1939 Alvis Speed Twenty Five
Year of manufacture1939
Number of seats2
1939 Alvis Speed Twenty-Five Sports
Registration no. GNA 289
Chassis no. 20068
Engineer T G John founded the Alvis company in 1919 when he acquired the rights to an automobile engine and with it the brand name of its aluminium pistons ? 'Alvis'. Manufactured by T G John Ltd, the first Alvis car - the 10/30hp - appeared in 1920. Conventional yet well engineered, the four-cylinder sidevalve-engined 10/30 was unusual among contemporary light cars in having a four-speed gearbox. Beginning in 1922 and using the 10/30 as a starting point, newly appointed Chief Engineer Captain G T Smith-Clarke and Chief Designer W M Dunn created the car that effectively established Alvis's reputation - the immortal 12/50. The latter was powered by a new overhead-valve engine of 1,496cc, and on its competition debut at Brooklands in 1923 secured a legendary victory in the premier 200-Mile event crewed by Harvey/Tattershall. The production version went on sale later that same year priced at £550.
Pre-war development of the six-cylinder Alvis, the first of which had been introduced in 1927, culminated in the announcement of two new models for 1937: the 4.3-Litre and the 3.6-litre Speed Twenty-Five, both powered by new seven-bearing, overhead-valve engines. The cruciform-braced chassis were similar and embodied the kind of advanced thinking long associated with the marque: independent front suspension and a four-speed, all-synchromesh gearbox - introduced on the preceding Speed Twenty - were retained, with the additional refinements of driver-controlled Luvax hydraulic dampers and servo-assisted brakes. On test with Autocar, the Speed Twenty-Five demonstrated remarkable top-gear flexibility combined with a maximum speed of 95mph, and was found to possess qualities of, 'quiet running and general refinement in a striking degree.'
Sturdily built and endowed with a generous wheelbase, the Alvis six attracted some of the finest examples of the pre-war coachbuilders' art, though the Speed Twenty-Five's initial chassis-only price of £775 meant that ownership was necessarily confined to wealthy connoisseurs.
This particular Speed Twenty-Five is a special-bodied copy of a car that racing driver, and former Bentley apprentice, Rivers Fletcher had designed for Charles Follet's use at the 1938 RAC Tourist Trophy but which never raced due to the Munich crisis (see vendor's correspondence with Rivers Fletcher in 1979).
The chassis and engine number indicate that this car was built in 1939 as a Speed Twenty-Five with Charlesworth saloon body (finished in maroon) which was delivered to Parkers in Birmingham. Eventually, the car came into the hands of a Mr Martin Johnson, an Alvis dealer, who asked a colleague to produce a two-seater sports body for it. David Malvein, having seen the design of Rivers Fletcher's 1938 TT racer, decided to convert the car in similar fashion. The project was given to Nic Harley at Winkleigh, who in turn gave the job to Wivis Engineering in Exeter.
It would appear the coachwork was manufactured in approximately 1971 and installed on the rolling chassis some six years before the current vendor acquired the Alvis in London during the 1970s. More recently, the cooling system was flushed out and the gearbox overhauled by Overton Vehicle Overhauls. It should be noted that the original hand-operated chassis oil pump, while still in position, has been superseded by grease nipples. A sportingly bodied example of one of the great pre-War British sports cars, ideally suited to events such as the Flying Scotsman rally and the 1000 Mile Trial.