Alex and Elspeth Marsh



Prelude – 1946 to 1971


In October 1946 HW passed the Silver Eagle on to Ann Edmonds (Welch) who ran the Surrey and Imperial College Gliding Club at Redhill. Ann had already been acquainted with DR6084 many years earlier. She recalls in her autobiography Happy to Fly (John Murray, 1983) that by her seventeenth birthday she had only driven a car three times, ‘twice illegally in Henry Williamson’s Silver Eagle Alvis with its crash gearbox along empty Devon lanes . . .’.  At Redhill the Alvis continued its busy life in the field and on the road retrieving gliders and tow ropes. Frank Irving recorded his memories in the February 1959 edition of Sailplane and Gliding:


Once upon a time (i.e. when we were very young at Redhill) the sole retrieving vehicle was an Alvis ‘Silver Eagle’, much modified, which itself merits a record. Let it suffice to say here that it was stark and somewhat unreliable, the sort of vehicle advertised rather flippantly in the back of ‘Motor Sport’: ‘. . .would suit enthusiast,’ and all that sort of thing. Even now, a retrieve along the North Downs with an ex-Redhill member will frequently produce a dreamy look in his eyes as he murmurs, ‘I remember when the Alvis broke its clutch here in 1948.’ Indeed, there are few parts of the A25 where it did not break its clutch between 1947 and circa 1950.


During early 1950 the Club decided to replace the Silver Eagle. In the February 1950 Redhill Newsletter we see that ‘A pending departure is the Alvis, complete with clutch adjusting candle. It will be a sad day when it goes.’ That day came in May 1950: its epitaph was written up in the August 1950 Newsletter. ‘That same day (18 June) by failing irrevocably on a short retrieve, Laurie Hall’s car established its claim as successor to the Alvis – which had departed under a cloud of its own steam a few weeks earlier.’


A long letter from John Tinsdeall published in the November 1968 edition of Motor Sport continued the story of DR6084. John was the fifth owner having purchased the Alvis from Richard Pearce who had rescued her from the Gliding Club. When he purchased the car it was still running and licenced for road use. The coachwork, or what remained of it, resembled a commercial vehicle with the ensuing difficulty of convincing the police that it was, in fact, a car and not subject to the 30mph speed limit. Mr Pearce carried out an extensive rebuild of the mechanics and chassis to a very high standard. He then replaced the box body that had been installed by HW behind the front seats, with a not unattractive small rear compartment and covered the remaining original framework with plywood. In 1952 the Pearce family moved from Newbury, Berkshire to Sheffield. There DR6084 continued to serve the Pearce family well until June 1955 when it passed to John Tinsdeall, also of Sheffield.



DR 6084 in 1952

(Photo: Mary Pearce)


In his letter John Tinsdeall recalls his work in continuing the ‘tidying up’ of the Silver Eagle, his regular and heavy use of the car, and his ‘everlasting regret’ of selling it in December 1955: ‘It was the first of some seven Alvis cars that I have owned and, without doubt, it was the best.’  And, referring to his experience of newer models ‘. . . it made me realise that the vintage Alvis was perhaps the most indestructible as well as one of the most charming cars ever made.’


The next owner, Derek Gillott, also of Sheffield, kept DR6084 until spring/summer 1965. According to John Tinsdeall’s letter, Mr Gillott really enjoyed the car and only sold it when his family demanded a caravan. During this nine-year period the only replacement, apart from routine servicing, tyres etc., was the differential unit. The original 4.7 crown wheel lost a tooth and was replaced with a 5.25 unit from a scrap car. The Silver Eagle next passed to 16½-year-old Richard Harvey, a native of Sheffield, who ran the Silver Eagle as his first car, summer and winter, and thoroughly enjoyed it until it was laid up on his emigration to Australia in 1967. On his return in 1969 it was back on the road and resumed active service until purchased by Alex and Elspeth Marsh in 1971.



Adventures of DR6084 with the Marsh Family – 1971 to date


In April 1971 we acquired DR6084 from Richard Harvey and became her custodians. A few weeks previously we had come across a vintage Alvis engine in a Tyneside scrapyard; rescued it from imminent destruction; and advertised for a car in which this engine would fit, so that it could be used as a spare. On inspection the Silver Eagle looked sound enough with a body composed of the original body from the front seats forward and a small extension behind. Hood and side screens left much to be desired, so essentially she was equipped for open top motoring. Painted green with yellow wheels, leather straps holding down the bonnet, and plastic aero screens supported by a bamboo pole – she emerged from hibernation and roared into life.


Some £450 changed hands and I headed back to Newcastle – mastering the right-hand change crash gearbox on the way.  A few hours later, after a good fast run, DR6084 joined our 1935 Alvis Firebird in a recently rented, cosy double garage near to our flat in Newcastle.  We had no knowledge then of the Silver Eagle’s illustrious history – that was to come later in the year.


First sight, March 1971
May 1971


The first few weeks were spent getting used to the car and her various idiosyncrasies. The plastic aero screens were replaced with the fold flat windscreen used by HW from late 1936, which still remained with the car. During the spring and summer of 1971 and throughout 1972, the Silver Eagle was pressed into service as the fast car for dry days with local trips to vintage car meetings in the Newcastle area, use for a wedding, and competing in a local hill climb at Wooler in Northumberland. She ran well with only occasional en-route fettling required, whilst I got used to handling the 1929 mechanics and worked out what needed to be rectified or replaced. In the autumn of 1971 the Silver Eagle was pressed into service to help move our belongings to our new home in Northumberland. Maybe a reprise of HW’s ‘Flying Column’!


Wooler Hill Climb, 1972


During this move an extraordinary event occurred. In packing our belongings, I came across copies of the magazine Motor Sport for September1968 and November1968 that had lain unnoticed for 3 years. They were the only copies of Motor Sport that I possessed, and both carried letters about DR6084. The first, from Richard Williamson, referred to the inclusion of DR6084 in a regular piece about ‘cars in books’; and the second was the response from John Tinsdeall. We now became aware of the associations with Henry Williamson.


