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Lot 318: Alvis Firefly SB Tourer

The Beaulieu Sale, Bonhams (7 September 2013)

For many years Alvis cars have been famous both for performance and sturdy construction; the chassis is essentially one to stand very hard driving for long periods with a mini¬mum of trouble. These character¬istics are admirably exemplified in the four-cylinder Firefly Twelve model introduced about a year ago.' – The Motor, February 13th 1934. The replacement for the immortal Alvis 12/50 was delayed and it was not until 1933 that the 1½-litre Firefly made its appearance. Powered by a 1,496cc overhead-valve four, it was in many ways similar to the six-cylinder Speed Twenty SA, incorporating a 'double drop' frame, class-leading brakes and unitary construction of the engine and ENV pre-selector gearbox, all features of its larger sibling. In fact, the Firefly was a mere 5" shorter than the Speed Twenty, which made for a relatively spacious interior, while the generous wheelbase, wide track and low-slung build all contributed to the reportedly excellent handing characteristics. With 50bhp on tap, its maximum speed when new was around 75mph, with 50mph attainable through the gears in 19 seconds, figures superior to those of the larger 1,842cc Firebird. The bulk of Firefly production was bodied by Alvis's Coventry neighbours, Cross & Ellis. The history of this particular Firefly is well documented, there being on file copies of bills and an old-style continuation logbook confirming that the car was first registered on 31st January 1934 as 'BPB 997', a Surrey mark. The logbook lists owners in the Bournemouth area during the 1950s while further documents record the sale of the Alvis by long established trader Malcolm Elder to a Mr R L Wall in 1982. Contemporary photographs show the car as being sound but very clearly un-restored. It was subsequently refurbished by Highstone Restorations of Oxfordshire and put back on the road. This restoration saw the bodywork substantially re-timbered in ash and the body's rear metalwork repaired, together with a repaint in the coffee-over-chocolate livery that the car retains today. At the same time the interior was re-trimmed in dark brown leather and a complete new convertible top and side screens fitted. Subsequently (believed circa 1998) the Firefly was exported to the USA and shortly after its arrival the gearbox was sent back to the UK and rebuilt. In October 2008 the car was offered for sale at Bonhams' auction at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline, Massachusetts (Lot 530) where it was purchased by the current vendor. Stated at that time to benefit from light cosmetic refreshment and a rebuilt fuel pump, it was described as in generally sound condition, the 1980s rebuild having aged gently while remaining very presentable. The car was said to have started promptly and once warm rolled along the road without hesitation, its pre-selector gearbox fully operational. A most handsome 'Post-Vintage Thoroughbred' from one of this country's premier sporting marques, the Alvis has been kept in museum storage since its acquisition by the current owner and will require re-commissioning before returning to the road.

Lot Details
Auction The Beaulieu Sale
Bonhams, Hampshire, UK
Lot Number318
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price£20500
Hammer Price (inc premium)£23575
Condition rating2
Registration number
Chassis number16030
Engine number11541
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors