Guide price: £31,000- £36,000
・Six-cylinder Alvis with four-light Holbrook body
・One of only a handful of known survivors and just 521 made
・Museum exhibit for many years
The Silver Crest was Alvis’s attempt at a smaller car then the big saloons and tourers it was better known for, and was introduced in September 1936.
Designed by George Lanchester, brother of Frederick Lanchester of the eponymous car company, there were two variants - the four-cylinder 12/70 and the six-cylinder 20/92.
With falling sales of the larger models, the intention was to appeal to a slightly wider market, especially business users, and be simpler to manufacture than the Firebird and Silver Eagle models they replaced.
A higher proportion of bought-in components was used in their manufacture than in the past, although the high quality finish was to traditional Alvis standards. They were also mechanically pretty advanced, with an all-synchromesh gearbox and overhead valve engines.
Like other Alvis models, they were mostly hand-assembled, though there were only two standard bodies offered – a large six-light saloon and a smaller four-light model with lighter bodywork, which was capable of a top speed in excess of 70mph in 20/92 form. Both bodies were supplied by coachbuilder Holbrook and has ‘suicide’ doors.
This example is a very early four-light saloon with the six-cylinder engine, which is the most desirable combination aside from a few special-bodied coupé models..
Car number 19,149 built by Alvis (which didn’t differentiate by model on its chassis plates) was originally built as a right-hand-drive car for immediate export and spent its early life in South Africa, but it has been well-travelled since.
At some point in the 1970s, it was discovered by an American collector and then spent over 30 years in a private museum before changing hands again, moving to the Netherlands where it was part of another private collection.
In 2010, it was sold at auction and remained in the Netherlands, before being sold to an owner in the Czech Republic.
It finally found its way back home to the UK in February this year.
Sadly, there isn’t much paperwork with the car, though all of the importation documents have been completed and the car has a full UK V5C in the name of the vendor.
There are also a few documents that the owner has tracked down via the Alvis owners club documenting the history of the Silver Crest.
From whichever angle you look at it, this is a gloriously pretty car. The Holbrook four-light body is typical of a 1930s small saloon, with art deco curves, substantial headlights, a flowing grille and a swooping rear end.
At some stage in its early life, the car was fitted with rear wheel spats and there are photos of it that can be tracked down online tag showing these were fitted before the 1980s, though it’s not known if they were specified by its original owner.
Finished in two-tone silver over black, the Alvis is an older restoration and was recommissioned and painted in the States whilst part of a museum collection. The paint is a little dull in a couple of places, but it still looks pretty impressive and has clearly been well looked after since the restoration work was carried out.
Some of the car’s more beguiling features are its gorgeous Lucas crosshair headlamps, which are in great order, and its chrome ‘pod’ side lamps, which have an art-deco style of their own.
It also features hydraulic jacks, which would allow the owner to life the car and change a tyre without having to manually jack it up – a premium and very useful feature of its day!
One of the front wheel caps is missing, and there are a couple of small areas where the chrome isn’t as shiny as it once was, but the overall condition of the car is very smart indeed.
Open up the rear-hinged doors and you’re greeted by inviting red leather, which is in excellent order throughout and was recovered during the car’s original restoration.
The seats are free from any major wear and still have plenty of bounce, while the matching red door cards are also in fine fettle.
The roof lining is superb and the carpets are in good order, with a few small signs of wear.
The wooden dash has a solid feel and has a few nick and marks in its varnish, but these lend it a charming patina rather than detract.
All of the dials, gauges and controls appear to work as they ought to.
The 2,762cc six-cylinder engine develops a commendable 92bhp, which is a pretty impressive figure for its day and made the Alvis a very respectable cruising car.
It certainly starts keenly and is fairly unfussy to get going, unlike many cars of its era. It has a smooth idle and doesn’t emit excessive amounts of smoke.
The vendor reports that it is a surprisingly easy car to drive, with very smooth performance and a good gearbox – impressively all-synchromesh, which is quite a rarity for a pre-war model.
If you want a beautiful, hand-finished and extremely classy 1930s vintage car, then this is just the ticket. It’s a stunning thing to look at and it’s kinder to drive than many of its contemporaries thanks to that all-synchro transmission and Alvis’s famous regard for making its cars engaging to drive.
There are less than 20 20/92 known to still exist by the Alvis clubs and this must be one of the most interesting and original survivors. It was a rare car when new and is extremely scarce today, yet is also one of the best-looking compact sports saloons of its era.
It’s a charming and extremely lovely car with a beautiful patina.
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