By the autumn of 1972 we had settled into our new abode – a rundown farmhouse in rural Northumberland with plenty of outbuildings to house the two old vehicles.  Getting the house liveable and the arrival of a baby took up most of our spare time, but by winter 1973/74 we were able to start to bring DR6084 back to its original condition. The body behind the front seats was rebuilt again – this time following the lines of the original 4-seat tourer. The assistance of a skilled woodworker friend to construct the new ash framework and repair the old was an invaluable help. On completion the body was covered in an olive-green furniture fabric – much easier to fit than the original black Rexine. The rear axle crown wheel changed back to the original 4.7 ratio which gave a faster cruising speed. Carburettors were rebuilt with the correct 1929 arrangement and non-original instruments and switches were replaced. Finally, a vintage BTH magneto was found and installed. She was getting closer to her original specification and to being a reliable four seat tourer – but still no hood.


1973: Rebuild of rear of body and restoration of machinery and electrics


In the summer of 1974 DR6084 was back in full use for trips around the North East and the Border country with family and friends. The engine seemed sound and only received normal maintenance. Driving the car on longer journeys or in traffic required attention to the oil pressure and water temperature, both of which could respectively fall or rise to concerning levels if not heeded.


During the 1970s the Silver Eagle participated in many ‘old car’ activities, many of which involved tests of the car’s ability or the driver’s – and sometimes both. An enthusiastic band of impecunious amateur motor engineers kept these cars on the road, often by sourcing spares from local scrapyards. The police used to treat us kindly – as long as we had the requisite paperwork including the MoT test of brakes, lights, steering and tyres. One of the regular events was the annual Beamish Reliability Run for over a hundred cars all built before 1950. For the main body of entrants that were built before 1939, the 140-mile course through rural Co. Durham and the Yorkshire dales was indeed a test of reliability. The route covered many of the test hills used in the 1920s. Penalty points were given for failure on the hills through inability to climb or having to stop to change gear. DR6084 sailed through every time. Other highlights were trips to various Alvis club meetings in Scotland, culminating in one year winning the driving tests – a trial of completing various manoeuvres against the clock. As much a trial for the driver as the car. The whole family looked forward to the annual Bent Valve rally – a mildly competitive navigation trial centred on Easingwold in North Yorkshire. The vintage and classic cars were then owned and maintained by younger families, and children were very much part of the old car scene.


The Alvis accompanied our growing family on holidays in the Borders and was pressed into service for friends’ and relatives’ weddings. Occasionally she would be used to transport goods – notably the potatoes we had grown in our field, for sale in the shipyard where Alex worked.  Throughout this decade the Silver Eagle gave little trouble, only requiring occasional en-route maintenance/repairs. Then, as now, a comprehensive set of tools was carried as well as various smaller spares. Driving was always exciting, especially in the wet with no hood and ineffective windscreen wipers. When these cars were built the main hazard on the road was the occasional horse and cart, not so in the 1970s. The magneto was problematic in HW’s day, and still was then: part of the problem was that Alvis had positioned it at the front of the engine, directly behind the radiator. A fast run in heavy rain or through a ford inevitably resulted in damp electrics and a misfiring engine, and various rubber boots were tried but with limited success. In the winter, with no heating, the driver and passengers gently froze! It was all great fun and much appreciated by family and friends.


Beamish Run, circa 1972 
Scottish AOC Driving Tests, 1974 
Friends and family, 1973/4 


Our understanding of the history of DR6084 grew during the 1970s. A picture of our two Alvis cars alongside a friend’s Alvis Silver Crest appeared on the front cover of the Owner Club magazine in January 1972. John Wheeley, in his book 50 Years of the Alvis Enthusiasm recalls that Richard and Ann Williamson, also Alvis owners, saw the photo and contacted the Owner Club, who passed on our various contact details. Meanwhile we obtained a copy of the original Alvis car build sheet, which identified her first owner as Whitney Straight. The Silver Eagle’s illustrious history began to unfold.


The three Alvis cars, January 1972


By the turn of the decade the Silver Eagle had travelled a few thousand miles in our ownership and began to need more in-depth work, to both repair worn parts and continue her restoration to her original specification. Then, one day in around 1983 the magneto failed, and without a spare the Silver Eagle was towed back to her lair next to our house. The pressure of a young family and work took priority, and she remained ‘down but not out’ until 1989. We then took the decision to have her professionally restored back to her former glory by D.A.C. Royle in County Durham. During a two-year period the mechanics were fully stripped down and refurbished back to original standard. The engine bores had their liners and pistons replaced, the camshaft was reprofiled and the gearbox rebuilt with close ratio gears as per the original; the body was covered in black fabric; an effective hood and side screens were made; the dashboard refurbished and leather seats made for the front and back; the wings were straightened and repaired using as much of the original metalwork as possible; the bonnet was painted black and the wings red – the original colour scheme. HW’s fold flat windscreen was re-chromed, and the other bright parts nickel plated. The one-piece nickel silver radiator had to be remanufactured as the original was fatigued beyond repair. In carrying out all this work originality was paramount, and where possible original equipment was refurbished. Evidence of the 1936 crash, when HW drove into a bank to avoid a barn owl and turned the car on its side, remained in the nearside front timber work and a front spring mounting – the damaged parts were left in situ as part of the history of the car.


