Protected: The Story of 10876 David Walters Alvis Speed 20

Alvis Archive

The opening of the new International Bomber Command Centre in Lincoln seemed like a good opportunity to invite a few Alvis Friends to take a look and do a few Alvis miles. A chance enquiry from David Walters about dealer name plates prompted an invitation to bring David’s Speed 20 along the A46 from Bath to Lincoln.

Furthermore it prompted David to provide some historic pictures of his Speed 20 SB Cross & Ellis tourer.

This is the story of the 25th Speed 20 SB, now registered BOL 229 and in the hands of David Walters since 1969.

James H. Galt, Ltd., 52 Woodlands Road, Glasgow,  30 November 1933 – December 1935. The registration was not issued until Dec 35/Jan 36. It is believed to have been the demonstrator bearing Galt’s plate of AL 2 or similar.

The Guarantee card (“guarantee for 6 months from Jan 1 36”) shows T S Oliver, c/o Messrs M Bywater & Co Ltd, Small Heath, Birmingham. Engine from SC Sp20.  1 January 1935 – 4 April 1938.

Sq. Ldr. J. Ray Thompson, RAF, Eaton Corner, Cobham, Surrey, 4 April 1938 – 1950; his ownership was recorded in AOC Bulletin 447 reproduced below.
John P. Glen, Horley, Surrey, 1950 – 1957
David A. Littlejohn, RAF, Maidstone, Kent, 1957 – 1959
Peter J. M. Dixon, 1457 SE,  Richmond, Surrey, 1959 – 1968
Dennis Campbell, Chorley, Lancashire, in 1968
Kenneth “Ken” Frith, 2639 N,  Disley, Cheshire, 1968 – Aug 1969

[The story of David’s purchase from Ken Frith is included in his article in AOC Bulletin 536 July/August 2012, Page 86 which is on the DVD of Bulletins available to Friends of the AAT]

August 1969. 3889 David Walters

Pictured in September 1969, Cecilia and David shortly after having bought BOL 229 in the stable block of Kingsweston House, a Vanbrugh Manor House where David was studying architecture at the time.
Scan 266 (2)
Near Monte Carlo with Ray Thompson on holiday in 1937; he has taken the bonnet off because it was getting hot

1938…by Eric Thompson.

Living in Cobham, quite close to Brooklands my brother Ray and I had always been interested in motor racing. In 1938, I had as my first car, a ten year old high chassis 2 litre Lagonda while my brother had an Alvis Speed Twenty and having paid 10 shillings for the privilege, he lapped Brooklands at 78 m.p.h. He also had a girlfriend, Toni, who was mad about motor sport and eventually married Peter Gladstone, the constructor of one of the earliest 500 cc racing cars, “Red Biddy”. I had bought my Lagonda from Gerry Crozier who traded as Malloway Motors in a London Mews and who owned a 540K Mercedes (in which as passenger, I exceeded 100 m.p.h. for the first time down Henley Hill with the blower screaming) and also a fantastic LMB Special which was a short chassis 1932 Ford coupe with blown V8 engine, a Bellamy split front axle and canvas bodywork! We sought the advice of Gerry regarding participation in motor sport and he suggested that we should try the Land’s End Trial organised by the Motor Cycle Club. Ray duly joined the Club and with some trepidation, entered the Alvis. Thomson and Taylor gave the car a service and with our starting point at Exeter on the Friday night, Ray, Toni and I left Cobham on the previous afternoon and stayed the night in Blandford.

We arrived at the check point in Exeter in plenty of time and perhaps over-indulged in an excellent dinner at the Rougemont Hotel. Returning to the car, we found that one of the spot lamps had failed and this required frantic action with a soldering iron. We had filled with petrol, oil and water and given the One-Shot lubrication lever which was located above the passenger’s feet, a couple of pumps.

At precisely 11.22 pm, we left Exeter and headed up the A 35 towards Dorchester where we were  due to check in at 1.09 am, just 45 miles away. The next check point took us back to Blandford at 2.30 am and then up to Taunton at 4.30 amwhere there was time for a massive breakfast at Deller’s Cafe. The car had behaved faultlessly through the night but the passengers had often fallen asleep, lulled by the resonant bellow of the exhaust from the Burgess straight through silencer — and this had resulted in many excursions down wrong roads.

