∙Incredible history file ∙Outstanding visual and mechanical condition ∙Bespoke Vanden Plas style coachwork ∙Proven, reliable grand tourer
The Alvis name is, for many, a deeply important one within the book of British automotive history. Founded in 1919, the company was indeed famous for creating some incredible cars, but it also made military vehicles, armoured cars and even aircraft engines. Alvis was a veritable powerhouse of British industry, and is a name people still speak fondly of today. This fondness, in fact, is why the Alvis name has done what so many other defunct British brands have not, and that’s make a return. If you want to know more about that, you can read our article here.
Of course, while the return of the name is welcome, it’s the original cars that hold the most interest for many. Happily then, that’s what we have here. A 1936 Speed 20 in fact. But this is an Alvis like no other, and as such, represents a rare opportunity to acquire a car that, in the truest sense of the word, is unique.
Chassis number 13085, which is what we have here, did not start life looking how it does today. And by that, we don’t mean the car has been restored. No, when this car left the Alvis factory on 27th of June, 1936, it was in fact a Charlesworth bodied saloon. And so it stayed until the late ‘80s, at which point the car had succumbed to the years behind it. The body, in particular the ash frame, was in a bad way, and as such it was elected that restoration would be the way to go. Until, that is, it was discovered that there was very little frame worth restoring. So instead, the then owner, a Mr. D. J. Lawrence, elected to have the car built into something altogether more special.
The backbone of the car - the chassis - and the running gear were all in good order and required only light recommissioning. So, Lawrence sent the bones of the car to MGM Coachbuilding of Suffolk, where a new frame was built. This time a flowing, long, four-seat tourer. The aluminium body was built Classic Metal Shaping of Essex, and the results are stunning. Built to replicate a body by Vanden Plas, the new look was nothing short of magnificent, the workmanship exemplary. However, Lawrence didn’t see the project through, and instead passed the car on Jim Berry in 1997.
Berry fitted the wings, he rebuilt the engine from top to bottom but then had to once again pass the car on, owing to poor health. Tony Simpson took the car on in 1998, finishing the wiring, dashboard, seats and trim as well as rechroming and other details. Finished in 2004, the car then moved to a new owner in Scotland, where it resided until 2007. It was then purchased by another enthusiast who took great delight in further improving the car with improved, rebuilt steering and suspension amongst other things.
The current owner acquired the car in 2014, and as part of a small collection of classics, it has been enjoyed regularly for events and tours both around the UK and abroad. A well-travelled, reliable, usable car, this Alvis stands now as a unique vehicle that can be enjoyed on the regular. It’s what it’s used to. This is not an aged show pony, this is a machine that begs to be driven!
There is a veritable smorgasbord of documentation to go with this wonderful old Alvis, from the stuff you would expect like V5 and service information through more specialist like magazine features and photos of the car as it once was (in saloon guise) and also images of the car in build. There are also letters from previous owners detailing the history and known whereabouts of the car over the years.
There is ample history for the new owner to sift through, but for us, it’s the letters and magazine features that make for the most interesting reading. There are documents to support the specification of the car, including letters from Alvis/Red Triangle, and there is a magazine feature in which the skillful work employed in the creation of the body is lauded unapologetically. And rightly so, it’s magnificent after all.
There are myriad invoices for servicing, for general upkeep and for all works carried out over the course of the Speed 20’s life. For example, in 2007, some £4,600 was spent on paint, servicing, suspension and steering. It has never wanted for anything. Just have a look through the images and you’ll see the depth of the paperwork included.
Simple, classy and in excellent condition, the cabin of this Alvis Speed 20 is a delightful place to be. The seats have been retrimmed in the past, and are still in excellent order and offer plenty of comfort. There is a bit of wear here and there, but the car is nearly 90 years old, so it’s forgiven! The rear seats have barely been used, and are again in excellent condition. There is even a small fold-out arm rest for the rear seat passengers, along with little cubby holes built into the side panels. Very neat.
The red carpets are in good order, with the only thing of note being a small hole on the driver’s heel pad. The side panels are in good order, as are the door cards and the small amount of door furniture. The hinges on the rearward hinged doors are all in excellent condition, too.
The dash is wonderfully well presented, with clear dials and functional controls. Wood still has a deep shine, and there is no sign of any varnish lift or damage. The steering wheel is in good order, with all the hub-mounted labels still legible.
The whole cabin is covered by a bespoke tonneau, which has been made to an incredibly high standard. It buttons down perfectly, and can be set in a number of configurations. Just the drive can be left open, driver and passenger, or all four seats can be uncovered. And of course, the cover can be used to seal the cabin completely, there is even a little stitched pocket for the crown of the steering wheel! If you and your passengers don’t wish to be open to the elements, the Alvis also has a folding roof complete with side-panels, which do an adequate job of keeping the weather out. But in reality, you’ll never use them - this is a ‘wind in your hair’ car through and through.
