Established in 1923 for the purpose of building high-class coachwork for cars, Freestone & Webb Limited, V. E. Freestone & A. J. Webb were at Unity Works, Brentfield Road, Stonebridge Park, Willesden, London, NW10.
Thanks to research by James Taylor, we have identified nine Alvis chassis in our database mounted with Freestone & Webb bodies in the 1930s and much has been written about most of them over the years in AOC Bulletins:
The first four are Speed 20 SB models in two designs, 1372 and 1404
Speed 20 SB Freestone & Webb 1064 Pillarless 1372 Saloon 10864, AUC 356 (scrapped)
Speed 20 SB Freestone & Webb 1071 Pillarless 1404 Saloon 11189 fate unknown
Speed 20 SB Freestone & Webb 1076 Pillarless 1372 Saloon 11265, RV 4715 (preserved)
Speed 20 SB Freestone & Webb 1072 Pillarless 1404 Saloon 11270, 558 GDA (c. 1963) Now with a Tourer body.
The next four appear to have been ordered by Alvis Limited as a batch with consecutive body numbers and were well publicised:
3½ Litre SA Freestone & Webb 1172 Pillarless 1609 Saloon 13086, Grey, Blue Wheels Blue Leather, Despatched 12 October 1935. AKV 927 featured in “the Motor” on February 4, 1936 – a 600 mile prolonged trial including data obtained at Donington for the first time – “…in our considered opinion it is the finest car which the company has yet produced“. Then to Capt. Newsome, Corsham, Wiltshire 5 November 1936 –
3½ Litre SA 25.63 Freestone & Webb 1173 Pillarless 1609 Saloon 13093, 13564, 17891, BDU 156, despatched 20 December 1935 a pillarless saloon in blue was reportedly on the Freestone & Webb stand at the 1935 Olympia show. It was the subject of a prolonged 2,000 mile Continental test in The Autocar of February 28th, 1936 covering eight pages (for a week to cover the final stages of the Monte Carlo Rally) and Motor Sport in February 1936.
3½ Litre Register, page 2 & back cover photos of 3½ Litre 13093 BDU 156.
3½ Litre SA Freestone & Webb 1174 Pillarless 1609 Saloon 13106, 13555, 17780, CD 5153 (survives) 227 289 (NZ), Despatched 21 November 1935
3½ Litre SA Freestone & Webb 1175 Pillarless 1609 Saloon 13138, JU 9326
Further information on the 3½ Litre model is available by clicking here
The final and ninth car is not pillarless.
4.3 Litre SA Freestone & Webb 1217 4 door 4 light 1765 Saloon 13164, EJJ 663 Believed body survives
Speed 20 SB Freestone & Webb Pillarless Saloon 10864, 11316, 15609, AUC 356, was despatched 1 September 1933. Bulletin 361, February 1988 has a letter from Peter Martin (7323Sc) with its known history and demise. It was reportedly an Olympia Show car, in battleship grey & birch grey, on the Freestone & Webb stand.
“My father purchased this car in 1955/56 for £95 and she was used as the family car, replacing a 1937 Vauxhall 10, until about 1960 when I suspect the introduction of the MOT test caused an enforced lay up. I now have to confess that I was responsible for breaking the car up in 1966 when we decided she was beyond repair.” Fortunately Peter retained the identification plates and has donated them to the archives.
A surprising feature of this design is the boot arrangement – apparently not too successful as opening on a wet day deposited any water into the boot.
Speed 20 SB Freestone & Webb 1076 Pillarless Saloon 11265, 11715, 16177, RV 4715, was despatched 9 April 1934. It was owned in 1954 by Leonard Light (see Bulletin 14). The next owner J. J. Lealman, advertised it in Bulletin 75 in October 1959 “resprayed white with red wheels”. Paul Sansom has owned it since 1963.
In Bulletin 297, November 1978, Page 247. L. Light, writes from, Bridport, Dorset.
I am delighted to learn from Mr. Lines of Alvis, Ltd. that the Club and yourself are still going strong. During the late forties and fifties I owned a number of cars and I am wondering if you can tell me from your records if the following are still on the road and where can they be seen.
Firebird AWK 817 Engine 13020 Chassis 12568 Car No. 17415
Speed 20 YY 5586 Engine 10513 Chassis 10063 Car No. 14787
Speed 20 BGN 436 Engine 12300 Chassis 11850 Car No. 14787
Speed 20 RV 4715 Engine 11715 Chassis 11265 Car No. 16177
If further details of above cars are required I can probably supply them.
L Light 4.9.78
See AOC Bulletin 502, Nov/Dec 2006, Page 564.
Speed 20 SB Freestone & Webb Saloon 11270 has been replaced by a VdP style Tourer. AOC Bulletin 406, October 1992, Page 15 Photo of 558 GDA captioned The Blanchet Speed 20 at Shuttleworth. M. Blanchet was the Managing Director of Lola Cars.
April 2020, a letter from Michael Elsom
I trust this finds the Alvis Archive alive and well in the current circumstances.
