And they had good pedigree - A. C. Bertelli from Aston Martin joined together with Albert Gough, the chief engineer from Frazer Nash, to create this technically advanced British sportscar. For example, they essentially had the first flappy-paddle gearbox of the day, and independent suspension from and rear. Engine choice was either a 1.5-litre or 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine developing 78bhp or 98bhp respectively, plus a supercharged option. Later, a 4.3-litre V12 Lincoln Zephyr with 112bhp joined the pack. The cars raced at Brooklands and Le Mans, and took a team victory in the 1939 Welsh Rally.
And then, very little.
Until Martyn Corfield came along and started buying up whole cars, chassis and registration numbers, and set about reverse engineering an Atalanta. He secured the trademarks, purchased the company, and is now in the business of building a handful of Atalantas a year for a small client base.
He does so from the perfect surroundings at Bicester Heritage, the growing British hub for all things classic-car-related. More than 60 businesses have taken up residence in a strange, endearing and successful collective, based at a former RAF station. Among the workshops and small companies in operation are restorers, dealers, upholsterers, motorsport event organisers and even one of the world’s top two magneto specialists. It’s niche, to say the least, but the ideal showroom for the Atalanta.
I took a development car for a short spin round the little test track at Bicester with Martyn in the passenger seat, eager for feedback. The powertrain is well suited to the burbling, picnicking nature of this sportscar, with 200lb ft of torque from the Ford 2.5-litre in-line engine, a five-speed manual gearbox, and a heavy flywheel to emulate that long-stroke feeling.
The grip is astonishing through the corners, although when I drove it, significant tweaking to the suspension was still to come - this was a development car very much set up for the track, with an extraordinarily hard ride. I’m told, and believe, that has now been amended - Martyn and his team of engineers have been constantly tweaking the car for months and are delightfully receptive to criticism.
Three orders are underway for the new Atalanta, which comes with a price tag just shy of £150,000, and rightly so: the design details on the car are phenomenal, with bright green leather piping running down the outside of the gloss black paintwork, and gorgeous Art Deco styling inside, on the buttons and steering wheel boss. In a clever twist, you pull out the starter button to fire up the engine, which Corfield did just “to be different”. It’s a lovely little detail, and a hallmark of the car’s, and indeed company’s, rebirth. We rather approve.