14th Jun, 2023 13:00

Imperial War Museum | Duxford, Cambridgeshire

 
Lot 121
 

1936 Alvis Speed 20 SD Vanden Plas 'Sunshine Coupe'
Thought to be 1 of just 2 survivors (12 produced)

Estimated at £80,000 - £90,000

Lot details

Registration No: CXM 95
Chassis Number: 13026
MOT: July 2023

  • Incredibly rare SD 'Sunshine Coupe', thought to be one of only two survivors
  • One of only 12 Alvis Speed 20 SD Vanden Plas 2-Door Coupes built
  • Fully restored in the early 1990s

A mercurial character who became renowned within the London motor trade for sourcing the very best pre-owned exotica, Charles Follett would travel anywhere in the UK for the right car building-up an enviable client base in the process. A member of the Brooklands set, his ‘black book’ comprised society’s elite from racing drivers to celebrities via members of the aristocracy. Given sufficient funding to buy showrooms in the heart of Mayfair, he became the Alvis concessionaire for London and the Home Counties during 1931. Seriously impressed at the Coventry firm’s engineering integrity but dismayed at the staidness of its offerings, Follett set about turning the marque into a Lagonda, Sunbeam, Invicta and (later) Bentley rival. Decades before Jaguar came up with its famous ‘Grace . . . Space . . . Pace’ slogan, he was adamant that all three were intrinsic to making a car appeal to wealthy buyers.

Introduced in late 1931, the Alvis Speed 20 SA was the first model which Follett could really sink his teeth into. Based around a low-slung, double-dropped chassis frame, powered by a lusty 2511cc OHV straight-six engine and boasting 90mph performance, it proved an ideal canvas for the coachbuilder’s art. Conscious that Vanden Plas’ order book had thinned considerably due to Rolls-Royce’s acquisition of Bentley and the subsequent hiatus in the latter’s production, he approached the London company with a bold proposal. Follett would order a minimum of 100 bodies from them if they would (a) cut the average cost from £600 to £195 per chassis and (b) devise a range of suitably rakish designs over which he would have sign off. Vanden Plas capitulated and came up with a notably stylish Saloon, Tourer and Drophead Coupe which The Autocar hailed as ‘very attractive special bodies’.

Often at loggerheads with Alvis’ supremo T.G. John and his chief engineer G.T. Smith-Clarke over the ‘unnecessary’ expense of a la mode coachwork, Follett once denied the pair access to their own boardroom while he laid out the £895 required to buy a Speed 20 in one pound and ten shilling notes just so they would better appreciate that looks and amenities were as important as driving dynamics when such sums were involved. Embracing the ‘Race on Sunday, Sell on Monday’ ethos, Follett campaigned a series of Alvis cars at Brooklands. Evolving from SA to SB guise in September 1933, the Speed 20 gained a four-speed all-synchromesh gearbox, independent front suspension and adjustable rear dampers. While, stylistically the model was enhanced via a forward sweeping scuttle / bonnet join line, 19-inch wire wheels and larger Lucas P100 headlights. Again, tasked by Follett with clothing the Speed 20SB to best effect, Vanden Plas produced a variety of open and enclosed bodies the best looking of which was undoubtedly a two-door saloon cum fixed head coupe known as the ‘Flatback’. 1935 saw the introduction of the SC, which had the engine enlarged to 2,762cc and featured twin electric fuel pumps. The complex steering gear was modified and the front damping was improved. At the rear the chassis was stiffened by having side members above and below the axle. The final iteration, the SD, differed only from the SC by being fitted with a larger fuel tank and slightly wider bodywork.

A close-coupled, Four Light design with notably slim A-, B- and C-Pillars, the ‘Flatback’ also sported a distinctive swage line that accentuated its airy glasshouse and ‘letter box’ rear window. A spectacular exemplar of the ‘airline’ styling trend which captivated the automotive industry on both sides of the Atlantic during the mid-1930s, the Speed 20 SB ‘Flatback’ evolved through SC and SD guises. With its Art Deco door handles, the four-seater sported extravagantly peaked, full-flowing wings as well as a louvred scuttle and external fuel filler neck. Long prized by collectors for being among the most elegant pre-WW2 Saloons, only twelve of the 149 Speed 20 SDs made were bodied as 2-Door Saloons by Vanden Plas and it is thought that only a two have survived to the present day.

The car offered here today is the Alvis Speed 20 Vanden Plas 'Sunshine' Coupe, chassis number 13026, a truly exceptional and rare vehicle that has captured the attention of automotive enthusiasts worldwide. Registered as CXM 95 from its inception, this extraordinary coupe was delivered by Charles Follett to its first owner, Mrs. Ida Bond of London, on May 5th, 1936, marking the beginning of its fascinating journey. This remarkable car holds a place in history with a collection of correspondence between one of its previous owners and Mrs. Bond's son, providing valuable insights into the early days of the vehicle. In the early 1990s, the Alvis underwent a meticulous and comprehensive restoration, bringing it back to its original splendor. Since then, it has been very well-maintained, ensuring its continued beauty and performance. Having been in the possession of its current owner since January 2014, this Alvis Speed 20 Vanden Plas 'Sunshine' Coupe is a testament to its rarity. Out of the limited production run of only 12 vehicles, this model stands as one of just two remaining, making it an exceedingly sought-after collector's item. The car's captivating exterior presentation is a testament to its restoration, showcasing a flawless and timeless design. Its elegant silhouette is a nod to the golden age of motoring, while the interior exudes luxury and comfort.

Behind the wheel, drivers will find an unparalleled driving experience, as the Alvis Speed 20 combines superb handling and a remarkable engine note that is sure to delight enthusiasts. This 'Sunshine' Coupe represents a rare opportunity to own an automotive masterpiece with a unique history. Its nicely mellowed restoration and outstanding driving performance make it an object of desire for discerning collectors and enthusiasts alike. With its combination of rarity, elegance, and timeless appeal, this remarkable vehicle captures the essence of a bygone era and invites admiration from all who encounter it.

For more information, please contact:
Julian Pinkster
julian.pinkster@handh.co.uk
07889 223 904

 

Auction: Imperial War Museum | Duxford, Cambridgeshire, 14th Jun, 2023

Established in 1993, H&H has sold some of the world's most significant motorcars and motorcycles over the past 30 years. Trusted by over 75,000 clients worldwide, we are the longest established auction house of our kind in Europe and the only one owned and managed by its employees. 

An auction of classic, collector and performance motorcars to be held at the iconic and visually stunning Imperial War Museum, Duxford. Cambridgeshire. 

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Tuesday 13th June 2023 from 12pm to 6pm
Wednesday 14th June 2023 from 9am

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