THE ALVIS CAR CLUB (Vic) was formed in the 1950's and some of its history has been gleaned from members and newsletters.
The list of contributors and articles is in no particular order.
It is anticipated this section will grow considerably as more information is collected.
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List of Contributors
|Roy Henderson||As It Was in the Beginning
|Roy Henderson||As It Was in the Beginning
Part 2: 1963-1965
|Roy Henderson||Early Members|
|Office Bearers through the years|
Most of the articles have come via the ACCV Newsletter and are reproduced with the club and the contributors permission.
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ACCV: AS IT WAS IN THE BEGINNING -Part 1 1953-1963 by Roy Henderson
"I bought a Speed 20. I found there was an Alvis Club in Sydney and that it had four members in Melbourne. John Read, O.J. Nillson, Syd Fisher and Jim May. I obtained their addresses and found that one had gone away and that two had sold their cars and were no longer interested. The remaining member, believed to be Jim May, was keen, but after a few months ran away to sea to get his Master's ticket.
I wrote to Sydney and asked permission to form a local Club as a branch and offered to pay to Sydney half of all subscriptions, as a levy to support such services as "Alvibatics" which Victoria could not then afford to produce itself. Permission granted, I placed advertisements in various papers and, as a result, the nucleus of hoary-headed decrepit old gentlemen got together".
Thus, says Robert B. (Bob Morrow, founder of the Melbourne branch of the Alvis Car Club of Australia, later to be known as the A.C.C.A. (Vic Division), and later still as the Alvis Car Club of Victoria.
Bob Morrow joined the A.C.C. in September 1953 and placed the advertisement in the Melbourne"Age" and other papers on Saturday, 27th March 1954. It read: "Alvis owners for technical information and assistance join the Alvis Car Club. R.B. Morrow, 52 Morotai Avenue., Ashburton".
The first meeting took place at Bob Morrow's home and was attended by Bob, Horrie Morgan - still an active member (when this article was originally written), and the late Basil Bowes. The early meetings slowly gathered members and were held monthly at various homes, particularly that of Graham Thorley, the well known artist. Graham later became famous in motoring circles, not for his artistic achievements, but for his ability to leap from ground level to the seat of his vintage Bentley in two mighty bounds, while encased ina chaff bag. This momentous event took place at the Kalorama Rally in 1958 and gained him unofficial title of best performer of the day.
In 1955 Bas. Bowes offered the use of a large garage on his property at Edgar Street, Glen Iris, as a permanent home for the Branch. This was agreed to and the members set p shop there. From 1955 to 1958 meetings were held in the garage "as was", with members making use of any available space for seating accommodation.
The setting was perfect. A large, brick and dirt floored, garage cluttered with vintage machinery, including a Talbot with a great hole in the sump, no doubt caused by a wandering con-rod, a 1912 Hispano-Suiza, most of which was piled up in its own back seat and "Blue Bird", a 12/50 Alvis adorned with a rather revolting blue racing shell proverbially made in a blacksmiths shop. In the smallish space in the middle, as central heating, stood a split 44 gallon drum in which smouldered some of the most obnoxious semi combustibles known to man. Through this evil-smelling fog an odd face would appear, toss in a, usually inane, contribution to the proceedings and then disappear back into obscurity never to be seen again!
At one meeting in 1957 nine motions were put without notice, discussed, accepted and promptly forgotten as no one had thought to record them.
They were the good old days, when we went out for a hillclimb and coudn't find the hill! And coffee was often served in mugs we'd forgotten to wash the month before. In the closing months of 1957 came, to quote Bob Morrow, "The Ten Minutes That Shook the World". This was a somewhat overly dramatic statement but at least to proved a shaky event for the Melbourne Branch.
Due partly to the Geographic isolation the two groups had been drifting apart for some time. Communications and financial matters were deemed unsatisfactory by many members and so, after much argument and soul searching, a motion was passed that the baby strike out on its own.
A constitution was drawn up under the guiding hand of Mr. Morrow, presented and accepted at a special meeting and the Melbourne Branch became autonomous, to be known as "The Alvis Car Club of Victoria".
Then the rot set in! Whether in expletion of our sins, bad management, lack of experience or whatever for the next three years, membership and attendance fell off to a point where only a hard core of a dozen members presented themselves at meetings and the future looked rather grim.
Two factors emerged during this period which proved a point - that any club must have a focal point to survive. These were the availability of a permanent clubroom and (b) a monthly newsletter which, although sometimes just a single sheet, went out regularly to all members, financial and otherwise (mostly otherwise), with information on meetings, coming events, chatter and technical data on vintage Alvis problems.
