RH Insurance Red Triangle

Speed 20 SA

Speed 20 SA Description

The Speed 20 type was developed during 1931 to compete with other manufacturers who were marketing "Sports Cars", a new thing at the time. Previously such cars were "Sporting Cars" and were hotted-up versions of standard products. The new "Sports Cars" were built on double-dropped frames and designed for out and out speed and sporting purposes. Competitors were SS, Lagonda, Invicta and MG to name just a few.

Apart from the engine, which was a development of the 20HP Silver Eagle unit, the rest of the car was all new and designed for the purpose instead of being converted from something else. The 2511cc 73 x 100mm engine was suitably tuned up with the aid of a "hotter" camshaft and a new cylinder head. A central change gearbox was used along with the Company's latest patented "floating cam" brake system. With 85 BHP on tap and good brakes the car was an instant success.

By 1932 the chassis could be ordered with saloon coachwork and yet another new type of car came into being; the "Sports Saloon", which started a vogue which has persisted up to the present day.

Due to active marketing by the London Dealer, Charles Follett, the new Speed Twenty, with its good looks, became very fashionable in society and it had the performance to match. Glancing through the names on the Guarantee Cards is like reading Who's Who: Sir Henry Birkin, Viscount Clanfield, The Countess of Dumfries, Lord Newport, Jimmy Nervo, Lester Matthews, Lord Waleran and the Duke of Westminster to name but a few.

The SA 19.82 HP Speed Twenty is a hard, rough and tough machine which made a name for itself early on by being capable of achieving "90 MPH from 2½ Litres". This was a revelation at the time and several cars competed at Brooklands as well as taking part in rallies. The SA was succeeded in late 1933 for the 1934 Model Year by the SB type which brought more refinement and technical innovation to the model at the expense of extra weight. It was the SA which restored the Company's fortunes and gave them a good lead which set them on course out of the depression of the period.

The first 26 cars were pre-production models and varied considerably in specification and were not built as a "batch". The chassis numbers are inserted between Silver Eagles, 12/50s and 12/60s. The original prototype, chassis 9184 was registered by the Works as VC 9605 and carried an unusual engine number "EXP 1.6". This car was not sold in its original form, being bodied with a Cross & Ellis tourer and used for the Autocar Road Test. It was subsequently rebuilt by the Works, fitted with a new production engine and rebodied with a Charlesworth fixed-head coupe. The car was used by W.A. Scott-Brown for rallies with a new registration number KV 1577 before being sold.

A total of 351 SA chassis were produced; 96 with Charlesworth saloon bodies, 64 with Cross & Ellis sports, and 130 bodied by Vanden Plas, saloons, sports and coupes. The remaining 61 chassis were fitted with bespoke bodies by such makers as Mayfair, Thrupp & Maberley, Carlton, Duple, Carbodies, Mulliner and Grose, to name but a few. Several were sold "out to the trade" as "chassis only" and bodied locally by their owners and have not been recorded. Approximately 91 cars are thought to survive world-wide.

Nick Simpson

Model Secretary



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