Welding damage to crankcase

Dashboard refurbished

Full restoration at David Royle’s workshops 1989/1990

Body restoration
All finished and ready to go



In June 1990 DR6084 was ready to take to the road again and commence running-in the engine, gearbox, and rear axle. Amazingly all went well, except for the magneto which required further rewinding. A special gear drive was made to allow the temporary use of a distributor to provide spark to the engine. The 1929 Silver Eagle had dual ignition using either a coil or a magneto, so the wiring was easy. Earlier in the year we had decided to take the Silver Eagle on an extended tour of Finland – assuming that the restoration would be completed by early spring; but after various delays the Silver Eagle had only put on 201 miles before it was time to go! Nevertheless, we had sufficient confidence in the strength of the machinery to take the risk, but as a precaution took out European recovery insurance. The route, out via Denmark and Germany and back via Sweden and Norway, used ferries across the North Sea and the Baltic to limit road miles to around 1000. The engine and gearbox were still running in for much of the journey out, so speed was progressively increased from an average of around 40 mph at the start to a cruising speed of 55 mph on arrival in Finland.


On 5 August 1990 Elspeth and I and our youngest son, Stephen, set off for the Newcastle quay to catch the ferry to Denmark. The Silver Eagle was packed full of clothes, spares, and tools to cope with most eventualities. Bags were strapped to the running boards and a box trunk fitted to take spare water and oil – and more bits that might come in useful. The petrol gauge – a Hobson pneumatic teleguage – had given trouble in HW’s day, and latterly never worked, so was not deemed capable of being restored. A vintage two-gallon can was fastened to the running board to supplement the reserve gallon from the fuel tank operated by a fuel tap. Running at around 17 miles per gallon and with a 10-gallon fuel tank, filling up where possible every 100 miles or so became, and still is, the standard practice. With hood down and front side screens up it was cosy in the front and young Stephen seemed fine in the back, with the tonneau cover pulled all round him.


The Newcastle to Esbjerg (Denmark) ferry gave us time to relax and sort out our route which would take us through Denmark via Legoland (for Stephen), then into Germany to catch the Finnjet ferry from Travemünde to Helsinki. Emerging from our visit to Legoland the clutch ceased to disengage, but as we were close to our night stop at Gram we pressed on with rather noisy clutchless gear changes, hoping we didn’t actually have to stop and disengage the engine. Cars of the 1920s are usually very accessible and the Silver Eagle is no exception. With the front seats out and the floorboards up the clutch drive shaft was easy to strip down. The problem was simply a seized bearing that had not been properly greased on assembly – easily fixed. The hotel car park, with a steady stream of onlookers, was an excellent place to carry out repairs.


Fettling at Gram
En route in Finland


After a pleasant run into Germany through Kiel we boarded the jet turbine-powered ferry for a fast and smooth 24-hour journey up the Baltic Sea.  After a few days exploring Helsinki we set off for our holiday hut by a lake at Virrat in central Finland. By now the engine was freeing up after about 700 miles since its rebuild, and we could motor along the flat tree-lined roads at a steady 55 to 60 mph. We motored on through heavy rain with occasional glimpses of lakes through the trees. At these speeds rain is of less consequence as it is deflected from the front seats by the windscreen so the hood remained down. Stephen sheltered under the tonneau cover in the back with a torch and a book, only popping his head up when we passed through the occasional village or town. The Silver Eagle purred along, enjoying the low octane petrol available in Finland which kept the engine cool. The holiday hut was ideal, with a sauna by the lake, our own swimming jetty, and a rowing boat with outboard engine. The Alvis, free of all its burdensome luggage, covered 100 miles taking us around the area and was much admired by the locals. After an idyllic six days of sunshine we packed up the Silver Eagle and headed for Vaasa on the coast to catch another ferry over to Ornskoldsvik in Sweden. We were welcomed by passers-by in Vaasa and a local even paid for our parking meter which was typical of the reception we received throughout Scandinavia. Arriving in Örnsköldsvik late at night all the drivers were subject to an alcohol test. The police officer didn’t notice that the left-hand seat was not the driver’s and tested the passenger – much to the amusement of her colleagues.  In Örnsköldsvik we met up with some friends and the Silver Eagle was parked under cover. After a morning spent carrying out routine servicing, adjusting brakes, and trying out weaker carburettor needles, the Alvis was ready to go on the next leg of the journey, with the route taking us over the mountains separating Sweden from Norway. The arrival of the Alvis at Hammarstrand caused much excitement and we featured in the local paper the next day.




The climb up over the mountains was the first time we had driven the Silver Eagle in mountainous terrain – she performed magnificently and my double-declutching to change down a gear improved too! After an overnight stop in Östersund we arrived in Trondheim to catch the ferry down the Norwegian coast to Bergen. The Hurtigruten coastal steamer we were to board to get to Bergen was in port when we arrived. She was built in 1952 – the last of the older vessels in the fleet. The Silver Eagle would be loaded by crane and carried deck cargo – no roll on roll off in those days! Whilst the other passengers and the officers looked on, and with hearts in our mouths, the Alvis was swung on board. Unlike the Silver Eagle the ship was soon to be taken out of service, so the arrival of DR6084 was seen as an event to be recorded and many photographs were taken by passengers and crew. We settled into our cabin at the rear of the ship above the screws and headed off into a stormy sea. That night the Silver Eagle, lashed to the forward deck, endured occasional sprays of salt water. In the morning on arrival in Bergen she was craned off the ship – but would she start? After cleaning the high tension leads and the distributor she burst into life and we were off to the hotel that we were staying in, to ask for a freshwater tap, hose and bucket. A few hours later the superficial salt which covered the engine compartment and chassis had been cleaned off with no harm done.


Departure from Trondheim
Arrival at Bergen


Next day we took the ferry to Newcastle and then home. The trip covered over a thousand road miles and we arrived back with the car in a better state than when we left. The roads were a delight to drive on and the reception we had from everybody we met was simply fantastic.


In September 1990 we attended the Alvis Owner Club meeting in Leeds and amazingly won the novice concours class. That was lucky as we are not known for spit and polish!


