19th Jun, 2024 13:00

Imperial War Museum | Duxford, Cambridgeshire

Lot 21

1932 Alvis Speed 20 SA Vanden Plas Tourer

Sold for £66,000

(including buyers premium)

Lot details

Registration No: GY 6949
Chassis No: 9874
MOT: Exempt

  • For many the ultimate pre-WW2 Alvis, a Vanden Plas bodied Speed 20 SA
  • Vintage dynamics with Post-Vintage performance and the nimblest of the Speed 20 chassis designs
  • Previously on display at the Brooklands Museum
  • Current ownership for fifteen years and only circa 400 miles since a thorough engine overhaul by Tim Walker
  • Extensive history file dating back to a 1950s-issued continuation buff logbook
  • Arguably the model that put Charles Follet's sporting ethos on the map
  • Reputedly 1 of just 30 Vanden Plas Tourers left in existence

Previewed in October 1931 but not entering production until the following March, the Alvis Speed 20SA was reputedly inspired by Donald Healey's Monte Carlo Rally-winning Invicta S-type. The brainchild of marque draughtsman Arthur Varney its `double dropped' chassis frame was fabricated from high tensile carbon sheet steel. Enjoying a notably low centre of gravity, the newcomer was equipped with all-round semi-elliptic leaf-sprung suspension, a Marles Weller steering box and cable-operated 14-inch drum brakes. Fed by triple SU carburettors, its 2511cc OHV straight-six engine was credited with developing some 87bhp @ 4,200rpm. Allied to a four-speed `crash' gearbox - complete with clutch stop to promote faster changes - the free-revving unit provided spirited acceleration and a 90mph top speed. Fine-tuned by Alvis's immensely talented chief engineer, G.T. Smith Clarke, the sports car won praise among contemporary road testers for its `perfect uncanny steadiness'. Bodied by the likes of Vanden Plas, Carlton and Cross & Ellis all of whom took full advantage of its generous 10ft 3in wheelbase and unusually low stance, the Speed 20SA topped the wishlist of many a sporting motorist. However, the four-seater proved too `Vintage' in spirit for the Alvis management who were hard at work perfecting such civilising measures as independent front suspension and an all-synchromesh gearbox. Suddenly out of step with the company's goals, it was superseded after less than two years' production (circa 351 cars) by the altogether softer Speed 20 SB. Of the fifty-eight Vanden Plas Tourers made, just thirty are known to have survived to the present day.

According to its accompanying copy factory build record, chassis 9874 was despatched to Messrs Chas. Follett Ltd of London on 28th June 1932. A notably early, ‘flatter rad’ Speed 20SA, it was adorned with decidedly elegant Vanden Plas Four-Seater Tourer coachwork (body number 1824) prior to being road registered as ‘GY 6949’ on 20th July 1932. Believed to have remained in the Capital up until the outbreak of World War Two, the Alvis belonged to Lieutenant Commander Bryce Harben Clinkard of the Royal Navy by the early 1950s. A larger than life character who could count the late Prince Philip among his friends, ‘Clink’ had the Speed 20SA ‘wrapped in the finest awnings and strapped to the deck’ when accompanying him on various overseas postings. Serving as the Alvis Owners’ Club’s Spares Registrar and Technical Advisor thereafter, one particularly colourful account of a troublesome journey aboard ‘GY 6949’ that he wrote for the Bulletin has long since passed into Club folklore. Treated to a thorough two-year refurbishment (including a mechanical refresh and rewire) before being sold to John Horne Esq in 1980 who ‘Clink’ deemed was a suitable custodian on the basis that he was neither ‘a dealer nor a foreign playboy’, the Tourer then passed to Mrs Caroline Hobbs and Anthony Paskell Esq. The former loaned the Speed 20SA to the Brooklands Museum for several years, while the latter entrusted it to marque specialist Red Triangle for attention to its cylinder head gasket, suspension, steering and clutch etc during 2006. Entering the current ownership via Alvis aficionado and dealer Jeremy Wade three years later, the Speed 20SA has since benefited from extensive expenditure at the hands of another renowned marque specialist - Tim Walker Restorations of Aylesury – reputedly totalling over £73,000. As well as a very thorough overhaul of its original engine (number 10326), ‘GY 6949’ underwent fettling of its steering box, suspension, brakes, clutch, gearbox and carburettors etc. The re-trim carried out during Mr Horne’s custodianship was smartened up with new carpets and a fresh tonneau cover, while various elements of brightwork were replated. Starting readily and running well during our recent photography session, the Tourer remains highly presentable to our eyes. A true Post-Vintage Thoroughbred, this rakish Vanden Plas-bodied Speed 20SA is among the most desirable pre-WW2 Alvis cars ever made. Offered for sale with continuation buff logbook, V5C Registration Document and extensive history file.

For more information, please contact:
Damian Jones
07855 493737


Auction: Imperial War Museum | Duxford, Cambridgeshire, 19th Jun, 2024

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

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