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Dynamic duo of the 1930s

Dynamic duo of the 1930s

Ian Johnson, 2017-07-13

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WHEN it came to beautiful sports saloons, Britain had the market cornered in the 1930s.

And a dynamic due from the Coventry factory of Alvis had driving fans positively swooning with joy.

The 4.3-litre and Speed 25 were British luxury touring cars announced in August 1936 and made until 1940.

They replaced the Speed 20 2.8-litre and 3½-litre and were widely considered as being among the finest cars of that decade.

The pair was one of the last bursts of pre-war excellence and have become some of the most collectible cars of the era.

The Speed 25 used a six-cylinder engine which gave a top speed of around 95mph and a 0-60mph sprint of 10.4 seconds. A bit pedestrian by today's standards but you must remember that this was the 1930s.

The 110bhp engine was a cracker with a separate iron block and aluminium crankcase but with a much more robust specification featuring a crankshaft carried in seven main bearings.

Also carried on was Alvis's incomparable all-synchromesh gearbox and independent front suspension made for a refined driving experience.

This was a heavy, very silent car and began to rack up sales among the well-heeled who could afford its £700 pricetag.

When the last Speed 25 rolled off the production line in 1940 at the Alvis factory in Holyhead Road, Coventry nearly 400 had been built.

Apart from its brisk performance the Speed 25 was a good looker. Slightly shorter than the car it replaced it was a dream to drive and was the personification of British sports saloon excellence.

The most common body was a sports saloon by Charlesworth, who also created the drophead coupés, whilst Cross & Ellis provided the tourer. Only a few had one-off coachwork.

Changes made during the car's production mainly concerned the bodywork with running boards disappearing from saloon and drophead for 1939.

Mechanical changes included a new dual exhaust system with six silencers for 1939, and coil ignition only instead of magneto/coil. Vacuum servo assistance for the brakes was also added.

The mechanical sophistication of this car was amazing for its day. The clutch, flywheel and crankshaft were balanced together which minimised vibration and although the cylinder-head was of cast iron, the pistons themselves were of aluminium. Two electric petrol pumps fed the three SU carburettors protected with a substantial air filter.

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