The Alvis Car Company is one of those quintessentially British marques that, essentially from day one in 1919, set out with the goal of building high quality, coachbuilt automobiles for a discerning clientele. Unlike the opulent Rolls Royce or muscular Bentley, Alvis preferred to remain more discreet in its offerings and appealed to a more conservative clientele. That’s not to say they were not innovative or stylish. Alvis produced the first front-wheel-drive racing car, which proceeded to win its class at the 24 Hours of LeMans in 1928. Lovers of the modern manual gearbox have Alvis to thank for their introduction of the very first fully-synchronized transmission in 1933; followed closely by servo assisted brakes. Alvis road cars often wore gorgeous custom coachwork by Britain’s finest coachbuilders, and standard cars were elegant and robustly built. Not unlike Bristol or Daimler, Alvis was an understated luxury car for the thinking man.
After spending the War years supplying aero engines, Alvis returned to car production in earnest in the late 1940s. By the early 1950s, the new TA-21 debuted based on a brand new chassis and 3-liter engine. This platform and engine would provide the underpinnings for all subsequent models until production ceased in 1967. Early cars very conservative, pre-war style coachwork, but hints at the future appeared with some Graber-bodied TC-21s. The TD-21 debuted in 1958 with a fully enveloped body that brought Alvis into the modern age. The evolutionary TE-21 appeared in 1963 with the biggest change coming in the form of a Mercedes-inspired stacked quad headlight arrangement. The rear quarter panels were subtly curved in at the bottom and the interior reworked for greater comfort and ease of use. Much of the styling was a carryover from the Graber designed TD-21, but in the case of the TE-21, the bodies were built by Park Ward. Mechanically, a few minor tweaks were made to the twin-carb OHV inline six, bringing horsepower up to a healthy 130bhp at 5,000 rpm. The Alvis block and bottom end is a tough unit, and capable of sustained high speeds while delivering silky smooth operation. For today’s enthusiasts, Alvis remains a bit of a dark horse and is a relative rarity in North America, but their elegant looks and sublime road manners make them a wonderful choice for enthusiasts of eclectic classics.
This 1964 TE-21 Drophead Coupe is a very fine later-model Alvis. It is finished in a very attractive opalescent silver-blue (known as Alice Blue) over an elegant smoke gray interior and a blue Haartz cloth top. Originally a RHD specification car, it was converted by the leading marque experts at Red Triangle to left hand drive in 1996. More recently the car was sent back to the experts at Red Triangle where the car was also treated to a fully rebuilt 5-speed gearbox, new interior trim, new top and beautifully restored woodwork. Red Triangle are the foremost purveyors of the Alvis marque, as they were founded by ex-employees shortly after the factory closed, and to this day are in possession of all original records, drawings, blueprints and a massive array of original parts. It is as close as it comes to returning an Alvis to the works for service. The paintwork is in very good order following a bare metal respray in 2011 and panel fit is excellent, particularly for a hand-built, body on frame drophead coupe. Exterior chrome trim is limited to that on the bumpers, radiator shell and a few flashes on the body, with most items in excellent condition, though a few pieces show some moderate wear.
The spacious and luxurious interior is beautifully trimmed in handsome dark gray Connolly hides, gray Wilton carpets and accented with beautiful burl walnut trim. Correct original instruments grace the gleaming wood dash, and an original radio and speaker are also fitted. The large three-spoke steering wheel and 5-speed gearbox hint at a slightly sporty side of this elegant Alvis.
Lifting the bonnet reveals the tried and tested 3-liter inline six, which is clean and very well-presented. It wears twin SU carburetors, the correct original air box, and is finished properly with a gloss-black rocker cover.
If a Bentley seems too brash and a Jaguar too pedestrian, the Alvis TE-21 may just be the car for you. This wonderful and handsome automobile has been fully sorted by the experts at Red Triangle and is sure to charm its next keeper. The sale includes records and receipts well organized in a Red Triangle binder.