Alvis Anniversary

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The 12/50 Alvis Register, in conjunction with the Alvis OC, held a very enjoyable Anniversary Day at Brooklands on October 2nd, to which they flatteringly invited me as Guest of Honour (perhaps remembering that, in the distant past, I had owned a number of these cars, which were then regarded as expensive luxuries if priced at more than about £40 . .). This entailed driving Adrian Dairy’s famous ex-Urquhart-Dykes’ SD 12/50 beetle-back, a car with much Brooklands history successfully behind it, from the HQ at Crowthorne, to Brooklands. On the way I did my best to master the close-ratio gearbox with its shortened gear lever (would that all the changes were as easy as the drop from third into second!), the run, with the Brooklands exhaust system crackling away behind and acceleration that hinted at an easy 60 to 70 mph cruising speed out of towns, extremely enjoyable. Moreover, the daughter who accompanied me had been found a seat in an immaculate 12/50 tourer, so we arrived at what is left of the old Track in style.

The Urquhart-Dykes’ Alvin has a standard fascia sans tachometer but still retains a lap-counter, possibly as a reminder of Mr and Mrs Dykes having taken the 12-hour class record at Brooklands in 1928 at 81.38 mph or of other long distance events. The oil tanks half concealed by the near-side running board hint of a somewhat special engine and the steering, with Alvis instead of the later Marla box, is perhaps a little heavier than normal. Its long competition life in the hands of the ultra-enthusiastic Mr and Mrs Dykes is well-known and it is splendid to see the car in such caring ownership, so nicely restored. As for the other Alvises present, I was not provided with a list of them, and anyway, space allows mention of only a few. Suffice it to say that every conceivable type was represented, up to handsome Graber saloons and an open Alvis-Healey. Some had been in one ownership for many years, others had been recently restored, like one of those commodious TA14 saloons bought two years ago for £100 and another Alvis acquired recently for £400. One owner had fitted a Brooklands silencer specially for the occasion, the exhaust note of a Firefly driven up the Test Hill by one of several lady drivers emitted a -typically Alvis snarl, a one-time TA14 Mulliner saloon had been turned into a special after age had mouldered the original bodywork, one 12/70 had taken seven years to restore from wrecked condition, and I had a ride in a smart open 12/70 Special said to have lapped Brooklands fast, before the war.

The happenings included timed runs up the Test Hill, a Concours d’Elegance, a demonstration of racing cars on part of the Campbell circuit, Rivers-Fletcher very concerned that marker cones prevented a quick flip up the banking, and there was even a game of motoring musical chairs, which had been a feature of Henly’s Alvis Days at Brmiklands, which I am told date back to 1923 and which were certainly a popular outing in the later vintage years. The organisation was in the capable hands of Secretary G. M. Tomlin and Competition Secretary James Strugnell, and Peter Thompson provided an untiring and highly professional commentary, allowing owners to describe their cars.

The display of ex-racing Alvises, in front of the Paddock Clubhouse, included the No. 1 competition 12/50, which had been rebuilt with a new con-rod only the night before, the Follett 12/50-12/60 racer, the FWD fabric two-seater driven at Le Mans in 1928 by S. C. H. Davis, proof of which is there in the form of the extra front spring leaves fitted shortly before the race, etc, and the ever-welcome Michael May green racing Silver Eagle, alas now shabby-scruffy, whereas it used to be shabby-genteel. Its present custodian showed me it is still able to ascend the Test Hill four up, in bottom gear if not in the high second gear, although its 12/50 radiator boils over during such low-speed frolics. Two 12/50s in process of rebuilding were on display and Robbie Hewitt had come in her ex-team 41/2-litre Lagonda, on the strength of its Alvis gearbox. There was even a poodle-dog present, which I was told loves its Alvis and which fitted well into the scene, remembering that Brooklands’ creator Locke-King once bred French poodles… The 1924 200 Mile Race Alvis was absent, as it is due fora new crankshaft, and so was the ex-Dunham Brooklands Alvin.

The day ended when I was asked to present the cup and shields to the winners, these having been donated by the Alvis OC, and may I be forgiven for not knowing personally more than a few of the very many Alvin owners who supported this enjoyable event. It is always nice to be at Brooklands but it is now evident that the “Forty Acres” has been enclosed by a useful wire fence, which unfortunately detracts from the view of the previously unfettered Member’s banking and the gates in which suggest that prospects of lappery of a small circuit within its boundary may be invalidated, and also pose queries about how access will be obtained from without; half the Paddock area has also been fenced off. However, if we can continue to have meetings within the hallowed ground like that organised last month by the two Alvin clubs, maybe we should not complain too much. — W .B.

V-E-V Odds & Ends:-

Comdr Ted Woolley claims to hold a unique Brooklands record and has sent photographs to prove it! In 1939, when working for the Gas Light St Coke Co., he was responsible for gas for powering road vehicles and did some tests on the Track with what looks like one of the larger Flying Standard saloons (Reg. No. HP0 585) with gasbag on its roof-rack. His repertoire included an ascent of the Test Hill, his passenger being none other than Laurence Pomeroy… In reminiscent mood, Ted also tells of how he recovered an Italian motor torpedo boat from the sea off Malta during the war and in return for successfully completing this dangerous task — the boat was laden with explosives, was allowed to keep it. The engine was overhauled by Ted after a brief immersion due to an air-raid and this single-seater hydroplane would do about 40 knots. Alas, after it had been shipped home by minesweeper the Admiralty borrowed it for parachute-dropping experiments, the ‘chute failed to open, and the boat was lost beneath the English Channel, with its engine, which warn Mille Miglia twin-cam, twin-carb, 6C 2.3-litre Alfa Romeo (No. M-824056).

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