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Alvis history                    
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Alvis competition history

Alvis front wheel drive 1928 - 1930

our thanks to the Alvis owners club


Following the successful use of front wheel drive for racing, Alvis produced road cars using this system, the first manufacturer of any size to do so. This was an incredibly courageous move because the technology involved was radical and difficult. The cars met with a fair degree of success initially, but then sales fell off, it has been said due to opposition from the insurance companies because of the cars' unconventional design. (Third party insurance became compulsory in the UK in 1928.) Sales also dropped because they appealed to a limited and volatile market segment, that for high-performance sports cars. The FWD cars were rather noisy, complex and required owners to learn different driving techniques from those then regarded as normal, to extract the best from them.

1929 FE FWD superchaged Carbodies fabric tourer

This does not prevent them from being much sought after today; they are fast, good-looking and spectacular cars. Technically, the FWD was extremely interesting, featuring a gear driven overhead camshaft, inboard front brakes and all-independent suspension in addition to the front wheel drive. Cylinder dimensions were 68x102mm, 1482 cc, the four cylinder engine was turned back-to-front to drive through a 4 speed gearbox and substantial non-constant velocity joints. These latter resulted in some "fight" at the steering wheel when cornering. A conventional right hand gear change lever was used, in contrast to many other early and some later fwd cars where the gear lever migrated to the dashboard. One could argue that the car was the start of the 'Mini' as Alex Issigonis, its designer worked at Alvis during this period.

1928 FWD at Brooklands

Front suspension was by four transverse quarter elliptic springs on each side, whilst at the rear single longitudinal reversed quarter elliptics operated in conjunction with rear-hung radius arms. Many were fitted with superchargers; this instrument increased power from 50 bhp to 75. Two chassis lengths, 8'6" and 10', were available, for two or four seater open coachwork, although some saloons were also made. The short chassis types were FA and FD FWD, the long ones FB and FE. FC referred to a few special racing versions with fixed cylinder heads. An eight-cylinder model, based on the contemporary racing cars, featuring twin overhead camshafts and supercharger, was also listed. About a dozen were made, and the straight eight FWD is now the Holy Grail of Alvises. One racing version survives, although the four cylinder models are surprisingly numerous. Production of the FWD totalled some 150 cars.

Leon Cushman on the straight eight FWD in the very wet 1929 Ulster TT

Wheelbase 2591 mm 102 in  
Track front 1372 mm 54 in  
rear 1372 mm 54 in  
Length 3759 mm 148 in  
Width 1753 mm 69 in  
Type S-4
8 valves total
2 valves per cylinder
Bore stroke 68.00mm 102.00mm
2.68 in 4.02 in
Bore/Stroke ratio 0.67
Displacement 1482 cc
(90.437 cu in)
Unitary capacity 370.5 cc/cylinder
Compression ratio 5.70:1
Fuel system 1 So carb
Aspiration Normal
Max. output 50.7 PS (50.0 bhp) (37.3 kW)
@5500 rpm
Coolant Water
Specific output 33.7 bhp/litre
0.55 bhp/cu in
Engine location Front
Engine alignment Longitudinal
Suspension Front I.TQE.
Rear I.QE.
Transmission 4M
Drive FWD
Top gear ratio 1.00
Final drive ratio 4.77