During 1958 Basil Bowes decided that we were no longer colonials and were now civilised enough to warrant a decent Clubroom. So during the next four years walls were moved, ceilings lined, proper seating and lighting installed and a kitchen of sorts organised so that by the end of 1962 the Club rooms were set up much as they are today, with only minor alterations to meet current needs.
This had a revitalising effect on the club. New members slowly began to arrive seeking admission to this "dynamic little group". Events grew from totally disorganisedf iascos such as the 1957 Hurstbridge Hill Climb - where, after negotiating at risk to life and limb a decidedly dangerous home made bridge with every second plank missing, competitors found the "hill" inclimable due to washaways.
A fine example of the new professionalism was Ron Allen's Clarkefield Gymkhana. The intricate course was laid out on a field where marshalls had cunningly buried a large quantity of half ton boulders in the long grass, thereby causing at least one cracked chassis and several near decapitations. Notable survivors of this disaster were the outright winner, Neil Cuthbert (VDC) in a MG TF; Barry Gough, winner of the pre 1930 section in "Emma" a 14.75 Alvis and Roy Henderson in "Bertha", a TA 19.82 Alvis. A notable casualty was the organiser, disqualified in the slow run for lying along the running board of his Oldsmobile and tinkering with the carburetor in an effort to make it go even slower. Naturally it stalled - hence the disqualification. 1958 also saw the Gundagai Interstate Rally and the near demolition of the Troika cabaret by a hord of Red Triangles.
1959 was not our best year. Apart from a pleasant picnic run organised by Barry Gough to Long Island, Frankston, the Narracan Trial produced only 4 Victorian cars. The Albury Interstate Rally was attended by only six Victorians in 3 cars and five New South Welshman in four cars. Only 18 out of 43 members were financial and to cap it off the founder, Bob Morrow, was seen drinking water lightly coloured with sherry. "Not feeding my Ulcer" he said, "drowning it".
1960 was another mixed bag. In the U.K. the Alvis Owners' Club booked Crystal Palace for the 1960 National Alvis Day and, on a sad note, the death of Captain G.T. Smith-Clarke, chief designer for Alvis from 1922 to '50 occurred on February 28. In Victoria, 24,000 miles away, financial membership stood at 12 out of 50. The Wagga Interstate Rally improved with 11 members from Victoria in 6 cars and 14 from N.S.W. in 5 cars.
Alvis Ltd. gave approval to a club badge design for which quotes were immediately sought. The accepted tender from K.G. Luke was £(pounds)34.0.0 for the die and 18/6 per badge. The annual dinner was at the Savoy Plaza at £2.2.0 per head. It was also 1960 that the Council of Combined Vintage Car Clubs came into being and Kalorama Vintage Rally became of age. Prior to 1960 the Kalorama Floral Festival organisers invited vintage clubs to participate as an added attraction. After its demise in 1959 the six major vintage minded clubs in Melbourne: the Alvis Car Club, Bentley Drivers Club, Lancia Car Club, Rolls Royce Owners Club, Vintage Drivers Club and the Vintage Sports Car Club, sent delegates to the home of Ian Parfitt, where the C.C.V.C.C. was born. Its initial duty was to organise the first Kalorama Rally on 18 April 1960. The programme of that historic meeting shows an entry of 17 Vintage and P.V.T. cars, including 16 Alvis, ranging from Brian Donellan's 1924 12/50 to Adrain Flere's 1939 4.3l. The oldest car at the event was Ian Parfitt's 1921 Issota Fraschini and the youngest the 4.3l Alvis.
In this year the newsletter took a new format. Edited by David Muirden, and bearing the somewhat unwieldy title of "The Austral Alvists Aid" it appeared as a compact magazine complete with sketches, technical illustrations and data, the usual jottings, calendar and classified ads.
The new format proved extremely popular and February 1963 David M. changed the name to "Alvic" and produced the magazine ina glossy cover. Unfortunately, by April '64 pressure of studies forced David to relinquish the position of editor and "Alvic" was produced only occasionally as a strictly technical publication till December 1967, when it ceased altogether. (A new style "Alvic " was reintroduced by John Hetherington (then editor) in 1999 as a quarterly magazine with the normal newsletter filling the intervening months DP).
However, the standard of content devised by David Muirden has been maintained by succeeding editors, each of whom has added something of himself - and if this something occassionally shows through somewhat strongly, who's to blame him or her? Certainly not this writer, who possesses an almost complete library of News Letters from the day he joined in December 1956, and who often leafs through them in a nostalgic search for The Good Old Days.
On 8 May 1963 a sad single sheet went out to all members. Basil Bowes, ex truck driver, ex-garage proprietor, ex-bus driver, occasional odd-ball and lover of fine machinery, was dead.
