WB’s excellent account of the Brooklands gathering of Alvis Owners Club and Alvis Register FWD Alvis cars poses the question as to why Alvis introduced this model when they already had a successful range of rear drive four and six cylinder cars.
T G John, founder of Alvis, and Capt G T Smith-Clarke had immense experience in the design, construction and maintenance of naval vessels, heavy vehicles and aero-engines. This was the basis for a company with a ‘reputation for manufacturing innovative, high-quality products’, which remains today. It holds an impressive list of patents and products.
By 1925 entrants in the 200 Miles race at Brooklands, won by Alvis in 1923, required better road holding for the artificial corners then introduced and more speed to beat French competition. Smith-Clarke, a long-time supporter of FWD, introduced this and supercharging for the 1925 cars. In 1926 and 1927 Alvis built eight-cylinder FWD cars to Grand Prix formula rules for the 200 Miles and British Grand Prix races, which proved this form of drive, also in hill climbs.
All Alvis works entries, and record-breaking cars from 1928 to 1930 employed FWD. their greatest opposition being the Alfa Romeo team with 1750cc engines, compared with the Alvis team with 1500cc engines. In the 1930 TT race, Alvis won their class but were about 1 mph slower than the Alfa team with, apart from the Alfas, only a supercharged 7 litre Mercedes Benz putting up a faster race average. Cyril Paul told me the Alvis cars handled extremely well and were very reliable.
Alongside the 1928 to 1930 FWD racing exploits 15% of production went to FWD which, together with complications of supercharging and maintenance, made them suitable only for the sporting motorist. Further, as Capt Smith-Clarke told me, he was not given time to redesign the engine to reduce the noise from the gear train upon which WB comments. Alvis were just years ahead of their time but have certainly proved that, to stay in business as a small-scale car manufacturer, the capability to design and manufacture other products is essential.
Kenneth Day, Weybridge, Surrey.