Obituary – Bill Urquhart-Dykes
Another well-known personality from the vintage years has gone, with the death, peacefully, after a short illness, of Bill Urquhart-Dykes, at the age of 81. Known to most of us as a great 12/50 Alvis exponent, he commenced competition motoring in 1923, with an Eric-Campbell. Before this, after leaving his public school, Glenalmond, he had joined his father’s Regiment, the Cameronians, but in 1916 had got himself seconded to the RFC. By the end of hostilities he had flown 330 hours, mostly over the front lines, on artillery observation duties. He then commanded a flight of No. 105 Squadron RAF, in the North of Ireland. Incidentally, or perhaps to those who knew the couple’s devotion, not so incidentally, there he met his wife Ruth. He was the first person to spot the place where the trans-Atlantic Vickers Vimy had nosed over, after landing at Clifden at the end of its great flight from Newfoundland.
His first Alvis was a two-seater with dickey, used for trials and for racing. It was given a one off Shardeloe crankshaft on which the duralumin con.-rods ran direct, in its short-stroke engine. Fitted with a duck’s-back body borrowed from the factory this car, MF 4557, was 3rd the 1926 JCC Production Car Race. The Alvis was sans front brakes and had towed a caravan round Scottish Highlands the previous summer. Next came the best-remembered Alvis owned by this sporting pair – an SD 12/50 beetle-back, WM 47, which they got early in 1927. The previous owner had returned it to the factory because “it wouldn’t go”. It went extremely well, in the Dykes’ care! During a long series of successes WM 47 lapped Brooklands at over 91 m.p.h., yet was used for local shopping, and as a practice car before the TT and Double-Twelve races. It was driven by Ruth at the 1928 Boulogne Meeting, where she was 3rd in the Georges Boillot Cup race, after which it towed home Harvey’s broken-down works Alvis. Converted to dry-sump, this Alvis covered more than 976 miles during a record attempt and was placed in more than one race. It was kept in such sound condition that when sold to a Cambridge Don he used it for 30 years, carrying archaeological materials (in a special tray) between Turkey and England, without having altered the car’s racing specification.
Dykes drove many of the works Alvis cars, at Le Mans, in the TT, and at Brooklands, partnered by his wife, one handicap being won at over 101 m.p.h. with the straight-eight single-seater Alvis on its first outing. He retired from the game to build up a successful Patent Agency. It is so sad that this great sportsman has died, at a time when his wife isn’t well. I am indebted for some of these memories to Urquhart-Dykes’ close friend, Peter Lord, and to fellow Alvis fanatic Hugh Torrens.