1934 Alvis SB Firefly Tourer
Chassis no. 16030
Engine no. 11541
Founded by the talented Welsh engineer and naval architect, T.G. John, in 1919, Alvis Car & Engineering Co. produced its first car in 1920. The Coventry-based company specialized in sporting and luxury cars from the very beginning. Always well engineered and highly regarded, the sleek and low-slung Alvis cars of the 1930s were especially admired by discerning British motorists.
Technical innovations explored by Alvis in the 1920s included a pioneering front-wheel drive model produced from 1928 to 1930. The firm later became a manufacturer of aircraft engines and military vehicles, including tanks and armored cars. Following a 1965 take-over by Rover, the final Alvis car was built in 1967. The firm exists today as Alvis Holdings, makers of engineering products, and has been headquartered in Telford, England since 1999.
In essence, the Firefly was a slightly smaller and less costly four-cylinder version of the famed six-cylinder Alvis Speed 20, introduced in 1932. The Firefly utilized the double-drop frame design of the Speed 20, which allowed it to ride close to the ground. Coachwork for most Firefly chassis was supplied by Cross & Ellis.
The 1934 Alvis Firefly was a relatively large British car, spanning a 118-inch wheelbasejust five inches shorter than the Speed 20. The 1496cc (91.3cid) ohv engine developed 50 brake horsepower at 4250rpm. Similar in design to the Speed 20 engine, albeit with two fewer cylinders, the Fireflys four promised a top speed close to 70mph. The sporty Fireflys low chassis height and rather wide track no doubt contributed to its reportedly excellent handling characteristics.
An ENV pre-selector device provided semi-automatic operation of the Fireflys 4-speed gearboxthe driver anticipated the next gear-change required by moving the selector to the desired range and, when the change-gear pedal was next depressed, the selected gear would automatically be engaged.
The history of this particular example is well documented with copies of bills, handbooks etc. starting with an old continuation British log book on file which confirms the car to have been first registered on 31 January 1934, wearing the plate BPB 997. It also notes owners in the 1950s in the Bournemouth area of the UK. Further documents detail the sale of the car by long established trader Malcolm Elder to a Mr. R. L. Wall in 1982. Photos show the car at this stage as being sound but very clearly unrestored/derelict justifying the subsequently refurbishment work to put it back on the road, carried out by a company named Hightone Restorations in Oxfordshire. This restoration saw the bodywork substantially re-wooded in ash and attention to the tail metal, the car was repainted in the coffee over chocolate livery that it still wears today and was re-trimmed in corresponding dark brown leather and a complete new top and side screens fitted.
The car is believed to have been imported to America when it next changed hands approximately 10 years ago to the previous owner. Shortly after its arrival here the gearbox was sent back to the UK and rebuilt, and in the current ownership it has been lightly refreshed cosmetically and the fuel pump rebuilt. In general the condition may be described as sound, its 1980s rebuild has aged gently but remains very presentable, though we noted that there were localized areas of sinkage around the trunk area. On inspection the car started promptly, once warm it rolled along the road without hesitation and its pre-select box was seen to be fully operational.
The pre-war British motoring experience has become less and less affordable in the last few years, this handsome Alvis offers just that at a more modest outlay.