For years, despite failing health, and in constant pain from spinal osteo-arthritis, he had worked tirelessly for the club. Many recreation hours were given up in the interests of members, particularly in searching out and importing spare parts. It was also a common practice for him to leave his Alvis out in the weather to make room for a member's Alvis undergoing repair in the safety and shelter of his garage.
He was many things - helpful, friendly, selfless, also garrulous, long winded, sometimes cantankerous, occasionally just a voice in a smoke screen from a smelly but beloved corncob, but always "Old Bas" when a friendly ear was required.
The man and his many contributions to the club have been commemorated by the annual presentation of the "Basil Bowes Memorial Challenge Trophy" for a series of sporting events within the club and available only for points gained in Alvis Cars.
PART TWO CONTINUES BELOW
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ACCV: AS IT WAS IN THE BEGINNING -Part 2 1963-1965 by Roy Henderson
We left off our traditional history with the untimely death of Basil Bowes. His death was a great shock to all our members, many of whom were in the habit of just dropping in at any old hour for a natter and noggin and the cheery "what ho!" with which they were greeted.
The club was now presented with a problem of great consequence.
The home of Basil Bowes had become the home of the Alvis Car Club and the centre of its world - with no thought of the future.
Suddenly, tragically, the future was now, and so an extraordinary meeting was called in May 17 with five items on the agenda.
1) Possible relocation of the club
2) Deposit and storage of club spares.
3) Collection of members' cars and spares stored at Edgar St.
4) Handling of G.N.S. Davies three cars en route from the U.K., including the Le Mans FWD already at Victoria Dock.
5) Unravelling of members accounts and spares being handled by Bas. at the time of his death.
At the meeting, to the great surprise of all members, it was announced that Mrs Belle Bowes, knowing her late husband's love for the club, had consented to Edgar St. remaining the home of the Alvis Club. Thus number one priority problem was solved before it developed.
Swift action soon had the other matters under control. Volunteers took over the various tasks under president David Bamford. Notably David Muirden on spares, Alister Cannon and David Caldwell on the Davies cars, and Derek Holyoake on accounts. Andy Hannam, a new recruit from the U.K., soon took over the treasury and has, with his considerable talents, over the years since built the club into a solvent and viable proposition.
October 20, 1963, heralded the first Langwarrin gymkhana, held in bushland on an old army reserve. Amenities and facilities numbered zero as was obvious by the quantities of amber fluid and the constant treks into the scrub by various members throughout the day.
Six events were programmed, including the first, and to the writer's knowledge, the last see-saw event in the clubs history. The object was for vehicles to be driven up two planks resting on a drum, and to finish up balanced on an even keel over the centre point. First place in this event was gained by Alister Cannon, TA14, in the Alvis section, and David Bamford, Holden, in the non-Alvis.
Final placings for the day were Alvis 1. Alister Cannon TA14, 2. Andy Hannam Firebird, 3. David Wischer TA14; and non-Alvis 1. Simon Ramsay TR3 (Triumph DP), 2. Keith Welsh Zephyr Ute., 3. David Bamford Holden.
Langwarrin became a regular event for the next five years, the last being held in November 1968. After this, like Marooubra of yesteryear, the area was torn up in the interests of the almighty dollar and the club moved its gymkhana to Berwick Airfield. 1963 ended on a further sad note. Bob Morrow's Speed 20, for which he alleged he founded the Club, had recently been sold to a gentleman together with the warning that the differential urgently required attention. The warning was ignored and the car finally came to a permanent halt outside the A.B.V studios (now Australian Broadcasting Commission DP) in Ripponlea. Rumour had it that following this various parts were made over to a number of people as a form of security on money owed.
Whatever the real facts were does not concern us here. Suffice it to say that scarcely had the tyres become flat when bits began to disappear in the usual manner. Later still the remaining parts were removed by various people claiming ownership by default, one person even bearing off the chassis lashed to a boat trailer. Thus ended the career of a well known and much travelled car which had entertained members on many occassions with its exciting duels with the Ron Allen Speed 20.
1964 began with the two day Basil Bowes Memorial Rally to San Remo held on Feb. 22-3 in weather reminiscent of the Great Flood. Lowering skies on Saturday Afternoon developed into torrential downpours during the evening, followed by squalls and high winds throughout the Sunday.
