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1933 ALVIS SPEED 20

  • Alvis Speed 20 SA Cross & Ellis Long-Wing Tourer
  • 12 year ground-up restoration
  • Believed to be 1 of 6 Long Wing Tourers
  • Engine recently rebuilt by Tim Walker Restorations
  • Fitted with Tim Payne overdrive

This is an exceptionally rare example of Alvis’s rakish Speed 20 SA. Only 59 examples of the SA model were fitted with tourer coachwork by Cross & Ellis, with 45 of those being the earlier type with forward-hinged doors.

It’s thought that this car is the very last Cross & Ellis Speed 20 SA to be built, and is one of the 14 to have worn the later style of bodywork with rear-hinged doors. The number of survivors – particularly those still wearing their original body – is thought to be in the low single-figures.

According to the factory Car Record that’s included in the history file, chassis number 10193 was originally fitted with engine number 10643. It was first registered on 1 July 1933 with the number CG 4871 and was dispatched to Southampton two days later. It was finished in black, with matching hood and wings, and a red interior.

Little more is known of the Speed 20’s pre-war history, but by 1956 it was owned by a Mr D Bradford of Staines Road, Twickenham. It then passed to Tony de Retana of Wimbledon and was offered for sale with the Alvis Owner Club in November 1961, with the following text: ‘Very good body and mechanics, one rear wing slightly tatty, plus spare engine and chassis parts.’

After being sold to various English owners over the next few years, the Speed 20 was shipped to the USA and its next custodian, Rodger Coates of Maryland. Coates was a keen Alvis enthusiast and kept 10193 for about 15 years before selling it as a non-runner in 1984.

A note in the history file from someone who inspected the car two years later says that it had been fitted with engine number 12325 by that time, and that it was still only partially assembled. It eventually came back to the UK and was being offered for sale in the mid-1990s with the statement ‘not used since 1968’.

The Alvis was still awaiting restoration when it was acquired by its next owner in 2001, but over the subsequent few years it was fully rebuilt with no expense spared. All expenditure is carefully documented within the history file and includes £47,000 being spent on the engine alone.

The interior was retrimmed in 2011 and renowned marque specialists such as Earley Engineering and Red Triangle feature heavily among the many invoices. Overdrive was added to the gearbox in 2014, and the engine was rebuilt the following year.

Now being offered for sale at The Classic Motor Hub, this Alvis Speed 20 is a rare survivor that’s presented in superb condition, and is an attractive and eminently useable post-vintage thoroughbred.

Model history

Founded in 1919 by Thomas George John, Alvis soon became known for its small, well-engineered and sporting cars. Based in Holyhead Road, Coventry, the company achieved great success in motor racing and was unafraid to innovate – during the mid-1920s, for example, it developed competition cars that featured front-wheel drive, all-independent suspension, and a 1.5-litre twin-overhead-camshaft engine.

As the 1930s dawned, Alvis began to move upmarket and in 1932 it introduced the Speed 20. A new low-slung chassis enabled coachbuilders to design a range of handsome, well-proportioned bodies, and the Speed 20 was enthusiastically received by the motoring press.

The original SA model used a 2511cc six-cylinder engine, which produced 87bhp and was carried over to the SB. First unveiled at the 1933 Motor Show, the SB was fitted with independent front suspension and an all-synchromesh gearbox.

The Speed 20 sold well and played a crucial role in enabling Alvis to cope with the difficult economic conditions of the early 1930s. In fact, so well regarded was this new model that Rolls-Royce considered the Speed 20 to be the benchmark in the 20hp class.

After being updated into the 2762cc SC and finally the SD, production came to an end in 1936. By then, Alvis had introduced the 3.5-litre model, which was based on the Speed 20 and was soon developed into the Speed 25.

As a 1930s advertisement put it, an Alvis was: ‘An aristocrat among automobiles – an exclusive car for exclusive people who will have nothing but the best’.

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