in the Easter Handicap, he secured second place.  

In early May, a third car was finally ready for Roubaix and it was a week later before Baring got his own car for Mons where all four cars were finally able to run.  

The prototype was to be shared between George Abecassis, who drove it for seven races, John Heath, who drove it for five races, including a fourth-place at Reims. Lance Macklin, who drove it four times, achieved third place at Mèttet, and Sir Stirling Moss, who drove it twice and achieved a first and third-place at Castle Combe.   

Alta Jaguar

To help the team finance the 1951 season, the three works cars were sold off after adding mudguards and lights.

In 1951, the example, having last been driven by Moss, was purchased by the privateer racer Oscar Moore who fitted it with a Jaguar 3.4 engine from an XK120 but modified to 3781cc.

engine of 1950 HWM Alta Jaguar

It was the first HWM Jaguar and from the get-go, it was a very competitive car with the capability of beating C-Types on twisty circuits.  

For the last 50 years, it has competed at different hill-climbs with Georgina Baillie-Hill, Gillian Goldsmith, and Davina Galica behind at the wheel. 

The rolling piece of British motorsport history traces its roots to the charismatic ‘Garagiste’ at HWM who dared to go up against 1950s Grand Prix legends like the Ferrari and Alfa Romeo

Further details on the sale of the 1950 HWM Alta Jaguar can be found at Silverstone Auctions.

[Source: Silverstone Auctions]