The Alvis Stalwart - A Gentle Giant
Need a truck? Want a boat? Have to have a capable off-roader? Congratulations. You're one of the very few who can even start to justify owning ....... A STOLLY!
How to win friends and influence people - sell the family car and buy an Alvis Stalwart (right). No need to worry about side impact bars or driver air bags, and there's loads of room for the shopping in the back. With prices rumoured to start at 1500 stg plus sales tax you should be looking for "one careful owner, never used on-road".
Once upon a time, many years ago now, there was a young boy who used to collect toy cars, Dinky, Corgi, Matchbox, and so on. He had other hobbies and pastimes, fishing, football, falling out of trees, the usual stuff. But the model cars were held in high esteem, and none more so than the Matchbox Mercedes-Benz Unimog. One day, this young chap was peering through the window of his local Matchbox models stockist, when something in there caught his eye. It was something strange, bizarre even, but at the same time uniquely attractive. It had six wheels and looked like a cross between a truck, a ship, and a sci-fi "moon rover". It was painted white, and carried down each side the B.P. logo, along with the single evocative word "EXPLORATION" in large capital letters. He had to have it. The young lad cobbled together his life savings, and duly purchased the model truck. It turned out to be an Alvis Stalwart, and it was immediately elevated to no.1 favourite, above the Unimog.
Well eventually, the models disappeared, passed down I suppose
to some younger collector, probably at that age when girls, acne,
youth clubs, and getting hold of beer, become subjects of
primary importance. It was a good few years later that I
saw my first Stalwart "in the flesh", in the woods at Tong,
between Leeds and Bradford. A Stalwart in action is a sight,
and sound, to behold. It is a machine with real presence, a
gentle giant of an off-roader.
Technical Specification - Alvis Stalwart
Despite it's modern appearance, the first Stalwart in fact saw light of day way back in 1959. It was not, however, until 1966 that the vehicle entered service with the British Army. It's role was that of general amphibious transport truck, many units being fitted with a hydraulic crane and raised central canvas tilt support. Unfortunately, rapid technical advancement in helicopter design rendered its usefulness in all-terrain load carrying prematurely obsolete.
You don't so much "get in" a Stalwart, as more sort of "climb aboard" the thing. Cab entry involves scrambling up onto the roof, using hubs, tyres, and strategically placed rungs, and then lowering yourself in through one of two circular "submarine" style hatches. Once inside, you are confronted by an array of dials, levers, and controls. The steering wheel is large and rather "flat". Gears are on the driver's right, and the handbrake on the left. Various other controls, notably reverse, diff lock, winch, and the marine propulsion controls, are by the hips. The driver sits, unusually, in the middle, with one passenger seat on either side. There are no doors, only the roof hatches, however one side window on each side will slide up and down, and can be locked in any mid position. It is very much a "forward control" vehicle, the driver sitting ahead of the leading wheels. With all that weight and 3 pairs of wheels behind you, it must be a very strange sensation to reach to top of a steep climb only to continue skywards, the nose becoming nicely "airborne".
For such a large beast the Stalwart is a formidable cross-country vehicle. Approach and depart angles are good, maximum speed on land is claimed to be 40mph, and trenches up to five feet wide can be tackled with impunity. Before taking to the water the operator must undertake a veritable plethora of tasks, chores, and checks, including switching on the bilge pumps! Manoeuverability in water is good, steering being achieved by a combination of vectored thrust from the PTO driven twin Dowty water-jet propulsion units, and the road wheels. Speed through water is said to be about 6 knots.
So how does it all work? I'm glad you asked me that. The "chassis" is, in fact, the hull, and is made from steel, of frameless construction. Suspension is independent all round, utilising torsion bars with parallel links. There are a total of 22 telescopic hydraulic dampers. The engine is mounted at the rear, under the load deck, access being gained via six lift-off hatches. Drive is taken forward through a 12 inch Borg and Beck clutch, to the 5-speed primary gearbox, which incorporates PTO's for winch and marine drive. Forward again to the transfer box, which incorporates the reverse and a "No-Spin" diff, the purpose of which is to limit the slippage between left and right wheel sets. This diff can be locked, to fix all six wheels as one solid unit. From here drive is taken out sideways to the centre wheel bevel boxes, then on to the front and rear wheel pairs by further side mounted prop-shafts. Axle half shafts fitted with Tracta CV joints at each end join bevel boxes to wheel hub reduction gears. Complicated isn't it ? Yes, it is, and many will, by now, have spotted the reason why private Stalwart ownership could be the stuff of nightmares. All three wheels on each side are locked as one mechanical unit. If driven on hard surfaces, the amount of transmission wind-up generated is self destructive. As the Army were quick to find out, the bevel boxes bear the brunt. This vehicle is no boulevard cruiser.
Not put off by that ? There's more ....... A full tank of 90 gallons can reasonably be expected to take you just over 400 miles. Yes, that's 4.5 mpg, driven lustily. There are 5 gallons of oil in the engine, 3 more in the gearbox, 15 in total of hydraulic fluid. There are countless more fluids and lubricants required all over the place. There are seals, unions, hoses, joints, gaskets and such, in more places than you can shake a stick at. Go swimming and all those fluids may, nay probably will, need replacing.
So there you have it. Stalwart by name, but not necessarily by nature. One thing is clear, in order to keep one of these wonderful machines running, you need more than a domestic garage and a socket set. Ideally, you will have access to a serious engineering shop, a second donor vehicle would be a good idea, and a generously proportioned low-loader is a must, to cart the thing around. Obviously, you'll have a class I heavy goods vehicle licence for the low-loader, and it goes without saying that you'll need a very healthy bank balance. Where to play ? Might I suggest purchasing 10,000 acres of Scotland, preferably with a small loch or two thrown in for good measure ?
If anyone reading this happens to have a Stalwart, and all the other prerequisites mentioned above, I will willingly travel some distance in order to write the sequel to this tale ........... "The Alvis Stalwart - What it's like to drive one"!
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