The 60th birthday of DR6084 had passed in November 1989 when restoration was still in progress, but she still deserved a party. So in October 1990 on a cold and wet day four pre-war Alvis cars gathered together in the backyard of our Northumbrian farmhouse to celebrate. Also with us were Richard Williamson and Richard Harvey to share their memories of the Silver Eagle. Richard Williamson brought photographs and read extracts from HW’s books to the gathering of friends and family. Champagne was consumed and a birthday cake cut – all good fun.



Silver Eagle Birthday Party, 1990

Richard Harvey (Sp 20); Tim Fletcher (12/50); Frank Hyland (SA16.95), and DR6084

Richard Williamson, Elspeth and Alex Marsh


The Alvis was now running well, and with a magneto fitted and the vacuum-driven fuel supply replaced by an electric pump we looked forward to trouble-free motoring in 1991. This was not to be. By mid-summer in 1991 the engine started to exhibit a strange spitting from the carburettors which got steadily worse. Replacing the cylinder head with the one rescued from the scrap yard in 1970 made no difference, but did demonstrate that the existing head was some 3mm shallower than standard – raising the compression ratio slightly to give more power. So we delved further into the bowels of the engine. Eventually the problem was tracked down to the camshaft, which turned out to be a non-standard high lift which had been restored as such. The engine had been modified with these two ‘go faster’ alterations but when, we have no idea. The high lift camshaft proved to be incompatible with the new cam followers that had been machined for a standard shaft and had worn down the cam faces. A new camshaft to the later Alvis Speed 20 configuration solved the problem and is also beneficial with modern fuel. By spring 1992 and 3300 miles from the rebuild the Silver Eagle was ready to hit the road again. There followed two years of local trips with family and friends.


1994 became a very busy year for the Silver Eagle. April saw DR6084 at Coventry taking part in the 75th anniversary of the founding of Alvis, then on, via a short sojourn in Peterborough, to Norfolk for the Henry Williamson Society meeting on 7/8 May. The visit to Old Hall Farm and Stiffkey remains one of the highlights of our adventures with the Silver Eagle. I recall the fun of the Williamson brothers driving DR6084, and also taking their mother for a run. She remembered the sound the gearbox made with its straight cut gearing, and recalled carrying a pig in the back!


Richard and Bill Williamson take to the open road
Loetitia Williamson takes the wheel


June 1994 saw the Silver Eagle in Liverpool for the International Alvis Day at Tatton Park. There, with Richard Williamson’s help in supplying documentary detail, DR6084 won the special ‘Celebrity Alvis’ competition. Alasdair Marsh entered the driving tests, driving with gusto! The next generation were finding their feet.



International Alvis Day, 1994

Driving tests and Celebrity Alvis Competition

DR6084: The Winner of the Celebrity Alvis Competition


July 1994 ended with a 128-mile navigation trial taking place on the minor hill roads around Skipton. This took place at night with a start at 2300, a warm-up break for sore eyes and dynamos at around 0300 and the last control at 0700 in the morning. As well as passing through the correct controls and in the right direction we had to answer various trivia questions en route. A challenge for car and humans alike! Luckily the weather remained fair although the trip home was in torrential rain. At times like that, looking over the windscreen gives improved visibility! No doubt HW would have had it down.


The Silver Eagle had by now covered about 8800 miles since her rebuild and winter 94/95 gave the opportunity for some more in-depth maintenance. The rear springs were reset and greased. Starter motor rewound, magneto rebuilt (again!), and generally all nuts and screws tightened. All the mechanics were functioning well, but as was normal, adjusting, greasing and tightening were an annual event. The wooden framed body was standing up well but again screws holding it together all needed tightening after the flexing experienced over the previous 4 years. By now we had moved to Edinburgh, and the Alvis resided in a large garage under our mews flat. The highlight of 1995 was a visit to the West Country to take DR6084 to the HWS meeting at Woolacombe. The Silver Eagle made the most of her return to Devon. Porlock Hill was taken with ease, and we spent a delightful couple of days with HWS members at the centenary celebrations, with plenty of photo opportunities at Barnstaple, Georgeham, and HW’s writing hut. On the Sunday the Alvis was pressed into service to give members a feel of what it was like to ride in HW’s car. Much fun was had by all. Then back home to Scotland up the Wye valley. A beautiful journey and well suited to vintage cars.


Alex Marsh and Richard Williamson

A wet day in Georgeham

Henry Williamson Society meeting, Barnstaple, October 1995


After a year of shorter distance trips around the Borders and up to the Scottish Highlands our next adventure was to participate in the Ulster Vintage Trial, run over the weekend of 23 and 24 May 1997. This was a timed, highly competitive navigation trial with driving tests thrown in. Taking place on public roads but with special sections on private roads and tracks. A challenge for car, navigator (Elspeth) and driver. It was great fun even if we came rather lower down the finishing order than the car warranted. Human inexperience, I guess.


Later that year we relocated to Buckinghamshire taking the Silver Eagle with us. At the end of the long run from Edinburgh to Buckinghamshire, 50 miles from home, the Silver Eagle came to an involuntary stop on the A5 – magneto failure again! Without a spare, we had to resort to the AA recovery service, the only time we have ever had to use it with the Silver Eagle. Eventually we were in our new location; 12,000 miles now under her bonnet since the rebuild.


The next major trip was in June 1999 when we travelled with three other Silver Eagles to the North Cape of Norway, some 1700 road miles from home, to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the start of Alvis Silver Eagle production.  The North Cape lies at the northernmost tip of Norway, almost 750 miles above the Arctic Circle, with cliffs of over 1,000 feet descending to the Barents Sea. Joining DR6084 there were a sister car, a 1929 SA 16.95 (Frank Hyland and Philip Neate); a 1931 TC 16.95 saloon (Roger and Jan James); and another 1931 TC 16.95 wide two-seater (Mac and Madge Hulbert who also organised the trip). It was an extraordinary adventure.


