The Alvis Car Company is a quintessentially British marque that, from the very beginning of production in 1919, desired to build the highest quality, handcrafted automobiles for a discerning clientele. Unlike the opulent Rolls-Royce or muscular Bentley, Alvis preferred to remain somewhat understated in its product offerings, appealing to more conservative buyers. That’s not to suggest that Alvis cars were devoid of performance or sophisticated style, however, they had a certain understated character that was undeniably British. Alvis was not afraid to push the boundaries of technology. The firm produced an innovative front-wheel-drive racing car, which won its class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans 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 road cars had a reputation for robust build quality. Not unlike the automobiles of Bristol or Daimler, Alvis was a luxury grand touring car for the thinking man.
After spending the war years supplying aero engines, Alvis returned to car production in earnest in the late 1940s. In the early 1950s, the new TA-21 debuted with a brand new chassis and 3-liter engine. This platform and engine would serve as the primary underpinnings for all subsequent models until Alvis production ceased in 1967. The TA-21 was noted for its pre-war style coachwork, but hints of the future began to emerge when Graber of Switzerland produced a neat, fully-enveloped, slab-sided body on a TC-21 chassis. The relationship with Graber blossomed with the TC108/G, mechanically identical to the previous model, but with thoroughly modern coachwork.
The TD-21 first appeared in 1958 with a new styling that brought Alvis into the modern age. Much of the styling was a carryover from the Graber-designed TD-21; however, the bodies were constructed by Park Ward. In 1962, Alvis brought a Series II model, with various styling and mechanical improvements to further refine the driving experience. Series II cars benefit from four-wheel Dunlop disc brakes, and the same refined and silky 115 horsepower 3-litre inline six as its predecessor. The most notable changes include a revised front end, with faired-in fog lamps that double as air inlets for the ventilation system, and some subtle tidying-up around the back. According to Alvis expert and author David Culshaw, the TD21 Series II is considered to be one of the very best of all the Three-Litre variants. For today’s enthusiasts, Alvis remains a bit of a dark horse for its relative rarity in North America; however, their elegance and sublime road manners make them a fantastic choice for enthusiasts of the more esoteric marques.
Our featured 1962 Alvis TD21 is lovely and desirable Series II model with a manual gearbox, converted to Drophead Coupe specification as part of a body-off restoration. The conversion used original coupe and drophead donors, seamlessly combined with superb results. It is a striking example, finished in attractive metallic gold over a biscuit tan interior. This is one of only 289 Series II models produced (compared to 784 series one cars), and it comes most recently from an avid collector and restorer of classic British automobiles. It displays excellent quality finishes and detailing, and has earned numerous accolades at events such as the 2018 Atlanta Concours and other British car events. The presentation is crisp and attractive, with high-quality gold paintwork and excellent chrome plating. Period correct details include Lucas Fog Ranger lamps in the body, and factory optional chrome wire wheels.
The luxurious interior features large swaths of supple biscuit tan leather and dark burl walnut trim on the dash and door panel tops. The leather is beautifully finished, with only the slightest creasing on the driver’s seat from use, while the passenger seat and large, roomy rear seats are taut and fresh. Dark brown Wilton wool carpets complement the tobacco brown-colored canvas hood. Burl walnut on the dash and door panel trims is excellent, and the proper Smiths instruments appear freshly restored. The folding drophead hood is insulated and fully lined in broadcloth for superior sound insulation and comfort. As a southern car, the discreetly integrated air conditioning system is a welcome addition.
Legendary for its refinement and strength, the 3-litre Alvis inline six is tidy and nicely presented in the engine bay. This car’s period-correct engine is updated with an alternator, power steering, aforementioned A/C, and Evans waterless coolant for some additional piece of mind for warmer climates. The engine is mated to the rare and highly desirable ZF 5-speed manual, which was first offered as an option on the Series II TD21 and delivered a welcome boost in reliability and performance over the older Austin-sourced 4-speed. The engine runs very well, and the car feels nicely sorted for regular enjoyment.
This is a highly attractive and thoroughly usable example of what many Alvis fans feel is the best of the 3-litre breed. With its refined 3-litre engine, 5-speed manual gearbox and useful mechanical upgrades, this Alvis is ready for effortless touring on the road, while its gorgeous presentation makes it welcome for display in regional concours and club events. However its next keeper uses it, this TD21 is a proud representative of the famous red triangle.