The Speed Twenty represented the height of sophistication, speed and style, allowing the normally chauffeured classes a sporting alternative should they prefer to drive themselves. Bristling with innovation, such as independent front suspension, built-in jacks and chassis lubrication system, the Speed Twenty used the world’s first four-speed synchromesh gearbox, an Alvis patent, which by itself was the price of an Austin 7 rolling chassis.
AVC 80 was purchased new in 1935 directly from Alvis by 21-year-old Rolf Pasold for, he said, ‘the price of a house in Henley-on-Thames. Our Jaguar SS coupe was fine for England, but for Czechoslovakia we wanted a quality car’, choosing the Alvis above Lagonda and Bentley. Both the Alvis and the SS were completed in the company livery of Ladybird red and black – the family business, under the Ladybird brand, made clothing for Woolworths.
Flying a Union Jack from the spare wheel pillar, he, his brother Eric Pasold OBE, and Jack Matthews, (later Squadron Leader, AFC and Lord Mountbatten’s personal pilot), drove AVC 80 to Czechoslovakia in spring 1935. They chased the magic 100 mph at the Nürburgring and along the new German Autobahn, winning a Concours D’Elegance on the way. Eric later commented in his book Ladybird, Ladybird, ‘we had the hood down and Jack Matthews waved to all the pretty girls en route. The long, low, bright red drophead coupe caused a sensation wherever we stopped.’
It was not long before normal life in Czechoslovakia changed for the worse, and the Alvis was ‘requisitioned’ by the Nazis at gunpoint in 1945 as an escape vehicle, but Rolf found it abandoned in the snow and drove to England, navigating by the stars in the absence of road signs.
Car displayed courtesy of Daniel Geoghegan.
Photography by Martyn Goddard.