However, undeterred, the intrepid entrants set out from Melbourne at 11 a.m. Saturday, on the first stage, an observation rally, finishing, luckily, just before the storm at the Bowes family home at San Remo. This was followed by a riotous indoor barbeque and film night as 30 odd people tried to crowd into a very small kitchen. By this time the storm had hit with a vengeance and many and tall were the tales told around later camp fires of its depredations. My personal experience was sharing a tent with my son and friend Barry Gough, one Speed 20 and several hundred gallons of water. I distinctly remember having an awful nightmare during which I woke in pain with my nose jammed securely up the Speed 20's exhaust pipe, while the waters slowly rose above my head.
On the Sunday use was made of the then abandoned Phillip Island race track for a series of Gymkhana events, including a standing quarter mile sprint which proved that Alvis cars are no snails. Alister Cannon's TA14 was timed at 25.2 sec. beating a Mk V Jaguar driven by Keith Welsh, and being beaten only by two modern Valiant - Graeme Quinn in 21.4 and Simon Ramsay 23.6. As these two gentlemen are reputed to don driving boots when driving this was quite an effort.
One event which caused some consternation was a maneuverability test in which the blindfold driver was directed by his navigator through a series of flags, including two parking bays. This event was not taken kindly by one unfortunate, whose wife skillfully directed him backwards into a concrete wall - successfully mangling some very nice panel work.
The results of the Rally were: 1. Alister Cannon TA14 (first outright and Basil Bowes Memorial trophy); Best Alvis Trial Section - Des Donnan 12/50; Best Alvis Gymkhana - Alister Cannon, TA14; Best other make aggregate - Keith Welsh, Jaguar Mk.V; Nearest to Secret Time (trial), John McLaod, TC 21.
Other notable events of 1964 were the Interstate Rally to Mt Gambier on June 13-5 attended by some 30 people and the tenth anniversary of the Victorian Club. Nine Alvises and five other makes competed at the Langwarrin Gymkhana accompanied by a number of spectators and the year finished with a rip-roaring barbeque at the Caldwell home in Vermont.
In 1965 Alvis Club members were able to test their skills on one of Victoria's most famous hill climb tracks - "Rob Roy", situated on private property in the Christmas Hills north east of Melbourne, had for many years been the Mecca of hill climb buffs but at last the property was to be put on the market and its future was in grave doubt (at the moment the climb is still in use and leased by the MG Car Club , Vic. DP). Fortunately the club was able to gain access before the surface started to disintegrate, and so on Sunday, July 18, members and families descended on masse for the great event. Eighteen cars, including eleven Alvises, ran in the event, each having four runs on the hill - excepting one Silver Eagle which had 3.5 runs. Halfway up "the wall", a section which appears to be almost vertical to the approaching driver, the unfortunate competitor had his car come to a halt, then slowly slip backwards in spite of the fact that everything under the bonnet was in a state of "go". Investigation soon located the problem - no clearance on the clutch throw-out fingers, causing total clutch slippage at the crucial moment.
Winners of the day were Alister Cannon TA14 (40.5 sec) and non-Alvis, Laurie Rofe, Type 37A Bugatti (36.0).
Also in 1965 a major purchase of the remaining Devon Motors spares was made, considerably boosting stocks in our spares department.
As Devon Motors had now relinquished the Alvis agency the club, through spares registrar David Muirden, undertook the task of importing spares direct from Alvis Ltd. on an official basis, instead of the piecemeal efforts to date. Many cars are now successfully motoring instead of finishing their careers on the scrap heap due to the efforts of Mr Muirden and his successors in obtaining parts from many sources. Particularly latterly through the efforts of Paul Bamford who has made many patterns for castings of off the market fittings.
During the years from 1965 the club has settled down to a steady growth in membership and roadworthy vehicles, the main changes being in the swing from type to type of car.
In the early days 12/50's, 16.95's and Speed 20's were the types in evidence, these cars frequently changing hands for minor sums of money. Then in the 1960's TA14's and TA21's, both post war products, seemed to be in the forefront. Now in the middle and late 70's the 12/50 has again come into its own and some beautifully restored vehicles are now prominent in events, both in the Alvis Club and in other vintage clubs in Victoria.
Unfortunately the boom in vintage motoring has put most vintage vehicles out of the reach of the average member. This is a rather sad state of affairs in some respects, as the average family man can ill afford to pay anything up to $1,000 (remember this was the eighties could be 10 times that now dp) for a heap of junk and then find the, at times, staggering, amounts needed for mechanical and body restoration.
However, at least one blessing of the high value placed on these vehicles is the fact that no longer are these old cars bought by some addle brained idiot, whose sole aim is to smash both car and himself into the nearest tree. Owners of these cars nowadays realise the worth of their charges and treat them accordingly, thus ensuring that future generations of motoring enthusiasts will savour at least some of the joys, and tribulations, of early motoring.
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