1975 – Knebworth

Alvis Days had been held at Crystal Palace since 1958 and a new venue was needed for 1975. Some Swiss visitors came to the last Crystal Palace event in 1974 and more were invited for 1975. This prompted a change in the title to International Alvis Day and was the start of it becoming a weekend event. The new venue was Knebworth House, north of London just off the A1, for the next ten Internationals  before moving to Duxford. This is the contemporary report with the addition of photos.

1975 International Alvis Day, Knebworth by John Fox

Despite two previous days of continuous downpour, numerous traumas and consequent changes of plan, we were greeted with smiling faces on our arrival and the sight of several Alvis cars, which was surprising as International Alvis Day was not officially open for another quarter of an hour. The Knebworth committee were busy rearranging the areas where each event was to take place, as the rain and consequential mud made it impossible to stage the driving tests on grass as originally planned. Apart from the mud – and the map in the programme – no-one would have guessed that what happened was not previously planned – a tribute to the ingenuity of the hard-working committee, led by Malcolm Lee, Tom Oakman and Chris Burnett.

For those who had been lucky enough to have stayed at the Cromwell Hotel, the night before, there was the added burden of recovering from what I gather was a superb dinner and evening in Alvis company. For those of us who had been unfortunate enough to stay at the Trust Houses Roebuck Inn, and that includes all our continental visitors, we were recovering from the frustrations of disgraceful service, mediocre food and a sizeable bill, which was most disappointing. However, I am glad to report that their following night’s  stay at the Albany Inn, Crick proved entirely to their satisfaction.

The morning’s events seemed to be dominated by the continuous arrival of Alvis cars and enthusiasts and by midday it is believed that as many as 380 cars bearing the red triangle were in attendance – shades of Stoneleigh Park. 1970 Tour of Britain. Perhaps if the sun shines next year we can reach 500, particularly as there were many cars that in my many years of attending Alvis Days I had not seen before, and equally many cars that I didn’t see but might have expected to see. Somehow, with generally rushing around in large circles, the Concours d’Elégance did not receive my detailed inspection, although l was pleased to see Ralf Schwarz sportingly enter his 1958 Graber cabriolet, and to see Dave Clarke’s TD 21 for the first time since its long absence due to a highly commendable virtually one-man rebuild.

In spite of the large number of beautiful awards presented at Alvis Day, it is a shame that such effort by one man who is not a professional goes unrewarded. On the other hand, it does show that standards of restoration of the entrants’ cars continue to reach impeccable standards, and that if you ignore, say, the car’s interior or engine compartment, you are unlikely to be an award winner. One can therefore understand why Den Bailey’s TA 21 took the first prize in the post-war class, and why the Buck and Davies Speed 25’s continue to feature in the list of winners. Their standards of preparation are a marvel and equal the standards of any one make car club you care to name – and what’ a more they are perfectly happy to drive their cars in a competitive and entertaining manner.

For the first time at an Alvis Day, we were delighted to welcome a large number of Swiss enthusiasts who had driven over especially for Knebworth, three of whom arrived only on Saturday evening at the Roebuck.

Ralph Schwarz

Ralf Schwarz had arrived earlier in the week in his 1958 silver grey drophead Graber, with his father. Ralf is one of those peculiar people who buys a car for odd reasons – his choice was determined by the shape of the Alvis petrol tank as it was large enough for his fiancee to ride in. But now he appreciates the other virtues of Alvis, as demonstrated by the amount of restoration work he has carried out. Mr and Mrs Merz arrived on our doorstep on Friday in their grey 1962 Graber TD 21 cabriolet. Unfortunately, we were not at home but at Heathrow awaiting the arrival of Madame Graber and Mr Sigrist, who both have Graber Alvis but in their so youthful autumn years left them behind in Switzerland.

Hans Dietrich with Madame Graber

Unfortunately, Swissair managed to lose Mr Sigrist’s luggage, still not found, I fear. On our return however we were able to spend a delightful evening with the Merz’s, who are devoted Alvis enthusiasts, having bought their TD 21 four-speed with overdrive 18 months ago from the original owner. Having had the pleasure of driving their beautiful car. I can confirm that, apart from first gear rattling slightly, it is really superb – and not for sale.

The high-speed continental travellers were Dr and Mrs Kreissl in their white 1964 TE21 Graber cabriolet, Mr and Mrs Arnet in their blue 1963 TD 21 Graber coupe, Mr Mrs and Miss Dietrich in their silver 1958 Graber coupe, John Peter Wyniger, Pierre Michel Piquerez. and from Holland (not for the first time) Mr and Mrs Bert Kramer in their grey 1964 TE 21 Graber coupe.

The Arnet TD21 (left) and the Dietrich TC108G

It was the Arnets’ car which provided the “high”” spot of the day, as they brought that enormous cheese in the boot of their car. Half of the cheese was distributed to Alvis members after a delightful Swiss ceremony in traditional style, complete with national costumes and singing. (And quite delicious it was, too – Ed.) The other half was donated to the Alvis workers in Coventry, whose factory the Swiss were to visit the following day.

Eric Oakman, Walter Arnet and Dr Kreissl with the cheese

After lunch (or during. for those still queuing) the driving tests formed the centre of attraction. There were 51 entrants representing each era and style of Alvis, who managed eventually to find the right route round the pylons (or through in some cases).

Christan Merz loaned me his Graber cabriolet for the driving tests and I won – driving more carefully in someone else’s car proved to be the best

From a competitor’s point of view, I found the compact area and the “boys” organisation a great improvement over Crystal Palace~ being seemingly much more efficient and friendly. The loose surface was probably less wearing on the cars’ mechanics. if not the paintwork, than the smooth surface of the Palace. The only criticism I would make is – why oh why can’t we have a demonstration “correct” run before no. 1 attempts his run, like at Midland Alvis Day: it would be so much fairer to the first.

By the time the gravel stopped flying, I reflected that really the passing of Crystal Palace was not a tragedy and that Knebworth has the makings of the finest motoring event in Britain. Three cheers for the Knebworth Committee.

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