ALVIS IN BOOKS
15th September 2014
In those heady days of Bill Boddy’s editorship, there was an occasional slot in the columns of “MOTOR SPORT ” entitled : ” Cars in Books ” . It proved so varied and popular due to reader input that it turned up sufficient material for a book in itself. (Now there’s an idea ? )
I was reminded of this recently when my attention was drawn to ALVIS references in the novel The Paradise Waltz by Jessica Stirling, a 2009 publication by Hodder and Stoughton ISBN no. 978 0 340 98057. It is a story set between the two world wars about romantic goings-on within that area of Scotland roughly bounded by Glasgow, Stirling and Loch Lomond. One of the main characters living in a fictional village is a doctor ( Alex Kelso ) who works in a Glasgow hospital. Half way through the book, at chapter 14 to be precise, he hires a high-performance 1929 Alvis car from Glasgow dealership, and becoming increasingly enamoured of it buys the machine.
This is the least of the enamourings which go on, but that element of the plot might be of more interest to our lady members, so I’ll give nothing away there. There is a parallel plot involving attempted identity fraud almost reminiscent of Sir Walter Scott’s “Guy Mannering”, which is not resolved until the last few pages.
I was naturally inquisitive as to which 1929 Alvis had inspired the inclusion, so best to ask the author. Now “Jessica Stirling” is the pseudonym of the writing partnership of Hugh C Rae, and Peggie Coghlan, and I duly managed to trace the former. In due course Hugh Rae wrote to me explaining he was a stickler for authenticity in such ‘period’ works and, he tells me, he thought the said Alvis was the exact vehicle to match the personality of Doctor Kelso. The inspiration had been an entry in the 1972 edition of ” The Batsford Guide to Vintage Cars”
This 1972 is quite important, as there are later editions without the reference. So…. here is the ‘POSED’ bit : Does any reader have access to such a copy which might allow the particular model, or even the exact car to be identified?
I refer of course to the 1929 Silver Eagle chassis 7903 / DR 6084 which had started life with racing driver Whitney Straight, and subsequently acquired by novelist Henry Williamson, and mentioned it at least one of his books. This car, it may be recalled was the one, just twenty years ago took the honours in the “Celebrity Car” theme during the International Alvis Day at Tatton Park in 1994, due to owner Alex Marsh’s beautifully presented history.
Finally, in this literary miscellany, we return to “Motor Sport” and the issue of May 1982. There is a review of “Journey to Ardmore ” the auto-biography of John Ridgway ( the Atlantic rower along with Chay Blyth ), also by Holder and Stoughton, but 1971.
Described therein is a lift taken in one of the rare Alvis-engined Healeys to Hyde Park Corner, with the amateur jockey driver changing gear without recourse to the clutch. WHICH ? WHO ? WHEN ?
In an attempt to jog memories we have an unconnected and hitherto unpublished snap of Dave Rouse in G512 / NLO 941 at a Duxford Sprint. Dave disclaims being a jockey – amateur or otherwise, so once again over to the reader to try and solve this conundrum.
POSED, PROBED AND SOLVED by Dave Culshaw – June 2014
A BOOK REVIEW
If those of us lucky enough to have A.O.C. Back Bulletins (or indeed the Alvis Archive Trust’s excellent memory stick or DVD) care to scroll back to Bulletin 508, they will find a “Posed, Probed and Solved” column entitled “Peak Performance” , devoted to serial Alvis Owner Frank Smythe, the distinguished mountaineer and a key member of the 1933 Everest Expedition. The feature owed much to his son Tony Smythe’s contribution, being then engaged upon a biography of his father. I can now report that this biography has now been published by Baton Wicks http://www.batonwicks.com/
Hardback ISBN 978-1-898573-87-6 Or e book : ISBN 978-1-898573-88-3
Alternatively, contact Tony Smythe directly at
Strawberry Fields,Brow Lane, Staveley, KENDAL Cumbria LA8 9PH ( www.franksmythe.co.uk )
The volume is not of course intended to be a motoring book, but there are four ALVIS references, and a photograph. It is however an eminently readable account of determination and courage, and can be recommended to those members who have a wider interest in outdoor pursuits of the rather more vigorous kind.
Since the book was published, reference has been found to a fourth Frank Smythe ALVIS.
I now conclude by summarising the as yet not entirely complete details of the four, in case anyone is able to fill the gaps
12298 Firebird C & E dhc *** ***