Finished in light blue over dark, with light blue painted wire wheels, this 1936 Alvis presents exceptionally well. There is a hint of age to it, but would you expect to not have some signs of life? This car has, and continues to be driven and used as intended. It’s a car that can turn heads, and that will stop people dead in their tracks with its unique aesthetic, but it’s also not so untouched by time that it’s intimidating to drive or interact with. Its appearance is pretty much perfect in that respect.
The body is free of any significant issues, as is the long, winged bonnet and impossibly long front fenders. The rear fenders, too, are in excellent condition. Both front and back, the panel piping/gasket is in excellent order too.
The chrome, and there is lots of it, is all excellent having been refurbished in the past. The grille, which is also the radiator itself, is in excellent order with bright unpitted chrome across it. The lights are excellent all round, the door handles, the windscreen frame - it’s all polished to a high shine.
The wheels are all very presentable, with healthy Excelsior rubber all round, including on the rear deck-mounted spare. The bumpers are good, and the visible chassis elements at the front and back are all a consistent gloss black with only a hint of surface rust on some moving parts, as to be expected.
By and large though, this car is in utterly fantastic condition from a visual standpoint. It’s been kept clean, it’s been kept dry and it hasn’t been exposed to harsh weather conditions. As such, it presents very well indeed. One of those cars that you can spend hours just looking at.
As can be seen from the masses of paperwork included with this Alvis, the mechanics have been very well looked after indeed. The engine has in the past been completely stripped and rebuilt with new seals, gaskets and fluids. It’s in excellent health. It starts on the button, it revs keenly and it doesn’t show a whiff of inclination to get hot.
Open the winged bonnet, and the engine bay is a sea of pleasing originality. The original tools, fluid pumps and spare spark plugs are all present and correct. The engine itself is clean and shows no leaks, nor any evidence of undue stress or substandard repair.
On the road, the car pulls exceptionally well, and the full synchromesh gearbox is a joy to operate. There is some adjustment needed, as the accelerator is the middle pedal here, but once you wrap your head around that, it’s no stress at all to drive it. The brakes need a bit of warning, being rod-operated drums all round, but that’s part of the car’s design. The steering, having been reworked in the past, is surprisingly crisp and direct. It’s a joy to thread this big old machine through the bends. It also has an overdrive fitted that makes it much more driveable in modern conditions.
The chassis and underside of the Alvis all look to be in excellent condition, with no evidence of rust, past repair or exposed metal. Everything has been painted and protected, meaning you drive it with some peace of mind should the conditions turn! It’s simply a very well preserved, but ultimately very usable machine. In fact, we would go so far as to say that to not use it would be criminal. This car is used to being on the road, not kept under a cover.
The case for this car is simple: find another. You won’t, because there isn’t one. The closest thing is of course the Vanden Plas bodied cars on which this Speed 20’s design has been based, but you won’t get one of those for the sort of money this one is expected to sell for. This is your chance to have something truly exclusive, rare and special.
For us though, it’s the driver appeal that sings the joys of this Alvis. It’s getting on for 90, but it seems nobody has told it so. It’s still a car that wants to be driven, that needs to be driven in fact. It’s in regular use, the current owner has covered thousands of miles in it, and as such, that’s what the new owner needs to do. This is a grand tourer, not a vintage museum piece like nearly every other car of this vintage. Bid, buy, put many, many happy miles on it.
Notice to bidders
Although every care is taken to ensure this listing is as factual and transparent as possible, all details within the listing are subject to the information provided to us by the seller. Car & Classic does not take responsibility for any information missing from the listing. Please ensure you are satisfied with the vehicle description and all information provided before placing a bid.
As is normal for most auctions, this vehicle is sold as seen, and therefore the Sale of Goods Act 1979 does not apply. All bids are legally binding once placed. Any winning bidder who withdraws from a sale, is subject to our bidders fee charge. Please see our FAQs and T&C's for further information. Viewings of vehicles are encouraged, but entirely at the seller's discretion.
The max bid process allows you to bid without any hassle.
Enter your maximum bid and we will then bid on your behalf to ensure you're the highest bidder - just enough to keep you in the lead and only up until your maximum.
About Max Bids
C&C prevent auction snipers from bidding in the last seconds to win an auction.
Auctions are extended by 10-minutes if anyone bids within the last 2 minutes to allow other bidders to react and counter-bid.
If your bid is below the reserve price you'll bid that amount if you are the highest bidder.
If you are the highest bidder and place a bid above the reserve we will only go up to the reserve price.
Once the reserve has been met C&C will make sure you are the highest bidder using the bidding increments stated below, keeping you in the lead up until your maximum bid.
£0 to £10,000
£10,000 to £50,000
Automatically outbid immediately
When you place a max bid and are outbid immediately that means that another bidder has placed a max bid limit which is higher than yours.
You can bid again and we will use our automatic bid system to try and get you as the highest bidder.
Matching max bids
When there are two max bids of the same value, the one placed first remains the lead bidder.
Watch this auction
Get notified when the auction is starting, and half an hour before it ends.