Introduced in 1931, the Alvis Speed 20 proved to be a very popular model for the Coventry-based marque. Alvis had become known for their focus on exceptional quality engineering, handsome styling and a very high standard of quality. The second of four series of Speed 20 models, the SB Speed 20 featured a number of important refinements. It now featured a longer, reinforced chassis with Bijur lubrication, revised independent front suspension, Hartford Telecontrol dampers and steering and the world’s first fully synchronized four-speed transmission in a production motorcar. The Speed 20 was truly one of the most technologically advanced British cars of the era. Alvis’ proven 2.5 liter inline six remained largely unchanged, retaining its characterful nature and respectable performance. Buyers could specify their preferred coachbuilder, with many cars wearing “catalog” bodies by Charlesworth, Vanden Plas and, in the case of our subject car, Cross & Ellis.
This 1934 Speed 20 SB is chassis number 11337, and is one of just 41 such cars built with the evocative, low slung and elegant Cross & Ellis Sports Tourer body. Of those, just 29 are known to still exist worldwide and this example is believed to be the only of its kind in the United States today. This wonderful car carries with it a fascinating and well documented history that begins with its dispatch on June 6, 1934 to Mann Egerton & Co. Ltd of Norfolk. It was assigned the original registration of NG7165, which it still proudly wears today. Original documents show the Speed 20 was delivered in green over green leather trim with body colored wheels and black weather equipment.
Martin Hodson was first to take delivery of 11337, and he retained it for twenty five years before selling it to a Mr. G.B. Pearce, Esq, of Hampshire, England. Much of the car’s story comes to life with Mr. Pearce, who corresponded directly with the Alvis works for parts and mechanical advice. According to his letters, the Alvis was purchased after Hodson had a bit of a coming together with the scenery, and Pearce sought advice in its repair. After repairs, he sold the car on to Al Chambers of Powell, Ohio. Interestingly, Pearce stayed involved with the car’s maintenance and care, assisting Chambers with delivering components to Alvis and aiding in shipping. A delightful chain of correspondence between Chambers, Pearce and the Alvis Works is included in the history, covering much of Mr. Chambers’ efforts to rebuild the engine and drivetrain – including a receipt for $5.80 to cover the cost of Alvis opening and inspecting the gearbox. At one point, the Alvis representative talked Chambers out of replacing the original engine, convincing him a rebuild was far more economical. Thankfully Mr. Chambers agreed and the car retains its factory original unit to this day.
Chassis 11337 then found its way to another enthusiastic Ohioan named Roy R. Tausch. Mr. Tausch fully enjoyed the Alvis, occasionally participating in vintage races at Nelson Ledges, Watkins Glen and Mid-Ohio. Delightful tales of his adventures with the car at the U.S. Vintage Grand Prix at Watkins Glen in 1977 are included in the history files. Following the passing of Mr. Tausch in 1982, the car was stored away in a barn on the family property. Rumors of its existence persisted, but Mr. Tausch’s widow vehemently refused to sell the car. Finally, in 2006, John Graham, an avid enthusiast of Red Triangle cars was on the property inspecting another car when he saw the silhouette of 11337 beneath a cover. He enquired if it was a Cross & Ellis Speed 20, and the family was suitably impressed with his deep appreciation and knowledge of the car. Mrs. Tausch agreed to sell the car to Graham, knowing it would be in good hands.
Graham proved Mrs. Tausch right and soon shipped 11337 to New Zealand, into the hands of master restorers Errol and Rod Tempero who began a painstaking restoration to return the Alvis to its former glory. Some of the coachwork was fatigued beyond repair, and Rod Tempero hand-crafted beautiful new replacements using the originals as a guide. The quality of the work is superb, with beautiful quality finishes and paintwork and a strong focus on returning a great driving experience. The original engine was refurbished and finely tuned, and every effort was made to keep the chassis as close to original factory specification as possible. Full weather equipment was restored to original specifications in black canvas and the only deviations from original were the selection of fawn-colored leather trim and silver painted wire wheels, which Mr. Graham felt best highlighted the beautiful Cross & Ellis lines.
Sadly, Mr. Graham did not have the opportunity to enjoy his freshly restored Alvis before he was required to sell it on. Thankfully, 11337’s most recent owner has kept this handsome and elegant Cross & Ellis tourer in fabulous order, maintaining the freshness of the restoration. The beautiful dark green paintwork remains excellent, with finishing and detailing executed to a very high standard. This rare and highly desirable Alvis Speed 20 is ready for enjoyment; quite simply a wonderful driving, and elegant touring car with a most fascinating history that serves to enhance its already charming character.