The lockdown has encouraged some restoration activity and correspondence on regaining original registration numbers. Brian Davies sent his photos of DRF 437, a Cross & Ellis tourer he has owned for a very long time.“I thought you might like some before and (almost) after pictures of the Firebird. As you can see, the before pictures give an idea of the state of the car when it eventually arrived in Southsea, Portsmouth in late 2007 after around 40+ years being stored in garages, barns, warehouses etc. This pic is the current state shortly before the start-up of the engine after around 50 years of inaction. By the way it runs beautifully after having started almost with the first press of the ignition switch – all very gratifying and a great relief!
The car is now awaiting bodywork which is, of course, somewhat on hold as a result of Covid-19.
It was very interesting talking to you this morning and great to hear that you already have some background info on the car and its owners. I will, of course, be delighted to hear/receive any additional info you have on the car.
Many thanks for your help in this matter.”
With the help of DC and WB we were able to piece together the history of the car, the first owner in Staffordshire and the story of how Brian and his friend acquired the car from Ron Harrison who had been a neighbour of the late Apsley in Cornwall. Tony had published a photo of Ron in the AOC Calendar in 1999.AOC Calendar, April 1999, Page 11, photo of Ron Harrison in Firebird DRF 437 circa 1954 or ‘55 & comments by Tony Phillips-Smith: My next-door-neighbour (1/4 mile across the field!) Ron Harrison lent me the photograph below which shows him, just out of the RAF, with two jolly ladies, in the summer of 1954 or 5, probably in Droitwich, Worcestershire, at the wheel of Alvis Firebird Cross and Ellis Tourer, reg. no. DRF 437 (Chassis 13466), then painted metallic silver (!) with black wheels. The indefatigable Dave Culshaw can trace the car as far as Gosport in 1977. Does anyone have any later news? Ron (and Dave, and I) would love to know. Incidentally, Ron “sold” the car at the time of the first Suez crisis, for four pints of beer. Those were the days when men were men, and a pint was really worth something!
“Again, your photo of Ron Harrison at the wheel of the Firebird has really sparked off much interest from friends, neighbours and relations. For many years they’ve been hearing about this mystery car locked away in a garage that has long been keeping me busy, and short of ready cash, so, to see a picture of the car “in the flesh” is a real treat for all of us.
As I may have mentioned, my friend Mike and I were given the car by Ron, (probably around 1961/2) when Ron was living in Clevedon, Somerset, in exchange for some DIY/gardening work that we were doing for him. For the next few years Mike and I did a complete demolition job on the car in the mistaken view that we were conducting a restoration.
You say in the email that you last had news of the car in Gosport in 1977 but, although I moved to Gosport in ’72 when I joined the Royal Navy, as I recall I never actually moved the car to Gosport but that it was eventually moved from the Clevedon area, where it was languishing in a barn, directly to a furniture storage company in Chard in South Somerset in the late 70s when I was firstly appointed to Devonport based ships, then BRNC Dartmouth and later with the Royal Marines at CTCRM Lympstone. I then moved back to the Portsmouth area and it wasn’t until 2007 that I finally managed to obtain a suitable lock-up garage and moved the car from its long term home in store in Chard to the garage in Southsea.
Work on the car started shortly thereafter and, as of today, it awaits clothing in bodywork as much of the original has, over the years, been lost, stolen or deteriorated. The car has been restored from the barest chassis up and the engine, brakes, rear axle etc. refurbished, replaced or renewed and the ash framing completely replaced as the original Cross and Ellis woodwork was either rotten or eaten away by woodworm. The engine, however, having been silent for around 60 years, started last August and runs beautifully.
That, in summary, is the history of the later years of the “Firebird” as I know it and, prior to this, the Duplicate Registration Book (RF 60A) shows details of 2 previous owners in the Midlands before Ron Harrison comes on the scene in the mid 50’s.
I hope this fills in some of the detail of the “missing years” but if there is any further information you think I may have please let me know. Also, if there is any chance of contacting Ron Harrison I would be delighted.
Again, many thanks for your help in this matter,
As Apsley is no longer with us does anyone know if Ron Harrison is contactable?
Oh, yes, a comment below led to this from Ron…
My son, Lee has somehow found your archive and sent me a copy including the photo of what was once my Firebird! I bought it for £200 about 1954 when I was working at Oldbury, Birmingham.
I was then transferred to Portishead and lived in Clevedon, and was a member of the rugby club. Suez and petrol rationing put me off the road and Albright & Wilson wanted me back at Oldbury. The car needed minor attention. I needed to rehouse.There were two lads, whose names I can’t remember, in the team who were engineering apprentices that took an interest in getting the car roadworthy and on that promise I gave them the car for a couple of beers (each). In 1977 I moved to Cornwall and a few years later met Tony Philips Smith , a near neighbour ! We did a few Greatwestern runs and scrutineered some Le Jogs, and – the main reason for this missive – the Commemoration meetings for Major Harvey at St.Keverne. I have the 2003 programme which you are welcome to – where should I send it? Happy Memories !
We have also updated the Firebird page with a new listing, click Firebird
Robin Willmott wrote:
With the sun shining the Alvis all polished up and the Waxoil removed from the chrome the TF 21 was all ready for a drive, but with Covid 19 preventing all events, Bar meals or social meet-ups we were left with only one alternative, a run to our local Supermarket for a bit of social isolation. Whilst l waited reading the paper a BMW Mini owner drove by giving the thumbs up which which was most uplifting . So if the sun is shining in ten days time when we do our next shop we will definitely be travelling by Alvis.