The Austrian Alpine Rally or Alpenfahrt was first staged in 1910 and the circuitous route from Vienna across Austria, over the alps, down into Italy and back made it one of the toughest of its time.
Perhaps the one with the greatest British significance was that of 1913 won by a Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost driven by famous aviator James Radley. His, along with 3 official Rolls-Royce works cars, generally finished each leg first and their overall performance led to the coining of the famous phrase “The Best Car in the World”.
This 1913 edition has inspired other subsequent re-runs in 1973, 2003 and 2013 but the 80th anniversary outing in 1993 had a particular relevance to some of the current team at Fiennes Classics who were at Clanfield Restoration at the time. Nik, our main Paintshop specialist played a key part and Tim, one of our engineering and panel craft team, was also involved in bringing the coachworks of the 1913 winner back to its former glory. Sadly, other people who had a significant role in that restoration have since passed on but Fiennes Classics customers still benefit from Nik and Tim’s expertise today.
The original Radley car, Silver Ghost chassis number 2260E, had been acquired by John Kennedy and arrived for restoration as a rolling chassis, two front wings, the unique James Radley “Speed Nymph” mascot and just one surviving piece of coachwork – a piece of timber frame from the body that sat below the windscreen. The challenge was to recreate the original which could only be achieved by using old library pictures as references and scaling up from the chassis and the parts that did survive.
Images here show how that work progressed and the finished car before and during the rally itself.
The overall epic restoration project was to eventually take 5 years and during that time John Kennedy was intent on staging something that was as close a re-enactment as possible to that of 1913 and much more so than had taken place in 1973. Having researched this thoroughly the objective was to drive the same route, at the same time of year and to drive through historic old towns previously closed to motorists.
Thanks to his inspiration and efforts the project became a reality and, with the support of the RREC and an organising committee with David Dudley as Chairman, ultimately attracted 50 cars to take part. The majority were Silver Ghosts of the period from 1911-1925 with the “newest” car being a Phantom II of 1933. All finished after a 15 day route and the original James Radley Silver Ghost 2260E, now in the hands of John and Rae Kennedy, had once again conquered the Alpenfahrt.