Chevell Alvis

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I was so pleased to read that Dr Pinkerton corrected the error over the Chevell Alvis (KLR 573). It was first advertised with photo in a half-page advert in MOTOR SPORT in early 1954 or 1955. I feel that I know more about the car than any of the owners, apart from Mr Chevell. I have crawled all over and under it at various times.

When originally built it had a modified Speed 20 (21/2 litre) Alvis engine with a double capacity oil pump. The chassis was cut and the rear part turned upside down. Pre-war Talbot quarter elliptic springs were fitted at the rear and long rods led back from the rear axle to a Silver Crest all-synchro box to give a mock torque tube effect, (a la Bugatti). Because the bellhousing didn’t suit, a Sunbeam starter motor was mounted above the gearbox. The steering box also came from that make. Basil Chevell competed with the car, but because of its weight was not too successful, although in 1951 it was competing with Healey Silverstones and Frazer Nashes. There is a photograph of it in Charles Mortimer’s book Racing a Sports Car.

The 21/2 Alvis engine was removed and, incidentally was fitted into a large Daimler saloon in place of the sleeve-valve one. This used to shake many by its take-off from traffic lights, but that’s another story.

When war started Alvis converted its 4.3 litre engines to dry sump for use in armoured cars, most going to North Africa. Mr Chevell found one of the only two left in this country and fitted it into the car. This transformed the car and it competed in sprints favourably.

For a few years I lost track of the car until a Dr Pinkerton appeared with it at VSCC events and hilIclimbs and was very successful. Sometime later I saw that the car was advertised for sale by Lockhart’s of Dunstable. I immediately hared off from London to be told that it had been sold in a deal over a Bugatti to a member of the Marks & Spencer family. As I was leaving a mechanic, obviously seeing my disappointment, came up to me and said: “The new owner’s mother has gone to bed and refuses to get up until he has got rid of that car.” He also told me that the Half-Way Garage near Reading was checking it over and it might be worth a visit.

At this garage I saw the engine in bits, and all the bearings had gone. Understandably they didn’t know about turning on the oil to the dry-sump. They declined my offer but I did see its condition.

The car was then acquired by a Mr Green of Highgate, who was a regular visitor to my local, The Duke in Highgate Hill. He promised me first refusal should he with to sell. In the meantime I had acquired a 1933 Alvis Speed 20 tourer and a 4.3-litre engine so I set about building my own version, but keeping it entirely Alvis and with a standard body.

On one of the rare occasions when I failed to visit The Duke, Tony Charnock spotted the car outside, went in and promptly bought it. Tony was very successful with the car and at one time had the sports car VSCC record at Prescott hillclimb. I feel sure that no modifications were done to the car since originally built by Chevell: renewed bearings and so on, but nothing to improve its performance.

Perhaps the new owner might like to know my brief history and affection for this car.

JAMES (JOCK) STEPHEN

Auchtertool, Fife