The Georgano Collection

Martin Boothman –  The Georgano Alvis Photographs – first published in 2010-2012
Many readers will know of the Kerbside Encounters series running in the VSCC Bulletin of photographs taken in the 1950s and 1960s by Nick Georgano. Nick took photos of cars of all makes he came across, often parked in the streets of London. Julian Collins, who died so sadly 4 years ago, had asked Nick for any photographs he had of Alvis cars, and Nick kindly sent them to Julian in mid July 2006, just about the time he became very ill. They came my way as I was then Chairman of the club, later in 2006.
I’m afraid that whilst I was Chairman the photos rested safely in a box file in my study, as I had plenty on my plate already without the considerable task of scanning, getting help identifying them and then organising the photos for publication. Last year however, with David Culshaw’s help, I started on them and now they are all scanned, all have been sent out to the Model Secretaries for help in providing information about the cars.
So with many thanks to Nick Georgano for taking the photos so many years ago and then letting the Alvis clubs publish them, to Dave Culshaw for doing the initial analysis of every one of the pictures, and for Simon Fisher for giving me much background information, here are a selection of dated photos:

5245 12/50 CF7634 Georgano photo Brooklands June 82
BR 8823: This is the TJ 12-50 Car no 13635, chassis no 8818, despatched to Grimshaw, Leather & Co of Sunderland on 2 May 1931. The body is a drop-head coupe by Cross & Ellis, although the wings and dickey seat have been somewhat altered . It was
photographed in the Holland Park area of West London in June 1969, shortly after it had been purchased by Register member Stuart Erskine, who still owned it forty-one years later.
9117 NG photo 063 1932 12/50 Alvis TJ 12/50 2 str tourer London SW7 Feb 1961
9613 NG photo 062 1932 Alvis TL 12/60 saloon Steventon Berks April 1963 GX 493


10314 VT 9253 Picture ng pvt 006 – This unusual looking car is one of 74 Charlesworth saloons, and it was despatched to H Farr & son in Newcastle, Staffs on 6 March 1933. The photo was taken in Stafford in July 1959, so maybe at the time it had not moved far from its original home. Regrettably nothing is known about its history.
10565 BG 1575  ng pvt 012 David Webster will no doubt be delighted to see this nice picture of the car he has owned since 1967, which was taken in October 1963 in London W2. The car was despatched to Liverpool in March 1933, and at the time the photo was taken Dennis Gailey, who lived in London, was the owner. David is an enthusiastic driver of BG 1575 which toured Victoria with 12 other UK cars on the Australian trip in 2008.
Picture ng pvt 003 – This 1933 Firefly SB (Chassis No 11111) was photographed at Silverstone in July 1969. Owned by member Darryl Pollard who took it over from his father Roy, who was also an AOC member. The car left the factory on 13 December 1933 and was purchased from Charles Follet by the Earl of Paisley, for the use of his gamekeeper. The car was registered in Scotland in the name of David Whatson and he eventually passed it on to his son who sold it to Roy Pollard. So just two families have owned the car, which is still in very original, roadworthy condition. XS 3266
11065 KY 5837 Firefly ng pvt 005 – This very rare Cross and Ellis “Special 2 Seater” was despatched to B Waterhouse and sons in Bradford on 16 December 1933. It has not been heard of since 1972, when it was in the hands of then member D.D. Knight. This beautiful car was also photographed at Crystal Palace in May 1961.
11123 WG 2258
Firefly 1934 Georgano 112 Beaulieu Sept 82

