Sold for £74,104
(including buyers premium)
Registration No: JT 187
Chassis No: 10923
"The driver has the benefit of rock steady steering, completely accurate, and without a trace of road shocks, while corners and curves merely give him an opportunity to show up the roadholding of the car at its best. Acceleration is greatly assisted by the new all-synchromesh gearbox, with very quick changes to be made absolutely silently right up through the gears" (Motorsport, February 1934).
Introduced at the October 1933 London Motor Show, the Speed 20 SB marked a shift in design philosophy for Alvis. Fitted with a massive cruciform brace, the newcomer's 'double dropped' chassis frame was notably stiffer than that of its predecessor, while the adoption of independent transverse-leaf front suspension, adjustable 'Telecontrol' rear shock absorbers and an all-synchromesh four-speed manual gearbox gave it a technological edge over rivals such as the Bentley 31/2 Litre and Lagonda M45. A welcome carryover, the marque's smooth but free-revving 2511cc OHV straight-six engine ensured that performance remained a strong suit. Featuring dual magneto / coil ignition, triple SU carburettors and an aluminium crankcase, the proven powerplant reputedly endowed the Speed 20 SB with a 90 mph top speed. Riding on nineteen-inch 'jelly mould' wire wheels, the Alvis further benefited from sizable fourteen-inch drum brakes, well-weighted Marles Weller steering and a Luvax-Bijur lubricating system.
The model's added sophistication and refinement were not only entirely in keeping with the wishes of influential dealer Charles Follett but also helped it win sales from the likes of Lady McAlpine, Sir Michael Nairn, Lord Carrington, James A. Sainsbury, Cecil Beaton, Lord Amherst, the Duke of Westminster, Norman Birkett KC, Clair Luce, H.H. The Rajah of Bhopal and racing driver the Hon. Brian Lewis. A corollary of its low-slung stance, 10ft 4in wheelbase and sloping bonnet line, the Speed 20 SB proved an ideal canvas for the coachbuilder's art. Although, the majority were bodied to factory-approved designs by Charlesworth and Cross & Ellis, a select few received rather more bespoke treatment. Despite the absence of any official Works programme, several Speed 20s were used for competition both pre- and post-World War Two at venues including Brooklands, Silverstone and Goodwood. The Speed 20 SB proved to be an effective rally car with Captain G.E. Stott and K.W.B. Sanderson both finishing the 1934 Monte Carlo Rally (a feat matched by Miss Dorothy Patten the following year) and Charles Follett, the Earl of March and the Hon Brian Lewis choosing it as the basis of an official Alvis Team for the 1934 RAC Rally.
According to Alvis historian, registrar and collector Wayne Brooks, Chassis 10923 was one of the four-seater Tourers that marque concessionaire Charles Follet commissioned from Vanden Plas. Originally finished in Black with Red leather upholstery, the Speed 20SB was supplied new to J. Robb Esq of Weymouth, Dorset on 9th December 1933. Allocated the local number plate ‘JT 187’, the Alvis is understood to have been laid-up at the outbreak of World War Two. Returning to the factory for an engine overhaul in 1950, the Tourer migrated to Scotland that same decade passing through the hands of J.R. Johnston Esq of Crailing House, Jedburgh, Brian Berrie Esq of Whiteshaw House, Strathaven and Dr William ‘Bill’ Souter of Bearsden, Glasgow. The latter won the Post Vintage Class of the Royal Scottish Automobile Club’s Veteran Rally in 1968 aboard ‘JT 187’ and retained possession until selling it to Bruce Earlin of Milford, Pennsylvania during June 1977. Minor right rear wing damage suffered whilst en route to Hershey in October 1978 prompted Mr Earlin to take the Alvis off the road and strip it for restoration. Found to be remarkably original with matching chassis, engine, gearbox and body numbers etc (and at that time even the Vanden Plas installed pneumatic rubber seat cushions), the chassis, mechanicals, exterior panels and brightwork were all refurbished before momentum was lost. Still requiring reassembly when bought by Wayne Brooks in July 1989, he sold the Tourer ‘as was’ to the vendor’s husband via Richard Proctor of Plus 4 Motors in Cheshire for $41,000 some eight years later.
A type-written summary of the numerous bills on file shows that Plus 4 Motors refitted the body and steering with The Vintage Workshop finalising the coachwork repairs and H. Taylor re-trimming the interior and renewing the weather equipment. Marque specialists Red Triangle and Solent Vintage Engineering provided various parts, while Patrick Henry refurbished the instruments and Bob Tongue checked the rewiring. Re-registered with the DVLA as ‘JT 187’ on 30th September 1997, it would be another two years before the Tourer was truly operational. Well-travelled since its rejuvenation, the Speed 20SB completed the Alvis Owners’ Club’s Tours of New England (with forays into Canada) and New Zealand in 2000 and 2003 respectively. Driven to France, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Switzerland too, the Tourer was also used for various Vintage Sports Car Club sorties. The vendor tells us that shortly before she and her husband relocated from Cheshire to Norfolk in 2007 they attended the VSCC’s Oulton Park meeting and because ‘it was a good place to park, and you got to drive the circuit, we entered the Concours competition, and you can imagine our surprise and delight when we returned to the car to find we had won 1st place. The car is much travelled and hasn’t been idle. It has been a privilege to own ‘JT 187’ and the AOC is a very good Club’.
Recommissioned by a friend of the family who happens to be a dyed-in-the-wool marque enthusiast with numerous concours awards to his credit, ‘JT 187’ was driven from Norfolk to Essex earlier this summer following three years’ inactivity. Starting readily from cold during our recent photography session, the Speed 20SB is running on both coil and magneto and performed notably well during a brief test drive. Although no longer concours, the Tourer remains highly presentable and is deemed by the family friend to be in ‘very good overall’ condition with regards to its engine, gearbox, electrical equipment, bodywork, paintwork and interior trim. A true Post Vintage Thoroughbred and worthy of close inspection.
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Auction: 30th Anniversary Sale at The Imperial War Museum | Duxford, Cambridgeshire, 20th Sep, 2023
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Tuesday 19th September 2023 from 1pm to 8pm
Wednesday 20th September 2023 from 9am
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