In your February issue you printed a letter about the late Henry Williamson’s Alvis Silver Eagle mentioned in “A Solitary War”. This book is not the last of the series (collectively called “A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight”) since two more books, “Lucifer Before Sunrise” and “The Gale of the World” complete the series. So this old Alvis went on and on with many more harrowing details of its life until the moment of its dramatic end on the heights of Exmoor. But these three books are not its only contribution to literary history. Way back in 1933 we find it in “Goodbye West Country” with a photograph of it turned over in a Devon lane and details of blinds to the I3BC Bristol studios at 85 m.p.h. Then in “The Gold Falcon”, a novel about an RFC pilot published in 1933, the black slim car rides again. “The Story of a Norfolk Farm” in 1941 tells how the Alvis towed all his belongings from Devon to Norfolk, and was used to harrow the fields. The sight of it rushing back and forth at 20-30 m.p.h. over the arable with Fairy Battle aircraft parked under oak trees on Langham drome a few yards beyond is one I shall never forget. This book begins: “One dull day in 1935 I went to London in my open car, which I loved. It was painted black, and all the scats were covered except the driver’s in which I sat as in an airplane. There was a sense of freedom in my. car, which had a Silver Eagle as a mascot on its radiator cap. It was fast, doing 85 m.p.h. when flat out, and it covered 24 miles to the gallon.”
The car did not in fact die, for it spent many years in other hands towing gliders up into the sky and touring the Continent. It is now in the hands of engineer Alex Marsh who runs it regularly; the mascot however sits on my own Alvis.
My father also ran a 1937 2-litre Aston Martin which now often figures in your Silverstone race reports, belonging to a Mr, Cann. This car almost gave my father apoplexy. I have uncovered 50,000 words written about the horrors of its engine rebuilds and total restoration which he carried out in 1949. It hardly ever performed well for long.
Finally, he once diced briefly with an Auto Union in Germany in about 1934. I have a photograph of this fabled machine overtaking him in a German town, another of it close-up resting by the roadside.
The readers of your splendid magazine maybe interested in more vintage machinery in the film “Tarka the Otter” which will be out in the autumn, this being the first of his books to be filmed.
RICHARD WILLIAMSON Chichester
(We were aware of this “Alvis in Books” and have referred to it several times in this series although Henry Williamson is not one of my favourite authors – shall we say, for one reason because he calls aeroplanes “airplanes” Ed)