In August of 1936, Alvis introduced the follow-up to the superb Speed 20 and 3 ½-litre sports. The new Speed 25 was thoroughly improved and updated, and solidified Alvis’s standing as one of Britain’s finest sporting motorcar manufacturers. Known for superbly built motorcars bristling with technical sophistication, Alvis variously featured independent front suspension, the world’s first all-synchromesh gearbox, servo-assisted brakes, and even front-wheel-drive – all by the mid-1930s. The Speed 20 established the marque’s sporting credentials, and the Speed 25 elevated it to legendary status.
Central to the Speed 25 was an improved version of the 3 ½-litre inline-six, with overhead valves, triple carburetors, and seven main bearings, to produce 106 horsepower. Every Speed 25 engine had its crankshaft, clutch, and flywheel balanced before assembly to ensure unparalleled levels of refinement. Combined with the sophisticated chassis and excellent all-synchro gearbox, the Speed 25 was one of the finest “fast tourers” of the era, equal parts sports car and luxurious GT.
Like many prestigious British automakers of the time, Alvis left the task bodying the Speed 25 to independent coachbuilders. The vast majority of buyers selected from a range of handsome saloon and open bodies by Charlesworth Bodies, based near the Alvis works in Coventry. Nearly 250 of the 391 Speed 25s produced were delivered with the Charlesworth Saloon coachwork. However, for buyers after something altogether more sporting, neighboring Coventry-based coachbuilders Cross & Ellis offered their stunning four-passenger open tourer. The low-slung four-door design was exquisitely proportioned with flowing fully-skirted wings and a sporty, cut-down cockpit. And the performance lived up to the looks, as these lighter open cars were easily capable of exceeding 100 mph.
Chassis number 14579 is one of only 39 original Cross & Ellis Tourers, and one of just seven delivered with the uprated and improved “SC” specification engine. According to factory records, this car was delivered to Waterhouse & Sons in Yorkshire in May of 1938. The 31st built in the final Speed 25 series, 14579 was originally finished in black over a green leather interior. While records do not indicate the first owner’s name, we know that it returned to the Alvis Works for service in the late 1940s, and by the 1950s, it belonged to Mr. Jack Bond of London. He displayed the Alvis at a vintage car event at Silverstone in 1955, and it still proudly wears a dash plaque from that day. Bond sold the Alvis to an American, Ballard Crooker, Jr. of Virginia, who cherished the car for the next twenty years. A photo of the 14579 taken at the 1965 New Hope (Pennsylvania) Auto Show suggests the car was in remarkably well-preserved original condition at that time. Crooker owned multiple Speed 25s, and he claimed this car had just 20,000 miles when he sold it to John Grotz of Wallingford, PA, in 1975. A photograph from the late 70s depicts a smiling Mr. Grotz at the wheel, in the snow, with the top down. At that point, it was still in its original black and green livery.
After four years with Grotz, the Speed 25 was acquired by James Hammers of San Jose, California. He owned the car for a remarkable 28 years, and commissioned the nut-and-bolt restoration and color change to its current shade of ivory the early 1990s. A few years later, the engine was further updated with a new aluminum alloy cylinder head fitted with hardened valve seats, an internal full-flow oiling system, and a stainless dual exhaust system. Hammers cherished the car for years, ultimately selling it to its most recent owner in 2007. In their hands, it received continuous expert care and earned concours accolades, including a Best In Class at the Palos Verdes Concours in 2009.
This splendid Alvis Speed 25 is in superb order today, with the exquisite restoration still looking remarkably fresh. The light ivory paintwork was a magnificent selection, looking resplendent against the green leather trim and brightly polished wire wheels. Fittings include an Eagle mascot, Lucas P-100 headlamps, period-correct fog lamps, and chrome trumpet horns. The sweeping wings house dual side-mount spare wheels with matching metal cases, and a full complement of weather equipment accompany the sale. The full-width folding windscreen is backed by a pair of original Brooklands aeroscreens, further enhancing its rakish good looks.
Ivory paintwork and bright exterior trim are in excellent order, reflecting light use and enjoyment since the restoration was completed. The dark green upholstery is similarly outstanding, featuring complementing green carpet and a beautifully finished wood instrument panel housing an array of beautifully restored gauges and controls. Likewise, the engine compartment and chassis are well detailed in superb, period-correct order.
With its powerful six-cylinder engine and sophisticated underpinnings, the Alvis Speed 25 stands proudly among Britain’s finest touring cars. This outstanding example combines highly desirable factory upgrades with the achingly beautiful Cross & Ellis coachwork, all restored to a very high standard. Entirely suited to continued participation in concours events, this Speed 25 is recognized by the CCCA as a Full Classic, and it is sure to be an exhilarating steed on a wide variety of tours or historic rallies.
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