1924 - 39: Hill climb and sprint activity at the hands of Tommy Simister and Maurice Harvey, publicising the launch of the new 12/50 Sports Car, sale to Jack Linnell and entry in various races and rallies, and HP 6161’s subsequent use as an everyday sports car
Above: Privateer Tommy Simister at Southport Sands in 1924, where the car won against much larger opposition, including a 3 litre Sunbeam.
The transfer of No.1 was unusual and was in direct contradiction of the works policy of never allowing their racing cars to leave their clutches – indeed, the winning No. 2 car (and virtually all Alvis racing cars before and since) was eventually taken back the factory to be either dismantled or scrapped. No. 3 was stripped of the racing fairings, registered for road use and raced by the factory, but it is believed that the reason that No. 1 escaped is that whereas the other two cars had racing bodies and, because of axle and braking arrangements were practically undriveable on the road, HP 6161 was street legal and the bodywork bore more than a passing resemblance to the new 12/50 sports cars (which were based on it) and which were now emerging in ever-increasing numbers from Holyhead Road. Indeed, the victory at Brooklands and subsequent appearances and wins by No. 1 and by No. 3 at sprints and hill climbs around the country contributed significantly to the success of the 12/50 throughout the whole of the 1920s.
It is worth noting how advanced these sports cars were, for the time: Typically cars of the period would deliver a top speed of around 40 m.p.h. Alvis gave a written guarantee that the ‘stock’ 12/50 would achieve 60 m.p.h. and having racing cars with the same engines (and, in the case of HP6161, many other visible components) that were consistently beating larger-engined vehicles was a powerful marketing message. Today, approaching its centenary and still in sprint gearing, HP6161 can comfortably exceed 85 m.p.h.
By transferring the car to the well-known and successful racing motor cyclist and Alvis agent Tommy Simister, the car continued to compete and promote the Marque.
At the end of 1924, No. 1 was sold to Jack Linnell, a successful clothing manufacturer in Northamptonshire, for £250 (equivalent to the annual salary of a commercial traveller, or sales representative at the time).
Although Alvis entered the 1924 JCC 200 miles race, their success of the previous year was not repeated. One racing car from 1924 survives to this day and can sometimes be seen completing in the same events as HP6161.
At Home with Jack Linnell’s Zenith motorcycle
Linnell with second family Alvis
Camping at Lyme Regis in 1926
Over the years sport cars haven’t changed much in their intended use…….
….although hats have improved. Both pictures are from the 1920’s.
At Sywell old aerodrome in 1928. As a founding director of Sywell, Jack combined his love of flying and cars. The picture on the right is of Brooklands in the interwar years, taken from Jack’s Gypsy Moth.
During the remainder of the decade Linnell mixed No. 1’s use as family car with its more sporting mode for what were then known as Rallies, but would nowadays be called Track Days. One such event captured on film is the 1929 Henlys’ Alvis rally – an annual event held at the Brooklands track. Henlys were the London Agents for Alvis cars and had been sponsoring the Brooklands event for a number of years.
HP6161 on the historic start line at Brooklands during the 1929 Henlys rally. Jack in the drive’s seat, an Alvis Rep in the mechanic’s and, about to flag them off, none other than the legendary Kaye Don – one of the most successful racing drivers of the time and the then lap record holder for the outer circuit. Incidentally, seven weeks after this photo was taken, Don lifted this flying lap record to over 134 m.p.h.
Linnell won the final by two lengths at 82mph, which on the sprint gearing would have been close to its maximum.
Linnell in the pits after his victory, with his co-pilot (pictured in publicity material from the factory three years earlier) by his side.
The silverware: Engraving reads:
HENLYS ALVIS RALLY BROOKLANDS JUNE 15TH 1929 PRIZE FOR OPEN ALVIS RACE PRESENTED BY S N PURCHASE ESQ. SERCK RADIATORS
The week before the Brooklands rally HP6161 was put in to action at the Kettering Carnival. The liberal drilling of the chassis in 1923 to save weight meant that the car could, with little if any modification, be repurposed into pretty much anything the imagination cold come up with. In this case it is a Viking longship. The ‘pilot’ on deck will be shouting directions down to the hidden driver.
This can be dated accurately by the caption on the reverse of the photograph which states: ‘Next week the body was lifted off into a tree and we drove to Brooklands and won’
Another carnival offering, this time date unknown. HP6161’s rear wheels, gearbox and sump are recognisable and one may speculate that the standard exhaust has been substituted a short right-angled pipe for the health and hearing of the pilot/driver. Possibly Sywell aerodrome?
Simply titled ‘Bob Lewin’ and ‘1935’, this is the last known prewar photograph we have