Alvis had a ‘good’ World War II, switching from the specialist car market to the manufacture of aero engines thus ensuring a healthy profit. But the war had shaken up society, creating a more egalitarian climate in which the minority privilege of elite sports cars and luxury tourers had no place.
This top-end specialist market had been Alvis’s customer base so it isn’t surprising that the company folded; the only wonder is how it was able to give such a long-lasting swansong.
Alvis’s final cars were an imaginative line of 3 litre saloons and drophead coupes, starting with the TA21 in 1950 and ending with the TF21 in 1966 — the last-ever Alvis car. Alvis’s short-stroke six-cylinder 3 litre engine supplied plenty of power whatever the revs (150 bhp in the TF21) but carriage work was a dying art and Alvis were only able to go into production by going abroad — to renowned Swiss coachbuilder Hermann Graber.
Together with Mulliner Park Ward, by now a subsidiary of Rolls Royce, Graber saved the day. He built some stupendous one-off models while Mulliner produced the rest in batches to his modified design.
The TF21 was the model with which the company closed its doors on the car industry for good, with not a whimper but, rather, a thundering great bang. Though it is generally agreed that the apotheosis of the 3 litre series was a remarkably beautiful Graber-inspired TD21, there is something incredibly special about the ilk 21. Only 106 were ever made and the experience of sitting behind the wheel of this luxurious motor easily beats driving a contemporaneous Jaguar or Bentley.
Alvis faded from the car market with its reputation still at its height. Sadly the company was swallowed up by British Leyland in 1967 and reverted to general engineering.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
2,993 cc Straight Six
Top speed of 120 mph (193 km/h)
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Founded in Coventry by engineer T G John (1880-1946) originally a naval architect, Alvis made exclusive cars for 47 years (1920-1967) which are renowned for their character and the high quality of their workmanship. They have survived well and are still driven in competition racing. A TF21 drophead coupe in good condition can cost around $65,000.