Left to right:  Hyland; James; Hulbert; Marsh


We crossed the North Sea on the Newcastle Bergen ferry overnight on 19/20 June and then travelled through rainswept countryside of steep valleys, waterfalls, and fjords. On 21 June we climbed a steep pass and found ourselves well above the snow line with the road cut through high snowdrifts. The locals were amazed at the intrepid Brits in their open car.


As we travelled north the scenery became spectacular – in front of you a 270-degree panorama of sea, mountains, and snow. The intensity of colour was extraordinary. Driving a vintage, open car along the magnificent single carriageway E6, where towns were few and far between, was an experience of a lifetime. In heavy sleet we crossed the Arctic circle north of Mo-I-Rana some 1000 miles from home; a bleak plateau but with a dry and warm coffee and souvenir building which was very welcome. Further north the weather improved and by the time we arrived in Narvik on 25 June the weather, at last, was dry and sunny with 24-hour daylight. Elspeth had driven some of the way and it was while she had the wheel that the engine showed some sign of distress. This was soon tracked down to two small bolts having fallen out of the carburettor throttle linkage –luckily there they were, resting on the exhaust manifold, waiting to be refitted! We now had to motor hard to catch a small ferry taking us across the opening of a fjord – the alternative was a 50-mile detour. At Alta we visited the prehistoric stone carvings and then, next day, arrived at Nordkapp in blazing warm sunshine. 1728 road miles from home. We had made it. That night we celebrated with our travelling companions in the charming fishing port of Honigsväg. We and the cars made our way back to Bergen via the Hurtigrutten ferry, and then back over the North Sea to Newcastle. A wonderful experience. The Silver Eagle performed magnificently with only a couple of punctures and the carburettor bolts to delay us.


Summit above Sogndal at 4,500 feet
Astride the Arctic Circle
The magnificent E6
Puncture repair stop at Sørkjosen
Cooling down before the run to the Cape
Silver Eagle at the Cape

Made it to the Nordkapp in blazing 24-hour sunshine

71°10′ 21°N, 1,300 miles from the North Pole


June 2000 saw us off to Alsace, Switzerland, and Germany. The route from Buckinghamshire took us through Northern France via the Dover/Calais Hovercraft: an unusual combination of vintage and modern engineering! We arrived in Dambach in Alsace to meet friends of ours with the sister 1929 Silver Eagle (Frank and Margaret Hyland). DR6084 had begun to experience unusual vibration from the front road wheels and on arrival we found that one track rod end was starting to wear. A call back to the UK had replacement track rod ends sent out to us.  A brief stay in Switzerland and then off to meet other friends near Munich. Then back to Sweighausen in the Black Forest and changing the track rod ends which had arrived from the UK. An excellent drive with no problems other than the wheel vibration and the experience of driving in dark spiral tunnels in the Austrian mountains. With dim lights and the ever-present risk of a puncture this was a scary procedure. A happy day with Frank, changing the track rod ends and finding the source of the vibration – a damaged wheel rim – and after the usual oiling and greasing, setting magneto points, plug gaps and clutch clearances and adjusting brakes – we were ready for the run home. The trip covered 1,938 miles. Running on 92-octane petrol the engine ran sweetly. The vibrations and some very poor road surfaces resulted in more rectification work on return than usual – mainly tightening items that had loosened en route.


Frank and a track rod end

Two sisters enjoying the air

Schweighausen, Germany

Hopfgarten, Bavaria
Rumigny, Ardennes, France


August 2001 had the Silver Eagle back to Norway to be used at the wedding of a friend. This time, a gentle drive after leaving the North Sea ferry around 1700 at Haugesund, a night at Eidfjord, then over the coastal mountains to Otse Vang some 340 miles away. Next morning the Silver Eagle was cleaned and polished, and with the hood down, despite the rain, she performed her duties admirably. On the very wet half-hour drive from a pre-dinner reception back to the main evening event the bride insisted on no hood and just umbrellas when we had to slow down – a true Viking! There followed a very pleasant week touring Southern Norway and catching the ferry from Kristiansand to the River Tyne. 1,200 road miles for the return trip from Buckinghamshire. The only problems were an increasing incidence of punctures – all of which were repaired without problem. As before, the driving in Norway was spectacular, and the people were, without exception, delightful, helpful, and very interested in DR6084.


The Silver Eagle spent the summers of 2002 to 2004 largely on short journeys centred on our home in Wendover, Buckinghamshire. Our other Alvis, the 1935 Firebird, was being used for continental journeys and family weddings. DR6084 was by now in need of some TLC. She had covered over 20,000 miles since her rebuild. A strip down of the engine and gearbox showed the need for a rebore and new pistons, a replacement main bearing in the gearbox, and a new cross shaft for the steering box as the original was showing signs of fatigue cracks. A local restoration company was entrusted with the work. They also recommended that the 76-year-old Duralumin conrods were replaced with stronger steel rods and shell bearings in lieu of white metal. By spring 2005 the work was complete and followed by gentle running in for the rest of that year; and our relocation back to Northumberland in the following year.


September 2006 saw us heading off with some other vintage and classic cars to watch the vintage car racing at Angoulême in southwestern France. A convivial trip with several stops and visits on the way down. Highlights were running the cars around the Bugatti circuit at Le Mans; a rally from Angoulême to Cognac with various stops on the way to sample the local produce; an evening feast put on by the local producers in the central marketplace; and, of course, the racing. The rally took place in torrential rain which didn’t deter us, or most of the other cars. We thought about putting up the hood, but on trying it for the first time in many years we remembered why we stopped using it – it fouled the windscreen wipers – not that they would be much use anyway! So back to our normal mode of travel in the rain – getting wet! In the rain we have a close affinity to motorcyclists who greet us like brothers and sisters. Apart from one major problem the Silver Eagle ran well for the 2,650 miles of the round trip from Northumberland.


