The Alvis Speed 20 is the epitome of pre-war sporting elegance. Fast and beautiful, with tremendous performance and a low, determined stance, the Alvis Speed 20 is the epitome of pre-war sporting elegance. Beautifully built and full of technical innovations such as independent front suspension, fully synchronized gearbox and power brakes, the car went through four versions, from SA to SD, between 1932 and 1936 before being replaced by the Speed 25 in 1937. Engine size increased from 2.5 to 2.7 liters, culminating in the 3.5-liter engine of the Speed 25, capable of reaching 100 mph smoothly and quietly and widely regarded as the best Alvis ever built. The SD model (as seen here) appeared in 1936 and featured the Speed 25’s 3.5-liter engine, improved steering and suspension, a stiffer chassis, two electric fuel pumps, and a slightly wider body. The low-slung chassis gave the car extraordinary handling and grip for the time: “In the corners it not only doesn’t roll, because it’s so lightly built, but the layout is such that it clings to the intended path at quite unexpected speeds, and when centrifugal force eventually produces a skid, it involves only the rear wheels and is easily controlled,” observed Motor Sport magazine’s tester was equally enthusiastic: “The new Alvis Speed Twenty is the type of car that looks good, feels good, and looks good. From a driver’s perspective, the controls are all where they need to be and the power, speed and acceleration provided by the silky smooth six-cylinder engine is a real eye-opener for anyone used to driving more ordinary cars. Although the car is available as a rolling chassis to receive a body of the owner’s choice, the majority of customers opted for the beautiful Charlesworth Saloon body shown here. When production ended in late 1936, only 1,165 Speed Twenties of all types had been built and all are increasingly sought after today.
This example was purchased in 2016 in London from pre-war specialist Richard Biddulph and is totally unique as it is equipped with the factory 3.5L engine of the Speed 25. This was the development car for the Speed 25!
Thanks to the very active Alvis Owner Club, the history of this car is well known. Here is a recent exchange with them:
“ There is no secret about the above ~ a very well known car (a previous owner, Roberts 3836 lived not far from Ernest Shenton, and there is correspondence in Ernest’s collection about it. ) I also corresponded with Catherine Booth (11026) about this, as she was related to the distinguished first owner, who is of course mentioned in the “Celebrity Book” (to be published next year). I reproduce the relevant entry below: “13325 CYP 329 Brigadier R. Heathcoat-Amory M.C. was born January 30, 1907 – July 21, 1998 and educated at Eton, and the Speed 20 SD he purchased was immediately exported to India. The car is unique in that it was equipped when new with the 25.63 h.p. engine and was therefore a precursor to the production Speed 25 model. On its return from India, the car was delivered to the family home at Knightshayes Court, Tiverton, Devon, which is now a National Trust property.”
In 2019, thanks to a Drivers’ Club rally through Cornwall and we passed by Knightshayes Castle