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DHP233, a 1938 4.3 Litre Alvis Vanden Plas short-chassis Sports Tourer

This history of DHP233 has been compiled by the present owner.


One of the original 12 Vanden Plas short-chassis cars built, this particular 4.3 was, in period, claimed to be the fastest (and some would argue, finest) pre-war British tourer of the day.

DHP233 was the 1938 Alvis factory demonstrator, racing twice at Brooklands in both standard and modified trim, acting as an official car at the 1938 R.A.C. Rally and being the subject of The Autocar road test where it’s performance figures were praised as “the best all round set of figures so far recorded by The Autocar on a normal car” *.

1938 Season History

R.A.C. Rally, Blackpool, April 26th to 30th 1938.

DHP233 R.A.C. Rally, Blackpool

Used as an official car, the photograph shows DHP233 leading the Class 3c entrants in the coachwork competition.

A contemporary advert placed by Alvis features a photo of DHP233 with the caption “R.A.C. Rally Coachwork Competition, Blackpool. Successful once again! 1st prize”. However, research by the present owner suggests that DHP233 was probably used as an official car and did not compete in the Rally itself.

Light Car Club Three Hour Race for Sports Cars, Brooklands, July 16th 1938.

In 1938, the L.C.C. ran an endurance race on the Campbell Circuit for “road legal” sports cars. The late Bill Boddy described the race as “perhaps the most interesting of the 1938 season”.

DHP233 was entered for George Hartwell and R.S .Newton to compete in. The driver line-up for the race included Bira, “Aldy” Aldington of Fraser Nash fame, Sydney Allard, Scots stalwarts Comish Hunter and David Murray and spurned Alvis ex-distributor Charles Follett.

DHP233 had an eventful race finishing 12th of 14 starters.

DHP233 Brooklands

DHP233 Brooklands

Dunlop Jubilee International Car Races, Brooklands September 24th 1938.

DHP233 was driven by well-known racer, broadcaster and motoring personality Tommy Wisdom in two Outer Circuit Handicap races that weekend.

In “Alvis: Story of the Red Triangle” Ken Day quotes Tommy Wisdom: “The car I had for test differed from standard models in that the compression ratio of the engine had been increased to 8.5 to 1, which meant that use of 50:50 benzole mixture was necessary. Top-gear ratio was higher than standard and wings, lamps and screen were removed.”

The First Dunlop Outer Circuit Handicap race at 1:00pm

This race saw DHP233 up against some mighty machines. Rene Dreyfus in the Delahaye II was on scratch, followed by, amongst others, R.L. Duller at 0m 10s who’d been awarded the Brooklands B.A.R.C. 130 mph badge for his feats in the Duesenberg earlier in the season.

In the end, Stanisland won the race in the Supercharged Multi-Union, Humphries was 2nd in the supercharged M.G. and Charles Follet was third in the Railton. Fourth was the Frazer Nash of Aldy Aldington.

The factory Alvis’ placing is of yet, unknown.

The Dunlop Jubilee Cup Race at 1:50pm

For it’s second race, DHP233 and Tommy Wisdom also faced some rather stiff competition, but the Alvis performed creditably.

Oliver Bertram headed the field in the Barnato-Hassan Special with the Delahayes of Comotti and Dreyfus up next. There followed Wimille and Harvey Noble in supercharged Alfa Romeos, with Duller again in the Duesenberg.

The less exotic cars, those which would take the other fork at the start, were led by the works supercharged Austin II at 1 minute 14 seconds, Hanson in a supercharged Maserati, Dodson in Count Heyden’s Delahaye, Humphries in a supercharged M.G., Mr. F.E. Elgood (a nom de guerre, surely?) in a Bentley, followed by Wisdom in the Alvis at 1 minute 58 seconds. Baker-Carr in the Hotchkiss was in the final place. For Alvis buffs, Charles Dunham was 5th Reserve in his car at 2 minutes and 10 seconds.

To quote Tommy Wisdom again: “In the 20 miles Outer circuit Handicap race the car averaged better than 110 mph.

“The standing lap was covered at 92.23 mph, three laps at 111 mph, two at 113 mph and the fastest at 115.29 mph while the maximum on the Railway Straight, according to the revolution counter was 119 mph.”

The race itself was won at a speed of 119.86 mph. That the Alvis was in near-road car specification, and that one month later, after being returned to showroom condition, it was sold on to a (presumably unsuspecting) customer is quite remarkable. Although it was racing against rather more illustrious thoroughbred racing machinery, it was by no means itself a hot-rod. To quote Tommy Wisdom again:   “In spite of this high performance the car was driven on the road with the same set of sparking plugs used in the race, and there was not the slightest tendency to oil up. In this sup-standard trim, the Alvis is easily the fastest non-supercharged touring car on the road. Starting at all times was instantaneous – dynamo and electric starter were, of course, in position – and on road or track steering and suspension (independent at the front) were all that could be desired. Smoothness of the engine when developing 170 bhp at 4,400 rpm must be experienced to be believed. My opinion of the machine in both its standard and special form is that it is in the true traditions of the manufacturers, a firm with a successful history of motor racing, and the builders of some of the fastest, well-engineered sports cars ever produced.”

Provenance and recent history.

The Alvis 4.3 Register and the Alvis Cars Archive Entry record the ownership and history of the car from 1954 to the present day.  It was acquired by the current owner in 2011 from the Henry Petronis car collection in the United States where it had been since 1983.  It was subject to a bare metal respray by Red Triangle in 2011 to return the car to the original factory colour scheme.


A firm believer that “cars are made to be driven”, the current owner completed the car’s maiden Flying Scotsman Rally in 2012, repeating a finish in 2013. It also ran at the Bo’ness Revival Hillclimb in 2012.

It is scheduled to compete in the Cape Horn Rally, a 6,000 km endurance event through the Andes in November 2013.

* The Autocar road test for the Alvis 4.3L is available in pdf format and can be seen here.


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