Speed 20s

9383 Speed 20 SA GG 5657 Georgano photo London W8 July 1963 Photo ng pvt 001. Ch 9383 was the 6th SA Speed Twenty built of the pre-production batch of 26 cars with the early ‘flat’ radiator. It was the third Cross & Ellis bodied car, one of two supplied to Galts of Glasgow. It was finished in red with black wings and wheels, brown leather and supplied with a bonnet strap, twin spare wheels and chromium plated lamps. This car was so early in the production batch that it was not then even known as a ‘Speed Twenty’, being referred to in Light Car report as a “Low-chassis Silver Eagle sports”. The works press car/demonstrator was even photographed fitted with a Silver Eagle badge on the headlamp cross bar. Ch 9383 was destined for a long sporting career. The first owner was Ian Fraser-Marshall, a keen motorist from Kilbarchan, Renfrewshire, who participated with the car in the 1932 and 1933 RAC Rallies. We don’t know how long Mr Fraser-Marshall kept Ch 9383 but by 1939 it was in the ownership of a Mr Cillewell in Dorset. He competed in events run by the West Hants & Dorset Car Club, winning their ‘Moonfleet Rally’ outright in the early 1950’s. The family also used the car for holiday trips including towing a caravan with it to Scotland, something you don’t see many SP 20s doing today. In the early 60s the car passed through a number of hands before AOC member Michael O’Callaghan of Stevenage bought and rebuilt it. He discovered the car had been accident damaged in the rear and fitted a replacement chassis from a VDP coupe he had acquired for parts. Ch 9383 was painted green at that time but on removing the paint he found the original red and black finish, so he restored the car with these colours. He sent the car to a Bonhams auction in 1996 and its present whereabouts are unknown. Nick Georgano’s photo, taken in the early 60s shows it looking rather down-at-heel, probably in the green paint before the rebuild. The sporting background of the car is indicated by the still-extant bonnet strap and quick-release radiator filler cap. The radiator appears to have been ‘botched’ with a film block let into the original casing. These flat radiators were constructed with the honeycomb block soldered directly into the chromium plated case, in the same fashion as vintage Alvis cars. Reg. GG 5657.
9384 FG 7503 ng pvt 002, Another car from the first batch of Speed Twenties, carries VDP body no 1761. FG is a Fife registration so was presumably ordered via Galts, the Scottish Alvis distributor, but supplied by Charles Follet, as he had exclusive sales rights to all Alvis with VDP coachwork. The club knew little about the car until an AOC member bought it in 1967, held it for 5 years and passed it on to the great Alvis enthusiast, the ex-Chairman of Fisons, Sir George Burton. The last record we have is of the car moving to David Sunderland in Lancashire in 1990. The photograph was taken in 1972 at Beaulieu.
The headlights look curious as someone has converted the originals to a pair of early dipping reflectors to obtain double dipping – this must have been done before the invention of twin filament bulbs, when solenoid operated dipping reflectors became redundant. The 1932 model year SA VDP sports were not fitted with external door handles and the doors were quite small and well inset into the coachwork, in true vintage style. The single modern driving lamp is aimed rather high (good for reading finger post signs after dark!) and the long trumpet horns are not original. The ‘flat’ radiator is evident behind the stone guard.
10081 Speed 20 SA JJ 5608. These pretty drophead coupes were marketed by Charles Follett and demonstrate the elegance of coachwork design during this period. This well known car belongs to past AOC President Derek Bradbury who confirms that the coachwork is Vanden Plas number 1891. The first owner was A.B.Briscoe of Newmarket and thereafter the car had several owners until Derek Bradbury bought it in 1973. Derek restored the car carefully after discovering it in poor condition and saved it. This photo was taken in Breamore Hants in July 1983. More photos can be found on the Speed 20 SA page.

NG photo pvt 013 13065 1935 Alvis Speed 20 SD Charlesworth 13779 JY 7620 Georgano photo London W8 July 1963
This Speed 25 has been in The Netherlands for many years. Those with long memories may remember seeing it in the Tour of Britain in 1991. A letter from Henk van der Weiden in Bulletin 311 records that his son Bart spent some 2700 hours over three years restoring the car. We do not know where the photo was taken, but it is a very elegant car: note the lack of running boards.
14570 BDY 231 ng pvt 018 – This Charlesworth saloon was photographed in London in June 1964, presumably when in the ownership of Paul Newell, who, as Sir Paul Newell, became Lord Mayor of London in November 1993. Eric Cunningham reports that the car was imported to Australia 35–40 years ago by Gavin Sandford-Morgan who ran a restoration business in Adelaide. The present owner Stuart MacDonald, who lives in the greater Adelaide area, has the car off the road awaiting restoration of the body, which has been delayed by Stuart having a fall and damaging his leg.
14578 EYP 938 with a Cross and Ellis body was photographed in London W1 in October 1963. The car had a full restoration in 1993 and after a spell in Germany last heard of in Chichester.
14689 EVC 564 Speed 25 was dispatched on 18 October 1940 the last Speed 25 built. Within a month the dreadful Coventry air raid had happened, so this must have been one of the last cars to escape. This photograph was taken at Hershey at the annual swapmeet in October 1979, when the car was in the ownership of Glen Cameron. The car went to the United States in 1973 when Bruce Earlin bought it from the second owner who claimed that Alvis had used it as a works car before selling it. Bruce had the metallic green paint replaced by a scheme using two grades of silver before selling the car to Glen Cameron in 1978.Today 8 owners have been recorded and the car was recorded as being in Palermo, Sicily but more recently in Suffolk.