We left Taunton at 6.22 am in dawn’s early light and 90 minutes later reached the bottom of Pollock Hill. Although not observed, this was our first real test of the car which charged up the lower slopes until before reaching a 1 in 3 hairpin. Ray made a quick change into first, blessing the all-synchromesh gearbox, and the crowd positioned on the corner cheered.

Lynmouth Hill followed shortly after and despite warnings on the Route Card, we went up the hank on the hairpin and had to reverse. At last we reached the first Observed. Section, Station Hill with its 1 in 4 climb between white washed houses and a surface of grit at the bottom and slate slabs at the top. Toni and I sat in the back seat and Ray had no problems in taking the hill at speed. bull 447 p387Beggar’s Roost was next and we thought it wise to reduce our tyre pressures to 181bs. This helped to limit wheel spin as we set off on the loose gravel. Three quarters the way up, the revs began to drop and Ray had to slip the clutch to keep motoring and we crept over the summit to cheers from the crowd.

Barton Steep followed immediately and the car coped easily with its 3 second restart half way up. Having no fan, the temperature gauge often went off the clock and we refilled the radiator while waiting at the bottom of Darracot. The start was on a newly laid patch of tarred grit and on the signal, the engine revved and then died as we struck a ridge across the road. We dropped back and took a rush, sailing up in first gear with the engine revving at 3500. At the top, we stopped to oil the carburettor slides suspecting unjustly that they had caused the problem.

By 1.30 pm, we had reached Bude and had time for a hasty lunch. Panic then set in because there was no Cleveland Discol to be found. Reaching Crackington, we crossed a 4″ water splash before the start and possibly because the engine did not like the Esso Ethyl, we failed to get away in the given time but then rushed up, sliding wide on the corner. Our hopes of a Premier Award had gone — but then none of us expected one.

New Mill came next with its deep water splash, two acute hairpins and steep banks on either side. In crossing the ford, our tail pipe and silencer were knocked off. Toni and I leaped out, trying to disentangle the mess. The Marshalls were getting impatient and Ray moved forward a bit, nearly piercing the petrol tank. At last we removed the silencer and pipe and with full revs and an open exhaust, Ray stormed the first hairpin nearly sliding into the crowd and had to reverse to get round. At the next hairpin, we brushed the rock wall. At the top, we stopped to catch our breath and inexpertly replaced the silencer.

Things were not going too well now and we did not enjoy the prospect of Hustyn with its mud and little stream which had been diverted across the track. The tyres could get no grip and despite bouncing in the back seat, we came to a stop half way up. The towing gang fixed a rope and sorrowfully we were hauled over the top. It was now half past five in the afternoon and we were already an hour late. Having watched car after car fail Bluehills Mine, we decided that the infamous hairpin was too tight for the Alvis and we took the slip road to retire. In Falmouth that night, we discussed the excitements of the previous 24 hours and decided that an Alvis Speed Twenty with its long wheelbase, little ground clearance and poor lock was not the most suitable vehicle for trials and that a light weight spartan Ford V8 would have a better chance. When we got home, Thomson and Taylor refitted the silencer and discovered that at least one of the eight springs which served each valve had broken in every case — their solution, 3 concentric Terrys per valve.


Alvis-sp-20 BOL


Then we have the Thompson family fleet taken in 1940 with BOL 229 with its nearside pass lamp hooded.

There is a bit of a story to the last photo; Ede, the Thompson family chauffeur is sitting beside Ray Thompson. For some reason the windscreen has been removed. Ray worked in the city and had missed the train. They were about to head it off at the next station. Ede was called up in 1940 and disappeared into the Second World War, never to be heard of again.