Le Mans
Hood up, very briefly!
Motor racing at Angoulême


On the journey to Angoulême and back we were plagued by oiled-up plugs which would occur on any of the cylinders, generally on the overrun. This would cause misfiring and loss of power which could only be cured by stopping and changing to a clean plug. Although not in itself a great issue – vintage cars had always carried spare plugs with them – it was tedious; happening at least two or three times in a day’s drive. When this coincided with rain Elspeth would hold an umbrella over the engine whilst I became the fastest plug changer around! Oil consumption began to increase to a worrying amount and necessitated carrying increasing quantities of oil with us on long journeys. Oil for vintage cars is different from modern cars and is only available in a few, specialist outlets. The cause was a mystery – at least for now. During 2007 and 2008 various cures were sought – but none worked. As in all other respects the Silver Eagle was running well, we continued to use her, but for more local runs.


August 2009 was the Vintage Sports Car Club gathering at Malvern. We decided to take the Silver Eagle – with plenty of plugs and spare oil sent down to our hotel. Great fun with navigation rallies, driving tests and a very convivial atmosphere. Most of the oil was used, plus a spare petrol pump – the first having failed on the way down – we always carry a spare.


DR6084 and VSCC friends at Shobdon
Rowden Mill Station, Herefordshire


Burning oil at around 2 litres per 320 miles was becoming untenable and limiting our ability to go overseas, as getting oil supplies delivered would be problematic. So, by September 2011 we had the Silver Eagle shipped to Kenilworth for the engine to be stripped down by Alvis specialists. What they found was that though the work done in 2005 was of a very high standard the new pistons, supplied from overseas, were not. The machining of the pistons and the ring groves was faulty, allowing oil to be pumped up into the bores. New pistons and cylinder liners cured the problem. Spring 2013 had DR6084 back in use for gentle runs whilst running in the new components. After 1,000 miles with the new pistons the engine could be run at full speed again. Many pleasant trips around the region took place during the next few years, but long overseas trips were undertaken in the other Alvis and a 1955 Jaguar XK140 which had joined us by then. Clutch relining, fixing radiator leaks, punctures, and the occasional repair of electrical components especially the magneto supplemented normal routine maintenance.


The Silver Eagle was running well by autumn 2014, although punctures were becoming more frequent, necessitating carrying spare inner tubes for long runs. The cause was unclear then and was dealt with by making sure that, after a puncture, the spare wheel was retubed at the earliest opportunity. Generally, the tubes could not be repaired as the failure was a circumferential split – all very strange! The only other bugbear was occasional misfiring, especially on starting, irrespective of the magneto used which would be cured by fiddling around with the high-tension leads. Neither of these problems were, as yet, bad enough to stop us taking DR6084 to Eastern Europe to celebrate her 85th birthday along with 3 other Alvis Silver Eagles. Mac and Madge Hulbert, who had been with us to the North Cape, organised the trip. We were also joined by Drummond and Liz Challis in their 1930 SA16.95 beetleback, and Steve and Marg Denner from Australia driving a 1931 TC16.95 tourer also owned by Mac Hulbert.


On Wednesday 17 September 2014 we landed at Ijmuiden in Holland ready for our drive via the former East Germany to Prague to meet up with the other cars. An early puncture on the motorway leaving Amsterdam was a trifle scary but luckily the Silver Eagle chose to have it just as the two-lane motorway crossed a bridge and opened out to a hard shoulder. Wheel changed with no problem then after a brief stop to sort the puncture we were off. Initially we used the autobahns to make progress south and east and then, the next day, it was through the old East Germany with its cobbled streets, interesting towns, beautiful countryside and, to us, a very different feel from the West. The night of 18 September was spent in Plauen, some 500 miles from home. Plauen was fascinating and we wished we could have stayed longer: full of beautiful 19th-century and Art Nouveau buildings that were gently crumbling to dereliction. It reminded Elspeth of an elegant elderly lady that had fallen on hard times. Then on to Prague with a couple of plug changes. Entering Prague, we had attempted to use a Garmin Satnav device, but after a complete signal failure as we approached a busy road complex which took us a few miles in an unmapped tunnel, Elspeth switched back to paper maps to find our hotel. Much more appropriate! After two days in beautiful and historic, but overcrowded Prague, we hankered for the open roads and the less developed areas of civilisation.


After leaving Prague on 22nd September the route took us speeding east over the hills to Kraków 349 miles distant, with a night in Šanov on the way. The Silver Eagle enjoyed the cool air and the 95-octane petrol.  We crossed into Poland with the roads deteriorating as we passed through derelict industrial areas. Entering Kraków we negotiated bell-ringing trams moving at pace in unexpected directions. Still, we arrived safely and soon all four cars were bedded down in an underground garage next to our hotel. The Silver Eagle now had 1,050 miles under her bonnet since leaving home. Another puncture and a few stops to change plugs and sort the ignition were the only problems so far. A couple of hours’ maintenance was carried out next morning, and then we set about exploring Kraków on foot– a fascinating place and well worth the trip.


Departing Kraków on 25th September we turned south, heading into the Tatra mountains, the highest part of the Carpathian mountain range. Weather was poor with limited visibility and snow had already fallen. Into Slovakia, driving past ski resorts, we stayed the night in a brand-new village house at Spišské Bystré, south of Poprad. Our accommodation took a bit of finding and eventually we were led in by a group of children on bikes – it reminded us of the scene in ET!


Morning at Spišské Bystré
Other cars get punctures too!


