Given the entirely justified obsession that most of us have about our cars, perhaps we occasionally forget that some of the remarkable individuals who have brought these pleasures to us and our predecessors over the last century, also had interests and experiences totally divorced from that of the cars.
Just such an individual was that polymath: Captain George Thomas Smith-Clarke, the subject of Adrian Padfield’s scholarly biography. Writers up to now have, of necessity, covered his life story relatively lightly, as an accompaniment to the cars, which deficiency has now been more than adequately addressed.
By way of illustration, I am minded to compare this exercise with the famous Carlsberg advertisement, since the author has clearly reached into hitherto unexplored territory, producing on the one hand , refreshing new evidence, and on the other, elaboration upon what was partially known. As of now, it’s clearly all here: from cradle to grave, a life of undiminished inventiveness, encompassing astronomy, radio communication, aircraft engines, military vehicles, firearms, numerous contributions to medical science, and even cars – especially the technically advanced Front Wheel Drive.
Examples abound: The reviewer was impressed by the story of when GTS-C was about to undergo some nasal surgery. The operation was halted for lack of an appropriate pair of surgical scissors. The patient discharged himself so as to design and construct a suitable appliance (via the Alvis toolroom), then offering it to the surgeon upon returning to the operating table at a later date.
Also, on a personal level, as the one-time owner and restorer of GTS-C’s last Alvis, JDU 674, I particularly warmed to the letter, reproduced verbatim, from the Company, awarding him the car, upon his retirement. Often I have thought that such a document must have existed, and here it is in confirmation, never before published. Just two pertinent examples: one typifying the character of the man, and the other showing the esteem in which he was held by others.
Publication of this book is especially timely, coming as it does when Coventry becomes the ‘City of Culture’ for 2021. I have no doubt that the organisers of suitable commemorative events will be quick to laud the achievements of such notable past city residents as Capel Bond, Sir Frank Whittle, Sir Frederick Gibberd, Dame Ellen Terry, and Philip Larkin. It is abundantly clear that GTS-C should be recognised along such distinguished company, given the advocacy (and accuracy) within this most interesting book.
208 pages; Price £20 plus £5 UK postage. To order a copy from the publisher, call 01386 803803 Email: email@example.com
Working alongside Smith-Clarke was Arthur Varney..
Arthur’s grandson has sent us a note on the design of the all synchromesh gearbox, and in particular these words on the back of the patent….
A more complete story of Arthur’s contribution is set out in Ken Day’s Fourth Edition “ALVIS – The Story of the Red Triangle” which can be ordered from the Trust.
Proving it was possible to comply with Covid restrictions and enjoy Alvis motoring Chris Taylor took his Firebird to Velbert in Germany for a locksmiths weekend conference.
“The Firebird did 650 miles without a hiccup, I tanked it up 10 miles out of Velbert and that got me all the way home to Disley, very economical these Firebirds! We had to run through the Netherlands from Rotterdam without stopping to avoid self-isolating upon return and that was both outward on Friday and return on Monday. The meeting was also classed as educational so it could take place.”
Alex Simpson took to the track at Goodwood, click The Goodwin Special