Red Triangle RH Insurance

1/2 a Million pounds for an Alvis

Monday, December 4, 2017
The 1937 Alvis 4.3 Litre 'Short Chassis' Tourer in question was sold for £505,500
At the Bonhams - The Bond Street Sale, London, UK on the 2 December, 2017 Lot 131
This car was used in a Rally by the first owner, when it was New and then by the second owner. Then much later In the Ownership of Long standing Alvis Owner Club member Mike Cummins it was featured in the BBC2 adaptation of John Le Carré's Cold War thriller, 'Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy', starring Alec Guinness as spymaster George Smiley. The registration was changed to 'PLA 41' for the film and was driven by actor Ian Bannen in the role of Jim Prideaux. Apparently, Bannen was so taken with the Alvis that he changed the script, referring to it as the 'best car in the world', later he contacted Mike Cummins to get one for him.
Tim one of Our Members wrote of the 4.3 model in general:
"The general appearance suggests a real thoroughbred . . . this car is capable of a truly remarkable performance, but the manner in which this is achieved makes the Alvis doubly likeable. The independent front suspension and one of the most satisfactory steering systems which we have yet encountered make road holding particularly good . . . The all-synchromesh gearbox plays a very big part in the high averages which are so readily achieved with this car . . . the six-cylinder engine shows itself to be most docile at low speeds . . . Owing to the high top gear the engine spends a great deal of its life at speeds well below its peak. Consequently there is a material absence of noise or vibration; experience shows that a 300 mile journey is no more tiring than when undertaken in a first-class railway compartment" (The Motor, June 23rd 1938)


Unveiled in August 1936, the 4.3 Litre was the undoubted flagship of Alvis' pre-WW2 range. Based on a sturdy, cruciform-braced ladder-frame chassis equipped with independent transverse-leaf front suspension and a well-located `live' rear axle, the newcomer also boasted driver-controlled Luvax shock absorbers, Marles cam-and-roller steering and Clayton Dewandre servo-assisted drum brakes. An enlarged version of that found in the Speed 25, its 4387cc OHV straight-six engine featured a seven-bearing crankshaft, alloy crankcase / sump, cast-iron cylinder block / head, triple SU carburettors and cluster valve springs (nine per valve making for 108 in total). Credited with developing some 137bhp and 175lbft of torque, this potent unit was allied to the marque's famous all-synchromesh, four-speed manual transmission. Reputedly faster than the equivalent Lagonda V12 and Bentley 4.25 Litre both in terms of acceleration and top speed, the Alvis 4.3 Litre was judged something of a `supercar' in period. Available with a choice of 10ft 7in or 10ft 4in wheelbases and in a variety of open and closed guises, it remained in production until 1940 by which time some 166 are thought to have been made (though, some sources suggest the figure was 183 or 198 cars).


However, one Alvis 4.3 Litre model stands head and shoulders above the rest in terms of rarity, desirability and reputation. Introduced in late 1937, the Short Chassis Vanden Plas Tourer drew rave reviews from the contemporary motoring press. A true expression of the coachbuilder's art, the rakishly elegant four-seater was awash with fine detailing. As well as expected elements such as a fold-flat windscreen, encased spare wheel, sloping tail, louvered bonnet sides and cut-away doors etc, the design was punctuated by a clever belt line that emphasized its low build and delightful stepped edges to all four wings. Riding on Alvis' `jelly mould' wire wheels and typically finished in a two-tone livery, the 4.3 Litre Short Chassis Vanden Plas Tourer was arguably among the best looking road cars of its generation. While period road test figures - 0-60mph in 11.3 seconds and 103.45mph top speed - confirmed it to be one of the quickest too. Some £200 less expensive than a standard wheelbase Vanden Plas `Razor Edge' Saloon (£995 vs. £1,195), the short wheelbase Vanden Plas Tourer attracted surprisingly few sales. Indeed, it has long been held that just twelve Alvis 4.3 Litre Short Chassis Vanden Plas Tourers were built and supplied (eleven of which are known to have survived to this day)."

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