In 1964 a new AOC member wrote to the Bulletin about the 1937 Speed 25 Charlesworth saloon he had owned from new and had done 131,000 miles. His name, rather inappropriate perhaps, was Sloman of Strawbery Hill, Twickenham. A photo of the car at Crystal Palace appeared in Bulletin 132 & 133 August & September 1964, Page 13.
The car had not been heard since the 1960s until an email yesterday from the daughter of the second owner. “my father, John Dunworth, donated an elderly black “Alvis” to a museum in about 1974-76. I know nothing more about it than that, but I had a ride in the back seat as they were trying to get it going on its journey from the National Physical Laboratory (where he was then Director) to whevever it ended up, and I was about 5 or 6 at the time. I’ve maintained his love of classic cars and still have his 1972 Mk 1 Ford Escort van. He died a few years ago, having reach the ripe old age of 100, and I think I asked him about it at one point before he died, but I cant’ remember where he said it went to.“
Mr Dunworth was never a member of the AOC so I asked for a few more clues!
“I’m afraid you’re dealing with a 45yo memory here, from a time when my early childhood memories are a bit limited…!! It was black, had leather seats (very musty inside) and you could access the engine from the sides rather than a modern hinged bonnet by the windscreen wipers, because I remember watching my father working on the engine in his shirtsleeves, trying to get it going again (gunky, old petrol). I think it had a bench front seat. It was not a convertible. It had (I think) a small running board. My mother thinks he bought it from someone at the National Physical Laboratory (in Teddington) called Mr Sloman in 1965/66 – possible registration HHA 176 – she’s pretty sure that’s right, or very close to right.”
Well HHA was enough to discover the Speed 25 and Mr. Sloman.
“So Sloman must have sold it almost immediately to my father, then, because I think he had it by 1965. It was used by him at the NPL until 1975-76, and was supposedly donated to a museum somewhere. (My father replaced it with a 1963 Vauxhall Cresta which was restored about 15 yrs ago and is still around somewhere – he donated it to the Vauxhall club) and his beloved Mk1 Ford Escort van which we still have…“
So the question is, which museum received the Speed 25?
Mr Sloman’s letter makes interesting reading – the price of a Speed 25 saloon at that time was between £75 and £150.
With great sadness I have to report the death of Robin Bendall who died peacefully on Sunday, 11th April 2021. Robin was a dear friend and Alvis colleague who took a very active role in AOC matters when semi-retirement allowed him the time.
As Chairman Robin steered the AOC Northern Region to great heights and set himself very high bars to jump over to make events ever more exciting and enjoyable. It seemed his imagination as to what could be achieved knew no bounds as ‘exporting‘ over 70 Alvis cars to the USA for a tour bore testimony. Needing something more than the ordinary for Northern Alvis day we formulated a scheme to try to extricate the then unseen for years TD owned by Prince Philip. Immediately Robin rose to the challenge and using the good offices of the owners of Harewood House he set about finding the car and getting permission to borrow it, however that wasn’t enough for Robin he then set about reversing years of neglect and bring the car back to life and I was honoured on Robin’s instruction to drive the car to Hoghton Tower to an IAD hosted by the Northern region under its own power which was Robin’s dream and as ever realised.
Robin and I organised several tours for the Alvis’s many of the arrangements fitting where they touched which gave a certain level of excitement and unpredictability to the proceedings which have left many indelible memories with the participants. Robin was instrumental in steering the club towards incorporation which led he and I to a blazing row over several bottles of a half decent local plonk called Pomerol by a swimming pool somewhere in France, but such was the strength of our friendship all was good in time for more Pomerol over dinner.
Robin started to slim down his collection of cars about ten years ago but thought nothing of starting yet another project of bringing Susan Woodrow’s SA Speed 20 VDP tourer back from having been taken from together by Doug Woodrow some 40 years earlier and the car is now absolutely resplendent and the pride of Susan’s fleet.
Events have turned out that Robin’s final involvement with Alvis was to use the team of experts he had gathered round him in the Norfolk area to ply their skills on the restoration my latest project which is the resurrection of the long dead Speed 20 VDP straight back saloon that is undergoing a paint job in King’s Lynn as I write this so whilst the project won’t be completed under Robin’s instruction it will certainly be completed in his memory.
I am sure we all pass on our sincere condolences to Julia, Robin’s life partner in love, wife and above all friend and also to his family of devoted daughters and beloved grand children of whom I know Robin thought the world.
Robin dear friend, RIP.
Coen van der Weiden wrote following his visit to IAW Polesden Lacy in 2009:
I had already heard and read a lot about OXR 1, but now I could see her in real life for the first time. The royal Alvis TD 21 DHC was beautifully parked in the middle of the field and a television crew stood around it filming the operation of the electric hood. AOC member Robin Bendall, who is the only one authorised to transport and demonstrate the Alvis, provided text and explanations to the camera crew. When calm had returned, Robin beckoned me. He asked me if it was true that after ten years I had resigned the secretary position of the AOCN. When I confirmed that, he said he had one more “nice thing” for me and asked me to walk to the boot of the Royal Alvis. He opened the lid and there was a folded flag, one of the last Alvis flags still flying on the flagpoles in front of the Alvis factory before it was finally closed. “Thought you might like this” and I jumped for joy. As proof of origin I quickly took a photo with the flag draped over the back of OXR 1.