14309  EXT 637  This long chassis 4.3  with a tourer body by VDP was photographed at Silverstone in July 1969. The car’s first owner was The Hon Hugh Michael Ashley-Cooper of the Life Guards with an address in Windsor. At the time of this photo A.J.V. Bull owned the car and he told Wayne that he bought in 1961 from one D.H Oxley for £375. John Bull kept the car until ca 1981 when he traded it with Dan Marguiles for a Bentley.The care then went to Germany in the ownership of the Prince of Hohenlohe-Langenburg for some 20 years, and was no doubt on display in the motor museum in Schloss Langenburg. We understand that the car is now resident in Hampshire.

KLR 573 – This impressive car, the Chevell/Charnock special, is understood to have a Speed 20 SA chassis and a dry sump 4.3 engine, which Bill Boddy of Motorsport suggested came from an RAF armoured car. The photo was taken at Brooklands in June 1967 when Tony Charnock owned the car. The car was certainly in Germany in 2002 and is no doubt still there.

Nick’s mini auto-biography in Bulletin 528 was very interesting and it showed a remarkable application to a very wide spread of automotive interests throughout his life. I suspect that not many in this field cover the breadth that he does. I recently read his interesting book “Scammell The Load Movers from Watford” and realized that Scammell’s factory was only a couple of miles from where I was at school in the 50s, and yet at the time I was just not interested in such things, so immediately illustrating that I, like many others, am just not in Nick’s league when it comes to a lifelong involvement in transport matters.

George Georgano – PHOTOGRAPHER AND WRITER – from AOC Bulletin 528 March 2011

Your Editor has asked me to write something about my career in these two fields. Where to start? I became interested in collecting photographs at a very early age, five or six I suppose, cutting images from magazines and catalogues (I am deeply ashamed of the latter, knowing how valuable car catalogues have become), and pasting them in albums. I took my first car photographs in 1950, during a short family holiday to Brittany, to supplement my collection of cuttings as I discovered to my delight how many French cars of the 1930s (and sometimes 1920s) there were on the roads which were virtually never seen in the UK, makes like Chenard-Walcker, Donnet, La Licorne, Mathis, Rosengart and Unic, for example. I returned twice to Brittany, but did not take a great many photos as I had only a Baby Brownie camera taking eight photos per roll of film.
When I went up to Oxford in 1952 there were many vintage cars in undergraduate hands, including Alvis 12/50s and 12/60s; the first vintage car gathering I went to was a combined Alvis and Humber rally at the Esso works at Steventon, near Abingdon in May 1953. I must have taken over twenty photos that day, a record to date. The Coronation followed soon afterwards, with an enormous Veteran Car Club rally at Windsor. I joined the VCC two years later, though I have never owned a Veteran. London was also a great place for finding old cars, especially the streets of South Kensington, near the Royal College of Music. Visits to London were relatively rare until I took a teaching job at Watford in 1959. This was only eighteen miles from Hyde Park Corner, I had a half day on Wednesdays, and almost always took the underground up to London and spent a few hours on the streets unless the weather was too bad, in which case I went to the Veteran Car Club Library. There I laid the foundations of what became the Encyclopedia of Motorcars (see below). Being slightly detached from the usual run of workaday London I had some amusing encounters with tramps and batty old ladies, but never any hostility. One nervous lady asked me why I was photographing her car, and was I from the Police, but on the whole people are supremely indifferent, though I have heard stories of hostility from bus drivers and inspectors in depots which are private property. My closest encounter with this was a bus depot in Jerusalem (understandably a twitchy place) where the guard was actually quite friendly; ‘My friend…’ he greeted me; ‘no photos’, and as he was carrying an AK-47, I beat a dignified retreat. I was also forbidden to photograph a police car in Helsinki.
I stayed at Watford for five years, then had two years teaching near Oxford, and when I started writing full time in 1968 I had a flat in Notting Hill, which explains the number of London photos in my collection. My policy, if I had one, was to photograph anything interesting and a little unusual; until the late 50s I avoided post-war cars but then started taking exotica like Ferraris and Maseratis. In 1964 I realised that custom bodywork on the Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith chassis was beginning to disappear into collectors’ garages or across the Atlantic, so I started to
take those too. I have to confess to your readers that I did not specialise in Alvis, though I did take quite a number, at first pre-war, then the post-war cars when they started getting rare. I used my little Baby Brownie until 1961 when I bought a Kodak Retinette from a friend. I now had 36 exposures per roll, and could control exposure and shutter speed, what luxury! This expanded the number of photos I could take, especially in poor light. I used black-and-white film exclusively until 1976 when my daughter was born and my wife insisted that I had to record her progress in colour. After the Retinette I had several cameras of which I cannot recall the make, then in 1989 acquired a Canon EOS 3200 with 35-135mm zoom lens (it also had a 100-300mm lens but I used that for wildlife rather than cars). This lasted me with one change of body until last year when I moved into the digital age with a Canon EOS 1000D. Fortunately the old lenses can be used with this, and I am extremely happy with it. I have never kept a count of the photos I have taken, but with vehicles alone it must run to over 18,000. I have visited 32 countries, photographing vehicles in all except for Sweden, where I spent a three-day business visit and did not take a camera.

