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Classic Motor Hub

Classic Motor Hub

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1928 Alvis Front Wheel Drive Le Mans Team Car For Sale

  • Right Hand Drive
  • Manual
  • Petrol
  • 1928
  • Green
  • Dealer
  • United Kingdom


Only surviving works entry from the 1928 Le Mans 24 Hours
Driven to second in class by former Le Mans winner ‘Sammy’ Davis
Huge history file with period photographs
Fully restored between 2019 and 2022

As the only survivor of the two factory-entered cars that represented Alvis on its first appearance in the Le Mans 24 Hours, this historic front-wheel-drive model holds a special place in marque history.

First registered in May 1928 on the Coventry plate WK 5492, chassis number 6794 was entered for Le Mans the following month, and would be driven by SCH ‘Sammy’ Davis and Bill Urquhart-Dykes. A second car was also entered for Major Maurice Harvey and Harold Purdy.

Davis was returning to Le Mans having won the famous race for Bentley the previous year, and although he was unfamiliar with the cornering technique required for the front-wheel-drive Alvis, he soon got into the swing of things.

There was a scare during practice when, under severe cornering, it was found that the steering drop link fouled the quarter-elliptic spring, with the result that the steering would get stuck on full lock. The problem was sorted in time for the race, and writing in The Autocar, Davis reported of the early stages that: ‘The car was held to a prearranged schedule just behind the team leader, and everything ran as beautifully as a clockwork mouse.’

He was delayed when he suffered a puncture at Mulsanne Corner – the car then twice slipped off the jack while they were changing the tyre back at the pits – but the more he drove, the more he came to appreciate the Alvis: ‘The front drive would take corners beautifully steadily, provided that the engine was pulling.’

There was another frustration in the shape of a blockage in the fuel system, which ruined the team’s fuel-consumption calculations, but Davis wrote that, during the night, ‘the car was running so well that the whole affair seemed almost too easy’.

Patches of mist made life more difficult as dawn broke, and another puncture dropped WK 5492 from a probable seventh-place finish to ninth, three places behind the sister car, to give Alvis a one-two result in the 1. 5-litre class. Davis noted that the cars ‘had averaged 58 and 59mph respectively, had won their class, given not a spot of bother of any sort [and] had both beaten the 1500cc record.’

Following its Le Mans outing, the factory sold WK 5492 in September 1928 to the Iliffe family, which owned a successful publishing house. By the mid-1930s, the Alvis had been acquired by Herbert Nelson, who, in 1985, wrote a letter explaining that he used to take it to Brooklands, ‘but never took part in any event – it was too expensive for a Second Lieutenant of the Royal Tank Corps to compete … We used to have races into Bournemouth amongst the young officers, which were pretty hair-raising at times.’

Nelson sold the Alvis in 1935 when he moved to Egypt, and subsequent owners included John Lloyd (1935), James Hutley (1937) and Philip Denney (1938).

In 1964, Barry Cooke bought the Alvis from Keith Brettel and later said that it had been dismantled into ‘major component’ form. He started what would become a very long-term restoration and the work included building a new body and frame, but it hadn’t been finished by the time the car passed to Jeff Goodwin in 1982.

After being in long-term ownership between 1995 and 2018, the Alvis was acquired by a US-based enthusiast who had the car restored in the UK over the course of three years. The work was carried out by SPB Historics, a frame up, body off total restoration with the Alvis Club Historian as constant advisor. When it was complete, the car was displayed at the 2022 Audrain Concours as well as the following year’s Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance.

Now being offered for sale in exceptional condition, this historic front-wheel-drive Alvis comes with a refuelling jug and funnel that were used by the factory team at Le Mans in 1928, plus a vast history file that includes period photographs as well as documents, drawings, notes and invoices going back to the early 1960s. It’s a rare, innovative and fascinating piece of British motor-racing history.

Alvis was experimenting with front-wheel drive in its racing cars as early as 1925, and the Coventry marque even used that layout for its 1. 5-litre, straight-eight Grand Prix cars during 1926 and ’27.

In 1928 came the announcement of a front-wheel-drive production car, which would be available with a choice of two- or four-seater open bodywork, or as a fabric saloon. It was initially offered with a wheelbase of 8ft 6in, with a long-wheelbase (10ft) model being added later.

This pioneering car was powered by a 1482cc, four-cylinder engine that gave 50bhp in standard form and 75bhp with the optional supercharger. The blown version was guaranteed to reach 90mph and, whichever engine was chosen, the promotional literature stated that ‘this is a car that will delight the heart of the keen sportsman and thrill the motorist with sheer delight’.

After a class-winning outing at Le Mans in 1928, Alvis sent five FWD cars to that year’s Tourist Trophy race in Northern Ireland and Leon Cushman finished second overall. Later that year, a streamlined FWD single-seater set Class F records for 500 miles, six hours, and 1000km at Brooklands.

Alvis withdrew from motor racing after winning its class in the 1930 TT. Although the FWD production model was still listed in the 1931 catalogue, none were built that year – only about 150 were made in total – and the marque’s fascinating front-wheel-drive era came to an end.

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