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The Vintage Alvis by Peter Hull & Norman Johnson

The Vintage Alvis, first published by Macdonald & Co (Publishers) Ltd in 1967, is a mouth-wateringly detailed account of the history of the famous Alvis Car Company during the 1920s and up to 1932.

Although the name Alvis may not be as well known today as Bugatti, Mercedes or Ferrari, the company produced one of the most popular sports cars of all time - the '12/50'. Alvis also developed a number of original concepts and technically advanced supercharged Grand Prix cars, and incorporated all-independent suspension to their sports cars as early as 1928.

Above: The 1926 12/50 T E sports tourer. The father of L.T.C. Rolt bought this car at the 1925 Olympia Show.

The authors of this classic work have concentrated on the vintage aspect of Alvis cars, and the Foreword is written by Mrs. Urquhart Dykes who was such an enthusiastic racer of Alvis motors. An insight to her character, as well as some of the hazards of motor sport, is given by the inclusion of her recollections of the 1928 Coupe Boillot race at Boulogne:-

"Now, Mrs. Dykes, did you on any occasion experience a thrill, not necessarily one of danger?"
"Well, on one of the nastiest sections, a horrible fly got behind the left glass of my eye-shields, and just buzzed and buzzed, making me blink most fearfully. I had to steer the car over that awful surface with my left hand and expel the little beggar with the right. Believe me, they were no pleasant moments...
My husband was awaiting me with a glass of lemonade as I drove into the paddock, and believe me, I relished that well and truly."

Mrs. Dykes achieved ninth place in the race, and was the only lady competitor to finish - indeed, at that time she was the only lady to have ever done so.

Above: Mrs. Ruth Urquhart Dykes in her 12/50 at Brooklands, 1928.

The Vintage Alvis is an invaluable reference for any Alvis enthusiast, or indeed anyone with an interest in vintage cars in general. There is a great wealth of maintenance notes and diagrams, reprints of articles and also a list of cars belonging to members of the Alvis register since its formation in 1948 up to 1966.

There is also fascinating correspondence about motor racing from T.G. John of the Alvis Company, with his response to individuals who had complained that the quality of vehicle components had declined after 1930.

Above, left: before the start of the second day's racing in the 1931 Double 12-Hour Race at Brooklands.
Above, right: Maurice Harvey at St. Martin's in WK 7343, the blown F.W.D. which came 2nd in the T.T. the previous month.

The authors have produced a highly detailed and readable account of the Alvis company, providing a chronicle of the highs and lows of the Coventry based firm. Readers may find the sections dealing with the advent of front-wheel-drive especially interesting.

Contributed by Tim

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(Published 13th Jun 2017)

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