I wonder if you can help me with any information about a Speed 20 which I – and other members of the Malvern College Vintage Car Club – acquired in or about 1966.
It carried a Freestone and Webb pillarless saloon body – said at the time to have been the only one with such coachwork. I see from your very helpful website that Freestone and Webb only bodied 4 Speed 20s – one of which is known to have been scrapped. From the circumstances of that event it cannot be the car we bought.
We acquired the car from a retired naval officer called Morris who lived somewhere on the south coast (?Brighton) and who kindly let us have the car for £25. It was probably not the most suitable purchase for the club but we got it running and drove it around the school grounds until I left in early 1968. Thereafter the club continued to exist – run I think by a relative of Barrie Price – but the last I heard was that the body had been removed and scrapped. This was all a very long time ago. The master associated with the club left Malvern and went to teach at Dean Close School in Cheltenham taking his 12/50 and still incomplete 1750 Alfa with him.
You will probably be asking yourself – why is this old buffer suddenly taking an interest in this car after all these years? It is simply this – many years ago I was the editor of the VSCC Bulletin and know how trying it can be to find yourself suddenly without copy. A couple of issues ago a former member of the Charterhouse Car Club wrote a piece for Matthew Bell (the current editor) and I have been pondering whether I could do the same. I cannot find any photographs of the Speed 20 as yet and I wondered whether you could help on that score and also its subsequent history.
When we acquired the car the then Assistant Secretary of the VSCC wrote me a letter which included words to the effect that if we didn’t like the body we could always do something about fitting an open one – how views have changed! In the mid-60s people were doing horrible things – particularly to Alvis and Riley cars – which would now be frowned on quite properly. Looking at the photographs on your website I was reminded of how handsome the two-door VdP saloon was in particular. Each time I see one I think how pretty they are – and wonder how many were broken up at a time when their elegance was under appreciated and the cost of repairing them far exceeded their value.
Looking at your Freestone and Webb page, I think our car must have been design 1404 – I have no recollection of the spare wheel being at the rear. I look forward to seeing more of the saga of 558 GDA – which must surely have been a replacement number.
I am sorry to burden you with what may seem like a rather off-beam request when you have probably got better things to do but I would really appreciate it if there is anything you can pass in my direction.
With best wishes to you and your archive
Fortunately the Speed 20 SB Register was expertly managed by the late Nick Walker, author and past trustee of the Archive Trust. His notes say:
Previous reg 141 KPO (not original – late 50’s). Guarantee card: July 31st 1934 – Edward Cecil Selwyn Savill, Lamorina, Caterham-Valley, Surrey. 8335 (Blanchet) acquired in 9/91, from Motospot, Loughborough. 3490 was Malvern College Vintage Car Club, 3 The Lees, Great Malvern, joined 6/67. Previous owners Chris Browning, Andrew Zanettou – see correspondence (Blanchet). For sale 5/96; not in 99 Member’s list. 11/06: 5500 now owns.
Richard J. Procter, 8141 N, Plus 4 Motors: May 1988 bought from Andrew Zanettou, 22A Norfolk Road, Birmingham, sold to Jeremy G. Wade, The Old Vicarage, Hales, Market Drayton, Shropshire TF9 2PP, May 1988 –
“Mike” Blanchet, 8335 EA, Holywell, Cambridgeshire. PE17 3TG, September 1991 – 1997
AOC Calendar, May 1996, page 7 ad: My Speed 20 SB registration 558 GDA – known car, rebodied some time ago as VdP style open tourer. In ivory with red leather. Everything working – including the clock! Less than 3000 miles since engine rebuild, recent Red Triangle service with many chassis items attended to. A well maintained, attractive and very usable car. Engine No. 11718. Chassis No. 11270. £28,000. Repeat ad May 1996
Classic Cars, June 1996, advert with photo. Nick Walker, 10 June 1996 – Original registration unknown, now carries 558 GDA, before that 141 KPO. The current owner, M. Blanchet who is advertising it for sale is the Managing Director of Lola Cars.
Motor Sport, October 1996, page 1119, ad: Alvis Speed 20 SB. 1934, engine 11718, chassis 11270, reboxed, VdP style tourer, ivory, engine rebuilt 3,000 miles, just serviced, £27,450.
Classic and Sports Car, November 1996, page 210, ad similar to the one above.
Classic Cars, April 1997, P. 191, ad with photo of 558 GDA: ALVIS Speed 20 VdP style tourer 1934 ivory with red interior. £27,450. by Collectable Car Consultants
AOC Calendar May 1997, Ad: 1934 Speed 20 SA, open 4-seat tourer. Ivory coachwork with red upholstery. Low mileage on fully rebuilt engine, considerable work by Red Triangle and Earley Engineering including recent full service by Nick Simpson’s company with many items attended to. Well-maintained and very useable, six years with current owner. £24,750.
David H. Roberts, 5500 was the next owner now living in Hampshire (1997 – )
141 KPO is a registration of May 1963
558 GDA is a registration of April 1964