- 1933 Alvis Speed 20 SB
- Original Vanden Plas tourer bodywork
- Period RAC Rally history
- Exceptional preserved condition
FULL DESCRIPTION TO COME
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 latter representing a major step forward when compared to the ‘crash’ gearboxes then in widespread use. It was said that the development of this new unit was at least partly due to the fact that Alvis engineer AF Varney used to struggle with double-declutching…
The Alvis 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. Some owners subsequently fitted the more powerful Speed 25 engine – which produced 106bhp – to their Speed 20.
As war clouds gathered and rearmament suddenly became a pressing concern for the British government, Alvis moved into the production of aero engines and military vehicles – but continued to build cars as well. ‘An aristocrat among automobiles’ as a 1938 advertisement put it. ‘An exclusive car for exclusive people who will have nothing but the best’.
Production resumed after the war but the very last Alvis car – a 3-litre TF21 – left Holyhead Road in 1967.