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Powerful Sports Tourers

Despite the 1929 stock market crash that precipitated a worldwide recession, the 1930s saw small manufacturers continue to make large-engined sports tourers, with ever-increasing refinement as the global economy recovered. The widespread building of high-quality surfaced roads allowed wealthy drivers to cruise at hitherto unimagined speeds and travel hundreds of miles in a few hours, making journeys such as Paris to Monte Carlo or London to Edinburgh a comfortable reality.

Bentley 4-liter, 1931


Engine3,915 cc, straight-six
Top speed80 mph (129 km/h)

The magnificent 8-liter and less-impressive 4-liter models were the swan songs of the independent Bentley company, which would shortly be taken over by Rolls-Royce.

Delahaye T135, 1935


Engine3,227 cc, straight-six
Top speed100 mph (161 km/h)

Named “Coupe des Alpes” after success in the challenging Alpine Rally, the T135 had a truck-derived engine, but it performed well on road and track-and looked fabulous.

Railton Eight, 1933


Engine4,010 cc, straight-six
Top speed90 mph (145 km/h)

Reid Railton had the idea of mounting English sporting coachwork on the powerful U.S. Terraplane chassis. The result was the Eight—a fast sporting car available at a competitive price.

SS I, 1933


Engine2,552 cc, straight-six
Top speed75 mph (121 km/h)

William Lyons initially built motorcycle sidecars, and then bodies for Austin Sevens. His first complete car was the SS 1 coupé of 1931. It was also available as a tourer from 1933.

Daimler LQ20 Special, 1934


Engine2,700 cc, straight-six
Top speed75 mph (121 km/h)

Daimler’s owner-driver range had Lanchester-derived engines, fluid flywheel transmission, and servo brakes. Unlike the light Special tourer shown here, the cars were usually heavy-bodied sedans.

Lagonda 3-liter, 1933


Engine3,181 cc, straight-six
Top speed82 mph (132 km/h)

Lagonda found its luxury tourers hard to sell in the recession, but its 3-liter model was still a fine sporting car that performed well. It offered pre-selector transmission as an option.

Mercedes-Benz 540K, 1936


Engine5,401 cc, straight-eight
Top speed106 mph (171 km/h)

Twice the price of a V16 Cadillac, the Mercedes-Benz 540K was a magnificent grand tourer with all-independent suspension, power brakes, and a supercharged engine that gave 180 bhp.

Hotchkiss AM80S, 1933


Engine3,485 cc, straight-six
Top speed90 mph (145 km/h)

Hotchkiss built fine sporting cars, of which the AM80S had the most powerful engine, at 100 bhp; later versions of this car triumphed twice in the Monte Carlo Rally.

Hotchkiss 680, 1936


Engine3,015 cc, straight-six
Top speed85 mph (137 km/h)

Hotchkiss introduced new streamlined bodies and synchromesh gears for its 1935 3-liter model, making a fine modern tourer. Hydraulic brakes featured briefly in 1936.

Alvis Speed 20, 1932


Engine2,511 cc, straight-six
Top speed89 mph (143 km/h)

The Speed 20 series was Alvis’s attempt to rival Bentley’s upmarket models. These powerful three-carburetor cars were attractive and desirable sports tourers, rather than outright sports cars.

Alvis Speed 25, 1937


Engine3,571 cc, straight-six
Top speed97 mph (156 km/h)

Alvis refined the Speed 20 with independent front suspension and an all-synchromesh transmission. It then added a larger engine and servo brakes to create this Speed 25.

Jensen S-type, 1937


Engine3,622 cc, V8
Top speed81 mph (130 km/h)

The S-type was the first car made by brothers Alan and Richard Jensen, who began as coachbuilders. They offered it as a drophead coupé, sedan, or tourer, and with a 2.2-liter engine option.

Triumph Dolomite Roadster, 1938


Engine1,991 cc, straight-six
Top speed80 mph (129 km/h)

With its three-carburetor engine and waterfall grille, the Walter Belgrove-designed Dolomite was a striking car. Accommodation was three seats abreast in the front, and two-seats stored behind

Pelage D6-75, 1938


Engine2,998 cc, straight-six
Top speed95 mph (153 km/h)

Despite near bankruptcy and a takeover by Delahaye in 1935, Delage continued making superb sporting cars throughout the 1930s. This replica TT version is more sporty than most D6-75s.


It is a quote. The Definitive Visual History Of The Automobile 2011

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