Dy­namic duo of the 1930s

Rutherglen Reformer - - Drive Time - Ian John­son

WHEN it came to beau­ti­ful sports sa­loons, Britain had the mar­ket cor­nered in the 1930s.

And a dy­namic due from the Coven­try fac­tory of Alvis had driv­ing fans pos­i­tively swoon­ing with joy.

The 4.3-litre and Speed 25 were Bri­tish lux­ury tour­ing cars an­nounced in August 1936 and made un­til 1940.

They re­placed the Speed 20 2.8-litre and 3½-litre and were widely con­sid­ered as be­ing among the finest cars of that decade.

The pair was one of the last bursts of pre-war ex­cel­lence and have become some of the most col­lectible cars of the era.

The Speed 25 used a six­cylin­der en­gine which gave a top speed of around 95mph and a 0-60mph sprint of 10.4 sec­onds. A bit pedes­trian by to­day’s stan­dards but you must re­mem­ber that this was the 1930s.

The 110bhp en­gine was a cracker with a separate iron block and alu­minium crank­case but with a much more ro­bust spec­i­fi­ca­tion fea­tur­ing a crank­shaft car­ried in seven main bear­ings.

Also car­ried on was Alvis’s in­com­pa­ra­ble all-syn­chro­mesh gear­box and in­de­pen­dent front sus­pen­sion made for a re­fined driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

This was a heavy, very silent car and be­gan to rack up sales among the well-heeled who could af­ford its £700 pric­etag.

When the last Speed 25 rolled off the pro­duc­tion line in 1940 at the Alvis fac­tory in Holy­head Road, Coven­try nearly 400 had been built.

Apart from its brisk per­for­mance the Speed 25 was a good looker. Slightly shorter than the car it re­placed it was a dream to drive and was the per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of Bri­tish sports sa­loon ex­cel­lence.

The most com­mon body was a sports sa­loon by Charlesworth, who also cre­ated the drop­head coupés, whilst Cross & El­lis pro­vided the tourer. Only a few had one-off coach­work.

Changes made dur­ing the car’s pro­duc­tion mainly con­cerned the body­work with run­ning boards dis­ap­pear­ing from sa­loon and drop­head for 1939.

Me­chan­i­cal changes in­cluded a new dual ex­haust sys­tem with six si­lencers for 1939, and coil ignition only in­stead of mag­neto/ coil. Vac­uum servo as­sis­tance for the brakes was also added.

The me­chan­i­cal so­phis­ti­ca­tion of this car was amaz­ing for its day. The clutch, fly­wheel and crank­shaft were bal­anced to­gether which min­imised vi­bra­tion and al­though the cylin­der-head was of cast iron, the pis­tons them­selves were of alu­minium. Two elec­tric petrol pumps fed the three SU car­bu­ret­tors pro­tected with a sub­stan­tial air fil­ter.


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