Adrian’s new book and other stories

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:

a picture of the cover of the new book
208 pages in hard case cover, see November post

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.

Just some of the books and brochures we can offer you

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.

Locksmiths gather in Germany

“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.”

George Butlin driving very slowly to gain entrance to the RAC Club at 4.30 in the morning last month, the chairman of the Club’s motoring committee having requested that it be displayed in the Rotunda at the Club’s Pall Mall premises. “I would commend the experience of driving through empty streets in the early hours, and the echo off the walls of the Piccadilly underpass, to anyone- a rare opportunity to drive in our historic capital with virtually no traffic.”
Graber 722 has found a new home in Reutlingen, Germany with a long standing TD21 owner. Eventually delivered after lockdown, sadly without its documented history, currently mislaid by Vintage & Prestige who handled the sale.

Alex Simpson took to the track at Goodwood, click The Goodwin Special

Author: alvisarchive

Driving Alvis cars since 1964 and the website since 2012

6 thoughts on “Adrian’s new book and other stories”

  1. Dear Sirs, i have a rear axle TD21 here in Hamburg and i would like to sell this to a club member. I sadly sold my TD 21 – 5 years ago and still missing it. Best Joachim-Uwe

  2. Just to say that my book isn’t back from the printers yet so don’t rush to order it… Re Arthur Varney and the all synchro g.b. It is said he designed it because he wasn’t very good using a ‘crash box’.

  3. I was so pleased to see such a good photo of Arthur Varney, just as I rember him in the 1940/50s.
    I joined Alvis Stratford on Avon straight from school as Technical Assistant for one year as I was due to join the RNVR at the age of 17. My experience there change my plans and I applied for a 5 year Student Apprenticeship with Alvis ,
    Coventry. My parents and I had to go the Works at Coventry for an interview with AFV. We were amazed when he disclosed that his salary was £2000 pa.
    He was responsible for the apprentice training but largely left the admin to his secretary. Partway through my time he sent for me and said that after the War the company expected to sell cars in Europe and they would like me to represent the company there. It never happened, but I did end up with two pre-production Saracen APCs in Malaya during the Communist Emergeny, which was much more exciting. After George Webley’s funeral at Stratford I bumped into Arthur, he said ‘Ron, your company is doing some work for us, he had retired from Alvis and was working for Noel Penney Gas Turbines and I was the MD of Cape Engineering which had a Evironmental Testing facility, he said its urgent can your people work the Easter weekend, so being Arthur I went back to Warwick and organised it for him.
    After Alvis moved from Holyhead Road to The Triangle I attended a AOC gathering there. When I met AFV he said ‘What are you doing now’? I said ‘I’ve retired, he replied ‘Retired! Retired what have done that for. He was then in his Eighties.
    Ron Walton

  4. May I tell everyone who wants a copy of my book that it’s still being bound so available next week.
    Also Hughes do not hold copies; they tell the printers who to post them to and the printers charge £5!! postage.

    1. Dear Adrian,

      I just heard from Tony Cox that your book on Smith-Clarke has been published.

      Before he died, Ken started working on a mini-biography of T G John. I am carrying on this work, with Tony’s assistance, plus some input from Nick Simpson. Can you please give me a call sometime when convenient?

      Best wishes,
      Tony Day
      Mob 0791 256 0740

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