Writing and Editing

I had long been fascinated with the number of vehicle makers there have been, and my first effort in this direction was to compile an ABC of Road Vehicle Manufacturers. Written when I was sixteen, it ran to 378 makes, including commercial vehicles (the Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile has 6871 makes, passenger cars only). I still have this ABC and look at it from time to time; it is a mixture of sound facts and some awful howlers.
When I wrote the ABC I had no idea that someone else had tried the same thing. This was George Ralph Doyle, a civil servant who compiled in his spare time, and published privately in 1931, The World’s Automobiles, a list of some 2,000 makes of car, with manufacturers’ addresses and date when they were in business. While at Oxford I had the good fortune to meet Doyle, and after a few years was able to help him here and there, especially on the more recent makes. On his sudden death in 1961 the publishers, Temple Press \(also publishers of The Motor magazine) asked me to complete the edition he was working in, which came out in 1962 under our joint names. This was my first published book. Although an invaluable starting point for research, Doyle’s book was fairly modest in scope. I dreamed of a more ambitious work, with proper histories of each make, and as many photos as possible. Unknown to me, the book packagers George Rainbird Ltd were considering just such a book, spurred on by their dynamic and car-loving sales director Edmund Fisher. I was put in touch with Rainbird by another motoring historian, Tim Nicholson, and on the strength of my work on the Doyle book I was offered the

The Encyclopedia is 650+ pages and it describes some 4000 car makes from all over the world with photos of examples of many of them. Nick edited the book in at least 3 editions with contributions from some 30 authors. The publisher is Ebury Press.

post as Editor of what became The Complete Encyclopedia of Motorcars. I was still teaching at Cothill School, near Abingdon but it was clear that I could not do justice to both jobs, and in July 1966 I said goodbye to the classroom for ever.
The Encyclopedia was published in 1968, and before it was completed I was asked by Rainbirds to write A History of Sports Cars Much of the picture research for both books was carried out at the Photographic Library of the Montagu Motor Museum, as it was then and the Curator Michael Ware invited me to take on the job of part-time Photographic Librarian, saying “You seem to have been through our archives more than anyone else”. In 1976 I became Head Librarian. This was a full-time job and although very absorbing, prevented any significant freelance writing, so at the end of 1981 I left Beaulieu, though I kept my seat on the Museum’s Advisory Council, and was a frequent visitor to the libraries. The Rainbird encyclopedia ran to three editions, the last in 1982, and won numerous awards on both sides of the Atlantic. I have also edited two other massive Encyclopedias, on Motor Sport and Commercial Vehicles, and written some thirty titles, two on the London Taxicab (a full-length book in 1972 and a small volume in the Shire Publications series in 1985). I have also written three other titles for Shire, on Humber, Bentley and Electric Vehicles. Other works have included The American Automobile, a Centenary, The Art of the American Automobile, Britain’s Motor Industry—the First Hundred Years, of which I was Managing Editor.
For a long time I tried to find a publisher for an updated edition of The Complete Encyclopedia, but without success until 1998 when, through Lord Montagu’s contacts The Stationery Office (HMSO) agreed to do a greatly expanded version with over 1.4 million words and 3500 illustrations. With 23 contributors from all over the world, this ran to two volumes of 950 pages each. Some buyers, especially librarians, felt that these were too unwieldy, and the second edition was issued in three volumes. There was also an Encyclopedia of Coachbuilding, and it was this that brought be into contact with Nick Walker. He had already published An A-Z of British Coachbuilders, and I was delighted that he agreed to contribute on these makes to the Encyclopedia of Coachbuilding. He also wrote an extended 45 page introduction to the Encyclopedia, for which, though an oversight at the publishers, he was never credited. I was very sorry about this, and had we done a second edition the error would obviously have been put right. I did not know Nick very well, though my wife and I visited him and Genny once at Ilmington, and looked forward to future contacts. I was greatly saddened by his death last year.
Since the Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile, published in 2000, I have not written any books, but continue to write the odd article and to take photographs. I am delighted that my earlier efforts are appearing in The Bulletin . They are also appearing in The Alvis Register Bulletin and The Vintage Sports Car Club Bulletin.


We were saddened to learn of the passing of Nick Georgano on 22nd October 2017. An appreciation can be found here.

Nick Georgano at the 2013 Graber Treffen




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