Cecilia’s father Mr Philip A.Jackson (1907-1984) was a lifelong Alvis enthusiast and owner and an early member of the AOC (977SE). As well as the Silver Eagle and Speed 25 he had a TA21 MXM 991 and Grey Lady saloon KRD 9

David with his father in law in his summer Alvis, Silver Eagle 13529 at 14th National Alvis Day at Crystal Palace 4th May 1969. In the programme for this Alvis day, which was 12/50 – 12/60 year, was…..
This is also on the Bulletin DVD
….David Walters’ other Alvis namely GD 1417, a 1926 Alvis 12/50 TE 4 seater narrow bodied “Brooklands” Sports Tourer with a Cross & Ellis body, supplied new by James H. Galt Ltd. of Glasgow
Father in law’s winter car, the Speed 25 Charlesworth
 “This is my Father-in-law, Philip Arthur Jackson in his 1936 Cross & Ellis Silver Eagle. Born in 1907 he learnt to drive in 1925 in a 12/40 Alvis belonging to his Housemaster. He always had Alvis cars apart from 1947 when he bought a new Jaguar, which he did not like so went back to Alvis cars. He owned 14 Alvis, always having a tourer or a drop-head for the Summer and a saloon for the winter. This Siver Eagle he had for many years. He died in 1984. He thought I should have a Speed 20 and found my 1933 Cross & Ellis tourer BOL 229 which I bought in 1969 and still own.
10876 Speed 20 SB BOL 229 – pictured in the 1991 Tour of Britain Programme when painted red
One distinguishing feature of these early SB Speed 20s was that they has a sprung bumper and were not fitted with the dumb irons fitted at the end of the bumpers on later SB and SC Speed 20s.
The eagle is a genuine 1932 example – a year earlier than the car but I think I was lucky to get it in 1970.
As it is as very early SB with its original body, instruments, bumper etc. I think that it is important that it is properly recorded. It was dispatched to James H. Galt Ltd. on 30th November 1933. The first SB Speed 20 was chassis no. 10851 and was registered on 7th July 1933 but this was on test at that stage. The SB was finally revealed to the public at the end of September 1933. The instruments are in fact late Speed 20 SA instruments. Alvis ran on the parts bin system and they were not that fussed about each car strictly adhering to the latest specification in every detail. It had been convenient to fit late SA instruments to chassis 10876, later registered BOL 229, as they were to hand at the time. Alvis built the complete running chassis including bulkhead, instruments, radiator, instruments and bonnet. The rest of the body was provided in this case by Cross & Ellis. Alvis were anxious to ensure that the bonnet stayed with its chassis as they were all hand fitted. In order to ensure this, Alvis numbered the bonnet to link it to its correct chassis.
When cleaning off the underside of the bonnet during restoration the ghostly figures 10876 grinned through the under bonnet grime. Here is a photo of the numbers cleaned off and again linking the precious bonnet to its chassis. You will note that these were painted freehand by the Alvis fitter in 1933.
10876 was dispatched to James H. Galt Ltd. on 30th November 1933. The first SB Speed 20 was chassis no. 10851 and was registered on 7th July 1933 but this was on test at that stage. The SB was finally revealed to the public at the end of September 1933.

The register of early SBs which shows the first delivery of the new model went to one Robert Blackburn of Bowcliffe Hall, replacing his SA saloon.

IBCC 20180422_BOL 229
At the International Bomber Command Centre, Canwick, Lincoln on 22nd April 2018
“My Father was an RAF bomber pilot in WW11. He completed his tour of operations on Armstrong-Whitworth Whitleys, in fact he flew 101 different Whitleys. There was an article written about him and his time flying Whitleys in the February 2014 edition of Flypast which I will bring it along with me in case anyone is interested; there are lot of pictures! The new International Bomber Command Centre in Lincoln was a moving and fascinating place. One sadness was that I found out that two members of my Father’s Whitley crew were killed within 18 months of my Father’s posting away from the Squadron in February 1941. One was 20 the other 22. Awful. It emphasised how incredibly lucky he was to survive.”
Wartime photos of my Father and his crew when he was on operations on A-W. Whitley’s; far left of the photo is Sgt.Thurling, killed in a Whitley 3rd March 1940 returning from a raid on Cologne, and Sgt. Sayner, 3rd from the left in front of my Father, killed October 1942 in a Wellington 111 whilst with Pathfinder Squadron no. 157 during a raid on Cologne.