Community, Motoring

Alvis rally comes to town

About 65 members of the NZ Alvis Club, including Marlburian Ashley McKenzie, pictured, will treat the region to a rally of the iconic vehicle. Photo: Matt Brown.

A rally to celebrate the 100th birthday of a popular vintage car will take to the roads this weekend.

One century on from the first commercial Alvis running off the production line in Coventry, England, about 30 of the 1920-styled vehicles will be touring through the region.

Alvis aficionado Ashley McKenzie has helped organise the rally and hopes the public will turn out to admire the vintage vehicles.

“I want to show the passion and dedication that people put into their vehicles,” Ashley says.

About 65 members of the NZ Alvis Club, from Kaitaia to Invercargill, will enjoy local roads and tourist venues, including a mailboat cruise through the Marlborough Sounds.

Ashley says Covid nearly put paid to the rally, and about five participants from overseas had to pull out.

“What overseas entrants that were here have left the country.”

But New Zealand’s Alvis showing is strong, with the oldest vehicle from 1925 to one of the last 1967 models expected to be on display.

Ashley’s 1952 Alvis TA21 needs strong arms as power steering is uncommon on early British cars.

Its 3-litre 6-cylinder 100bhp engine posts a top speed of about 95 miles per hour – about 150kmph.

“It’s a very drivable car,” Ashley says, although there’s a bit of a knack to getting in the front suicide doors.

“You sort of do a half circle and get in,” he says.

Ashley came by the car by chance in the 70s.

“I went to the wreckers on Main St on a Friday. The wrecker said, this is the car you should have.

“I took it away for $50.

“I hate to think what it’s cost me since.”

The 3-litre 6-cylinder 100bhp engine.
The 3-litre 6-cylinder 100bhp engine.

The Alvis Car and Engineering Company produced racing cars, aircraft engines, armoured cars and other armoured fighting vehicles.

Ashley says cars were secondary to the company, behind their military contracts.

“The majority of them [cars] were bought for their performance; even in the 20’s they were way above the market in terms of performance.”

Alvis were ahead of their time in many ways, pioneering front-wheel-drive vehicles, independent front suspension, servo-assisted brakes and the world’s first all-synchromesh gearbox.

Ashley says there are a lot of Alvis vehicles in New Zealand, despite the factory only producing 23,000 vehicles in its lifetime.

“New Zealand was their largest market outside the UK – their biggest sales area,” he says.

“There was a strong dealer network here.”

The vehicles are still being found in barns and garages around the country.

Ashley says one recently sold in Nelson that had just one owner since the 1950s.

“They’re generally pretty well priced.

“There’s one online now for around $18,000 – you wouldn’t find a more quality car.

“They’re sought after.”

Keep your eyes peeled for a convoy of the 1930’s styled vehicle this weekend, and for a closer look head to Patchett’s

Green, just behind the Vintage Car Club rooms at Brayshaw Green, on Sunday from 9am to 1pm.

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