After thanking Robin profusely, we talked a little further about this special Alvis. “What do you think this Alvis weighs?” asked Robin. I answered “1500 kg”, because that is the standard weight. “wrong” said Robin, “the weight of this Alvis is much more. To begin with, everything is made of thicker material than normal, and that applies to both chassis and sheet metal. In addition, the car is loaded with (invisible) gadgets – The Duke of Edinburgh already had a mobile phone in the car in 1964, just to name one.
Under the bonnet, OXR 1 has been “upgraded” to a TE 21 engine. A nice detail is that there are two ignition coils mounted next to each other that can be selected with a switch. Safety First! The dashboard is also covered with green leather, at the express request of the Prince.
In his own words: “No standard walnut veneer facia, but luxury leather without flamboyance.”
The hood is very ingeniously operated electrically and hydraulically. No other Alvis has this and it is of course “custom build.” The front seats have comfortable folding armrests on the sides. Three-Litre co-drivers will immediately recognize this as a shortcoming in their own Alvis (especially in bends) and it is incomprehensible that Alvis has not immediately introduced this as a standard. I was curious about the significance of OXR 1, as Prince Philip has this license plate on all of his cars. “Only the Duke knows that,” said Robin, “all he ever said about it is that we have to look for it in his Greek ancestry, but it remains a mystery”. It is also nice to say that the Royal Insurance Company (yes… just imagine!) requires that ‘any Royal car has to be covered when being trailed.’ Well, we did that obediently in the beginning and at every stop along the way people wanted to know what was under the cover. Over and over we answered “just an old Alvis.” Lately I’ve been riding her without a cover and haven’t had a question yet!” I asked Robin if the grandsons, Princes William & Harry, have ever shown an interest in their grandfather’s car. Sure, they had looked at it, but didn’t find the Alvis fast enough. Their eye fell on the Aston Martin V8 Vantage Volante PoW 6.3 litre, a special version where PoW of course stands for “Prince of Wales”, their father Charles, but he prefers to drive it himself for the time being.
When Robin took control of OXR 1 a few years ago, the engine got stuck. They had to disassemble the block. To his great surprise, he saw that even the inside of the block was polished like a mirror. As if there was a chance the Prince would ever look at that … “Why did they go this far at Alvis?” I asked Robin. “We suspect that the then managing director of Alvis, J.J. Parkes, his “Knighthood” has wanted to come along to earn. However, it was never awarded to him.” By the way, Robin also noted that everyone talks about the Duke of Edinburgh’s Alvis, but that the Alvis is legally owned by Queen Elizabeth. The Duke owns nothing at all. Because of his marriage to the Queen everything has become her property and it is with her signature that Robin has received permission to restore the Alvis, after 25 years of inactivity, “to its original glory” and to show the Alvis within the club. The restoration must have cost a fortune, all the more because Robin hired the best English specialists for it. I do not think Robin is a poor thing, but as a curious Dutchman I could not resist asking a somewhat impertinent question who paid the bills for this? “All charged internally at Alvis PLC,” answered Robin immediately, “it is great that I have put my time and effort into it.” Robin showed me a book with all the correspondence that has been conducted about OXR 1, also by HRH himself.
That fascinating book is now with the Alvis Archive Trust at Bowcliffe Hall for visitors to peruse.
Dave Culshaw writes:
The loss of a towering figure in Alvis Circles. Little did I realise when, pre-lockdown, I used to nip over to the Ely lunchtime ‘noggin’ ( before the change of hostelry ) to exchange historical and practical observations with Robin, that it would be the last time that I would speak with him. Reams can, and will be written about his enthusiasm, organising ability, and wide tastes in motor cars. His company car had been a Cadillac, and I well recall his delight when I had managed to ascertain that the first owner of his H.J. Mulliner Bentley, had been none other than Ernest Siddeley. So it is then that I shall major on his dry sense of humour. He had an idea, for one particular Northern Alvis Day, to make the Driving Tests more interesting. One of these involved separating the entrants from their usual steeds, and having them compete, in order, using Robin’s own East German Trabant. This exercise proved to be hugely entertaining and was won by Kath Lown who had quite early established that this device was more accelerative in reverse, than it was in forward mode. Just one example of his engaging approach with the membership. I shall greatly miss the company of this remarkable individual.
John Fox writes:
As promised, Robin had deposited all his memorabilia relating to OXR 1 with the Archive Trust some time ago and is now available to visitors to view. Not only was his passing coincident with that of Prince Philip but I was astonished to find that he first joined the Alvis Owner Club in 1961 with his Speed 20 as member 2158 listed in Bulletin 97, the same Bulletin announcing the acceptance by Prince Philip as an Honorary Member of the AOC.