Next morning Elspeth and I decided to take the minor roads through the mountains and dense forests into Hungary, a challenging but fascinating route. Roads were not much more than rutted and disintegrating tracks climbing steeply with many blind bends. Plenty of gear changes up and down the box: engine prone to overheating; brakes needing to be adjusted after steep descents but very satisfying to have made it. In this region of Slovakia there were many Roma people living in ‘camps’ outside villages. Many groups, young and old walking from place to place – there was little work for them to do. All were very interested in the car and us, their English was poor and our Slovakian or Hungarian non-existent, but we communicated with smiles and signs. Without exception we were treated well, and all the children were polite and helpful.  We were treated like royalty, or at least celebrities, as we passed through villages on the descent into Hungary. Amazement at how we had come all the way from the UK in the Silver Eagle was followed by many requests for photographs and explanations of how it worked. Even the police in one town stopped us to see our papers – we then realized it was so that his colleagues could photograph him with his foot on the running board! We entered Miskolc, Hungary in torrential rain having tried to visit the Roman thermal baths – we had arrived too late, we were told by an attendant, who must have been a commissar in days gone by.


Silver Eagle tutorial at the Slovakian/Hungarian border
Slovakian audience watching police inspect our papers


Next day, Saturday 27 September, we headed west to Eger through beautiful beech forests on good smooth roads – relaxing after the adventures the previous day. A couple of hours sightseeing and then lunch and after purchasing some wine we drove on to Budapest for a two-night stay. A welcoming and beautiful city – the Silver Eagle had a well-earned rest as vintage cars were not the easiest form of transport in the city. Then it was on to Vienna with yet another pull-over for police to take photographs – this time on the motorway at the Austrian border. Next day we strolled around Vienna before boarding the car-carrying night-sleeper train to Hamburg and then drove into Holland to catch the overnight ferry back to Newcastle after a night en route. We arrived home in Northumberland on the morning of 3 October 2014, tired but happy.


The team enters Eger in Hungary for wine tasting


Total trip was 1814 road miles. Only half a litre of oil was used but plenty of plug changes and three punctures. The trip was a wonderful experience, with memories of the people we met and the scenery we saw remaining with us, in particular, the mountainous and rural parts of the Czech and Slovak Republics and Hungary, and the wonderful cities of Kraków and Budapest. The Alvis now needed some TLC especially after the suspension battles with the road surfaces in Slovakia.


A full service over the winter set the Silver Eagle up for her next adventure: a trip in June 2015 to Alleyras in South Central France where we were to meet friends for a few days at the Hotel Haute Allier. Crossing over to Belgium via the overnight ferry from Hull to Zeebrugge we made good time over the next two days and 490 miles to Marcigny, just north of Lyons. Driving south in the 33°C degree heat and blazing sun was taking its toll on both the Alvis and its occupants. We were all needing frequent cool drinks and shady resting places – still she ran well. Next day we headed towards the gorge in the River Allier some 160 miles away through minor roads, which usually in France are fast and ideally suited for vintage cars. And so it was, with flowers and bird song – at least for much of the way. At 1615 it started to rain lightly but nothing to bother us, as we had thought we would be at our hotel before 1700. We then hit the ‘Route Barrier’ signs, with no signs of a deviation, simultaneously with torrential rain making any chance of map reading in an open car impossible. Nevertheless, we kept going and found our way round the obstruction but then we came across the next ‘Route Barrier’! Again, no deviation shown: we, the maps, the Alvis and all our belongings were getting soaked, even under the tonneau cover which normally is sufficient. At this point we both lost our cool in the torrential rain. There was no point in putting up the hood as it would take too long, and visibility would be so poor. We pressed on and came across a small town and darted into someone’s open garage door to at least be able to study what was left of the map in the dry.


The owner was very understanding when he turned up shortly after and gave us directions. We eventually arrived an hour later to a welcome hot shower. The next day we dried out the car and our belongings. After a few days in Alleyras, we headed back north. A pleasant but uneventful journey except for the increasing frequency of punctures. At one point in northern France we had two within thirty miles, luckily the second one manifested on our arrival at our hotel. Next day we had to drive to Zeebrugge for the ferry home. I was also suffering from a very painful right leg caused by a back problem which made driving harder than usual. Friends of ours in a modern car travelled back with us, riding shotgun in case of punctures or leg failure!  They did not manifest, and we arrived home safely.


Drying out at Alleyras
Crécy La Tour


That was the most recent overseas trip. The puncture problem has been sorted – it appears that the Dunlop tyres made now made are incompatible with the Alvis wheel rims. A different tyre make has cured the problem. Since the return from France trips have been to Alvis gatherings and then, in October 2019, we joined four other Silver Eagles and a Sunbeam for a ‘Dash to the West’, a trip around Devon and Cornwall. This time the group was Mac and Madge Hulbert, 1931 TC16.95 wide two-seater; Drummond and Liz Challis, who organised the tour, 1930 SA16.95; Dick and Leslie Wilkinson, 1929 SA16.95 beetleback; Piers and Sandra Hart, 1929 TA16.95; and Paul and Merriel Gallifant in their Sunbeam.


We set off from Northumberland in light rain which soon turned to a deluge. Arriving 200 miles later at our overnight stop in Quorn we filled our room with soggy belongings and proceeded to try to dry out. Next day the sun was out and all was well with the Silver Eagle and her passengers. The journey to the West Country via Wells and overnight with Mac and Madge Hulbert near Cheltenham, was easy and uneventful and gave time to explore Wells Cathedral – a magnificent structure. A cloudburst resulting in almost zero visibility on the A30 approaching Exeter Airport drove us off the dual carriageway to seek a quieter route and for once to use the hood (I had fixed the windscreen wiper problem). After 20 minutes struggling it was up and we were off again – in glorious sunshine! Hood came down the next day after it had dried out – one of the reasons not to use it was that, as there is no door on the driver’s side, entry and egress is either through the top or you have to slide across the passenger seat. The Eagles all gathered at the Two Bridges Inn near Princetown and next day set off on various routes to explore the Devon and Cornwall countryside, meeting up again for the night at St Mawes. We chose to visit the Lost Gardens of Heligan. Thursday 3 October saw DR6084 on the King Harry Ferry to Trelissick Gardens then on to the Penlee Gallery in Penzance arriving in rain and wind. The gallery has a section devoted to early St Ives artists and memorable series of paintings from the Newlyn School. The western-most point of our tour beckoned and the Land’s End hotel where the tail-end of a hurricane was blowing itself out depositing sand and salt in its wake. 561 miles covered since we left Northumberland.


