November 2016 – A ‘lost’ Speed 20 AGX 708 re-appears!
Chris Chilcott has just purchased an SA Speed 20 Vanden Plas sports 4 seater which has been off the road since 1972. [Chassis 10177]
“I was looking for a ‘Sports’ Silver Eagle so was keeping an eye on Alvis coming up for sale, when I spotted an advert for the car on the internet. Thinking that it was very unusual for a Speed 20 to be a ‘barn find’ nowadays, I did a bit of digging in my ‘Frazer Nash’ archive (I own a 1926 Frazer Nash as well as my trusty TG 12/50). Years ago, I contacted the son of Raymond Dunstan Crarey, who owned my Nash from 1928 to 33. Over the years the Dunstan Crarey family sent me photos of the many cars Raymond had owned, one of which was a 4 seat VDP Speed 20 sports. You guessed it – the same car which was coming up for auction. Due to the family connections and it being a good (if not better!) substitute of an early triple carb Silver Eagle I decided to bid for it. This was helped by my wife Felice liking the car…………” (I had carefully showed her photos of a ‘restored one’ first!)
It is a 3-owner car, being sold by Charles Follett to the Hon Anthony Winn, son of the 3rd Baron of Oswald in May 1933. Winn was the Times Newspaper Lobby Correspondent and was killed in action at El Alamein in 1942. Raymond Dunstan Crarey became the 2nd owner in 1938. At that time, he was being posted to Nigeria and felt that the Frazer Nash was not suitable for the rough conditions he anticipated there. He had already used my Frazer Nash in Zanzibar, and subsequently traded it in for a newer Nash in 1933, which he also shipped out to Zanzibar.
By all accounts the Alvis fitted the bill admirably; Dunstan Crarey writing up his various experiences of Speed 20 motoring in Africa for the Autocar ‘Talking of Sports Cars’ series in October 1943 and again in August 1944. In the later article, he vividly describes a journey of 367 miles across Northern Nigeria from Jos to Maiduguri in exactly 10 hours, with an actual running time of 8 hours 20 minutes – an average of 44mph. He was reduced to 10mph in stretches due to the appalling road surfaces but ‘opened her up’ whenever possible – with an indicated 90mph on the run down into Maiduguri. The car was registered J404 in Nigeria
After the outbreak of war the car was shipped back to the UK on the deck of a steamer and by all accounts served Dunstan Crarey throughout the war years in his role as a civil engineer in the RAF.
After the war the car was used for extensive touring around the UK towing an enormous caravan and a considerable amount of camping equipment.
Sometime in the early post war years it had its engine changed. This was done at an RAF base in the midlands, interestingly the replacement engine came from non-other than T G John’s Speed 20 Thrupp and Maberley saloon.
Crarey sold the car in 1955 to a Mr Richard Horton, who had also served in the RAF and then became a commercial airline pilot for BOAC, flying Comets, VC10’s and latterly Boeing 747 before retiring. Mr Horton was an AOC member, but the car seems to have disappeared of the AOC radar as it was reported as not appearing to have survived when Dunstan Crarey’s son Michael wrote an article about his father’s car for the bulletin in mid 2000’s. Michael had learnt to drive in the Speed 20 and as a boy had spent many hours polishing the triple SU’s and rocker cover.
The car was taken off the road by Mr Horton in the early 70’s due to engine problems and was stored in a garage until it resurfaced this year. It needs a full, but sympathetic, restoration however it is in remarkably sound condition except the engine. “It is my intention to make it look and go as it did in 1933, and I can’t wait to get it up and running” says Chris. “Unfortunately the mice have had a field day but I intend to keep as much of the original upholstery as possible”
The car is also unusual in having a ‘bench’ front seat, the rake adjusted by two large leather straps, it also has two aero screens which can be positioned on the screen pillars to act as wind deflectors and has triple wipers.