What is ATE 20?

28/12/2016 from Ashley Austin

Circa 1956, my parents bought a 1937 Alvis 3 position DHC, registered ATE 20 or 21 and finished in Gunmetal grey. It was always known to us as a Silver Eagle, but available references and my aged recollection suggest it may have been another model (my parents were not car enthusiasts, happy, merely, to have a car from a quality manufacturer). As I recall the car, it looked to be bodied by Charlesworth. Distinctive features included a spare wheel mounted in the passenger side wing and a recessed, glass covered rear license plate. When purchased, the car was in fine condition, the hood and carpets were virtually new and mechanically it was fit, although I understood the rear axle had been changed from original, which made the car rather low geared.
We lived at the time on Bolingbroke Grove in Wandsworth, and the car performed sterling service for the next four or five years ferrying us to Brighton and the Cotswolds to visit family. In 1960/1, to my chagrin, the car was sold to two brothers from Chivalry Road, Wandsworth, who owned what I believe to be an Alvis special, a “Beetle back” 20’s era car with, as far as I can recall, a fair amount of bare aluminium bodywork. I was around 10 years of age at the time, so my memory is a little vague. My Mother believed she saw our car driving in the Paddington area of London around 1967, in a sad condition.
Any information about my first automotive love would be much appreciated.

Dear Ashley
> I am afraid we have drawn a blank on your enquiry so far as the registration number is not matched or close to any on our records.
> If you have a photo or any other detail to assist identifying the model and coachbuilder that might help.
> Do any of the photos on the website of the 1930s models look similar? In 1937 Silver Eagles had just finished and there were Crested Eagles (rare in Dhc) and Silver Crest models as well as Speed 25s.

Thank you for your response to my query regarding my parent’s Alvis. It’s disappointing that the registration number doesn’t match any of your records. I believe the car, like many, was laid up during the war and wonder if it was re-registered post-war.

I’ve just taken another look through the various photos on the site, and the Speed 25s look more familiar to me, particularly the lower bonnet line, although they seem longer. I have a number of photographs from my mother’s estate, primarily family members etc, and I went through them to see If I can find some reference to the Alvis. I found the one and only picture. Can you identify the car from this view? Thanks again for your help.12726-ate-20

David Lowe responded : This is clearly a Silver Eagle SG, but I am unable to identify which one. The reg. ATE doesn’t appear on any of the cars. SG production ceased in 1936 so it would have to be a very late car to be registered in 1937.  There are 2 DHCs which were dispatched in mid/late 1936 for which  we have little or no information. 13580 looks as if it was dispatched mid 1936, and 13582 was dispatched on 10th October 1936. Both could have been registered in 1937.

Dave Culshaw continued the search and wrote 12th January 2017:

The relevant Lancashire County Council vehicle registration ledger was checked yesterday and, annoyingly, the space relating to ATE 20  is one of the very few left blank.

However, the entry for ATE 21 , is complete and relates to a Leyland goods lorry. Most usefully, it is dated as December 13th 1935 ( a Friday ). It can be safely assumed then that the preceding ATE 20, would have been allocated if not the same day, then the working day before.

Now, there are only about 75 SG-Series Silver Eagles produced with the Cross and Ellis drop head coupe coachwork, and the vast majority of the registration numbers are known. Of the very few without known registration numbers, a search was made for any delivered to any area of Lancashire. There is only one such, this being chassis 12726 despatched by the Coventry factory on December 16th 1935 ( being the Monday after the known use of the ” ATE 20 and 21 ” sequence). The car was delivered to Timberlakes of Wigan, and the first owner, Miss Edith Mary Pilkington, Rainford Hall, near St. Helens, took delivery on the following day. It is quite probable, given the address of the first owner, that Miss Pilkington was connected with the prominent (and internationally known) glass manufacturers of that area..

It is therefore my view that Alvis chassis 12726 and registration number ” ATE 20 ” , relate to one and the same vehicle. The colour grey as listed on the build record, is, one observes compatible with the aforesaid photograph.


16 January 2017

Hi John,

Thank you, and Dave Culshaw, very much indeed for your efforts tracing my family’s Alvis. I’m pleased ATE 20 (rather than 21) is now confirmed, but rather sad to think chassis no 12726 is probably no longer in existence.




Ashley Austin