4.3 Litre

4.3 Litre Description

Launched in August 1936, the manufacturers claimed that the new Alvis 4.3 litre saloon was the fastest non-supercharged saloon on the British market. The standard saloon was just capable of 100mph. Later on 24th September 1938, the late Tommy Wisdom raced a special 4.3 tourer at Brooklands in the Dunlop Jubilee Outer Circuit Handicap and attained best lap speed of 115.29mph. This car had a special high compression head, and non-standard axle ratio, but nevertheless he regarded it as easily the fastest non-supercharged car on the road. One or Two production 4.3's were specially supercharged for their owners, and these were certainly capable of 115mph.

Developed from the 3 1/2 litre, introduced the previous year, the new 4.3 litre was the largest engined Alvis s yet made, and early road tests made strong claims for the new model to rank amongst the finest cars of the period. The claim was not secured by performance alone, but by a combination of high performance with the qualities of quietness, smoothness, comfort and ease of control.

The new 4.3 litre car of 1936 was available in chassis form and as a standardised saloon. The cost of the chassis was £750, whilst the standard saloon by Charlesworth was priced at £995. Several coachbuilt bodies were available, the most notable being those by Vanden Plas, Offord, Mayfair, Holbrook and Mulliner. A four door sports saloon by Mulliner was priced at £1,145, and a pillarless saloon by Vanden Plas at £1,185.

The 6cyl OHV engine designed by Captain Smith-Clarke was uprated from 25.63hp in the 3 1/2 litre to 31.48hp in the new 4.3 litre with an increased bore and stroke of 92mm x 110mm. The other main differences in design features were those of ignition, chassis lubricating, shock absorber and braking systems. Ignition was now by coil ignition only, and chassis lubrication was by means of oil pumped from the sump each time the clutch was depressed. Luvax shock absorbers replaced the Andre Telecontrol system on the 3 1/2 litre, and power braking was now supplied by the addition of a Clayton-Dewandre vacuum servo motor.  Smiths 'Jackall' hydraulic jacks were fitted instead of the mechanical DWS ones.

The early 4.3's were all built on the 10'7" chassis, but in August 1937 a four seater tourer by Vanden Plas was launched with a shortened chassis of 10'4". This short chassis was later available for other coach built models. The new Vanden Plas was a brilliant design, and was produced in striking colour schemes. "In the scheme of things there are cars, good cars, and super cars. The latest 4.3 litre sports tourer comes into the latter of these three categories." - said a contemporary motoring correspondent. A car tested by "The Motor" in 1939 proved itself capable of 105mph, and earlier a Vanden Plas tourer was awarded the Premier Award of the RAC Rally for the best open car taking part in the coach work competition. The Vanden Plas Tourer had cut-away doors, no running board, rubber stone guards on the wings and quarter bumpers to the rear. It was truly remarkable value at £995. Today the car evokes memories of the carefree motoring of the 30's - images of long flowing dresses, of blazers and champagne parties, and of long summer days.

All the other models were retained during 1938 with the exception of the Continental Tourer by Offord, which was deleted from the list. There were some improvements to the 1938 cars. The fuel was now brought up on the cool side of the engine, and the petrol pumps consequently were moved to the offside, as far away as possible from the exhaust system. A new and more accessible oil filler was fitted in the top of the valve gear cover.

Further improvements were made to the 1939 models. Running noise was further reduced by a dual exhaust silencing system each system incorporating three separate silencers. Improved air intake equipment further reduced noise from the induction system. The 1939 saloon had new lines with convex downward sweeps to the wings, and a waist line moulding that now carried straight on over the rear wings to merge with the boot panelling. The car had a double opening sun-roof, and running boards were now absent. Traffic signals were operated by a switch on a protruding arm on the left side of the steering column, and the oil level could be read, when a switch was pressed, by a separate range of readings on the petrol gauge. The fuel tank was increased to 19 gallon capacity.

Performance and compression ratios were slightly improved late in 1939 for the 1940 model, which was the final year of production. Ball-jointed adjustable tie rods were fitted between the rear of the engine and the chassis cross member, for further stability. The ride was made smoother by slightly lowering the periodicity in the front springs and slightly increasing it in the rear springs. Finally a new razor edge saloon by Vanden Plas at £1,195 was added to the range of coachbuilt cars.

The Club register lists 160 chassis numbers, and logistically the gaps in the four series or chassis numbers increases the number of 4.3 chassis manufactured to 174. It has been suggested previously that this total could be nearer 200, as indeed the four series of chassis numbers may prove to be longer than those listed in the register. When war broke out, the production of 4.3 litre cars ceased, and the Hollyhead Road factory was a victim of the Luftwaffe. Records were destroyed, and indeed some cars may have suffered the same fate.

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