DR6084 returns to Dartmoor
Silver Eagles at Lands End
Photos at Boscastle


Next day we left Land’s End in full sunshine but still high winds, and headed back towards the east following the northern coastline. At St Ives the Silver Eagle was parked by the surfing beach and we spent a few pleasant hours wandering around and taking in the Tate Gallery and then Barbara Hepworth’s studio. Then off to Tintagel and the Camelot Castle Hotel complete with Arthurian Legends. Up to now the party had all travelled our separate ways only meeting up at night, but we decided that the next afternoon we would assemble to visit Georgeham, Ox’s Cross and Shallowford. I had brought some of the relevant writings from HW and Anne Williamson, and Richard Williamson had provided some notes as well. So, on the morning of Friday 5 October we set off for Georgeham, with a late morning stop at Clovelly. On the way, at Boscastle, we had our only breakdown this trip when a bolt fell out of the starter motor drive. Although we had a starting handle this was not useable as the short handle was not compatible with the raised compression in the engine, so starting by hand was not realistic. The locals pushed us to a car park and watched with cameras clicking as I delved into the spares and found just the very thing to fix the drive. Claps all round and we were off again.


For us all, a highlight of the trip was the visit to HW country. At Georgeham we visited the churchyard and paid our respects at HW’s grave. As we approached the churchyard a wedding party was just about to arrive, so we waited until they were all inside and then assembled at the gravestone. We had with us HW’s eagle mascot which we placed on the gravestone for a commemorative photograph. Then it was off to Ox’s Cross and Shallowford. The Silver Eagles and a Sunbeam made quite a sight and must have been reminiscent of the 1930s. A lovely drive over Exmoor took us to Exford via North Molton and Withypool. Next day, Sunday October 6th, we said our farewells and headed back north.



The Hulberts; Wilkinsons; Marshes; and Paul Gallifant

(Photo: Meriel Gallifant)

Ox’s Cross, Georgeham
The bridge over the River Bray, Shallowford


On our return it was new rear springs for DR6084 – and clearance between tyres and mudguard restored! The magneto was exchanged for the rebuilt spare, new (hotter) plugs, re-routing the high tension leads and fixing a leaking carburettor float cured the misfiring. The arrival of Covid in 2020 and lasting through 2021 stopped most of the vintage car activity. As I write, in March 2022, we hope to take the Silver Eagle down to Suffolk in June for a gathering of vintage Alvis cars. All is now set for the next 20,000 miles, at least once the clutch has been overhauled. Fettling never stops with a vintage car!







I am often asked how driving the Silver Eagle differs from a modern car. Key points are:


Pedals are arranged differently, with the accelerator between the brake and clutch.


Gearbox is right-hand change, i.e. by your outside knee, and without any synchromesh, so that changing gears requires timing and adroit use of both the clutch and engine speed to bring the gears into alignment. There is also a clutch brake to slow the input shaft into the gearbox to enable faster upward gear changes: this operates only at full travel of the clutch pedal.


Instruments are speedometer, clock, ammeter, and oil pressure. Originally excess water temperature would be noted by escaping steam. Later in its life DR6084 was fitted with a calorimeter on the radiator cap which replaced the mascot. We have now fitted a supplementary gauge under the dashboard. On the steering wheel there is a lever to alter the ignition timing (nowadays used primarily for starting), and another to set the throttle by hand for starting. On the dashboard there is a knob to richen the carburettor mixture; a switch changes ignition from coil to magneto; and another sets the dynamo charge rate to high or low/off to protect the battery from overcharge. A 1989 modification was the fitting of a switched electric fan to cool the radiator in slow traffic, as the original Alvis design had no fan. In 1929 it was not expected that one would overheat in traffic jams and that the pump would suffice! Turn signals were originally purely by hand and remained so until 2000. Waving arms around, and from the ‘wrong’ side of the car, seemed a trifle risky on the German motorways so we fitted flashing orange indicators to the rear and wired up the side lights to flash at the front. Richard Williamson lent us HW’s eagle mascot which we use for special occasions. In order to keep it safe, for normal touring we use an original 1920s Alvis hare mascot.  The eagle mascot supplanted the hare in 1929/30 and for a while both were used by Alvis on new cars.


Unlike a modern car she needs to be driven: one needs to pay attention to the mechanics as well as the road! The steering and roadholding are excellent, but modern road surfaces can cause a bit of wander. When set up correctly the brakes are good, but the driver needs to be aware of the traffic around as reaction times are longer. Suspension is hard and, compared to a modern car, long journeys can be tiring. Oiling and greasing and routine adjustments need to be carried out frequently, but in themselves are usually no problem as everything is accessible. Any long trip will bring with it minor failures which need attention at the day’s end, but essentially the Silver Eagle is reliable, capable of keeping up with modern traffic, and fun. She motors comfortably at around 60 mph; she could go faster but given her age we keep to that. She is happiest on minor roads and single carriageway ‘A’ roads with the hills and bends that she was built for. On motorways oil pressure will drop from a normal 40psi to low 30s or even less after continuous running, so after an hour or two at a constant high speed, and depending on the ambient temperature, it is prudent to slow down for a short while to let the oil cool. The oil cooling was never designed for continuous high heat input. Night driving has its own challenges: headlights are low power, with electromechanical dipping. Once her idiosyncrasies are taken on board the Silver Eagle is a delight to drive. She is perfectly capable of long daily runs, but in our experience 250 miles or so is ideal for the occupants!


DR6084 controls

DR6084 engine, from both sides

DR6084 bulkhead plate



Future custodians of DR6084 starting their apprenticeship early!

Northumberland 2015







Text © Alex and Elspeth Marsh 2022

Photographs courtesy of Alex and Elspeth Marsh