Alvis - The Company
After taking over a small Coventry carburettor manufacturer named Holley Bros. the original company, TG John and Co. Ltd., was founded in 1919. It originally made stationary engines and motor scooters. The company's founder, naval architect T.G. John, was approached by Geoffrey de Freville with advanced designs for a 4-cylinder engine with aluminium pistons and pressure lubrication.
It is thought that de Freville proposed the name Alvis combining the words "aluminium" and "vis" (meaning "strength" in Latin) although de Freville himself denied it.
The first car model, the 10/30, gained a reputation for quality and performance for which the company became renown. After a trademark challenge from Avro Aviation whose logo was similar to the first Alvis winged triangle, a change was made to the now familiar inverted red triangle incorporating the word 'Alvis'. In 1921, the company became the Alvis Car and Engineering Company Ltd. and moved production to Holyhead Road, Coventry.
In 1922 Captain GT Smith-Clarke joined from Daimler as Chief Engineer and was soon joined by WM Dunn as Chief Draughtsman. Together they were to play a vital role in future the success of the company.
Smith-Clarke’s first task was to develop the first 10/30 side-valve engine and by 1923 the famous overhead-valve 12/50 was in production becoming one of the most iconic vintage sports cars of all time with exhilarating performance and rugged reliability.
Following racing success at Le Mans in 1928 Alvis produced one of the world’s first front wheel drive production models with overhead camshaft and an optional supercharger.
At the end of the 1920’s the first six-cylinder engine was in production and became the foundation for the large six-cylinder cars produced throughout the 1930’s and up to the Second World War. In true Alvis tradition these cars were technically advanced with the world's first all-synchromesh gearbox, independent front suspension and servo assisted brakes.
The long bonnet and sleek chassis line of the six-cylinder Speed 20, the Speed 25 and the 4.3 Litre models gave coachbuilders the opportunity to design the most stunning coachwork. Similar to other luxury car companies of the time Alvis were essentially automobile engineers, designing and producing all the mechanical aspects of the car with bodywork design and manufacture carried out by selected coachbuilders such as Cross and Ellis, Charlesworth and Vanden Plas. Some cars were fitted with one-off bespoke coachwork by London coachbuilders such as Lancefield and Offord. In 1936 aero-engine and armoured vehicle production was added the company name was changed to Alvis Ltd.
World War Two
On November 14th 1940 the car factory was severely damaged by the German Luftwaffe’s raid on Coventry although the armaments factory was relatively undamaged. Car production was suspended for the duration of the war only resuming during the latter part of 1946. But Alvis carried out war production on aero engines (as sub-contractor of Rolls-Royce) and other aircraft equipment. As their part in the war effort Alvis were responsible for operating 21 'shadow' factories.
Car production resumed with the reliable and attractive four-cylinder TA14 model based on the pre-war 12/70. Capt. Smith-Clarke retired in 1950 and Willie Dunn took over as chief engineer.
In 1950 a new chassis with a 3 litre six-cylinder engine was announced and this became the basis of all the remaining Alvis models. The new model was called the TA21, with saloon bodies by Mulliners and Tickford producing the drop heads. In addition, the Swiss coachbuilder Graber was producing some of the most beautiful coachwork for this chassis.
In 1955, after negation with Graber, Alvis decided to base its coachwork on Graber designs and the first TC108/G model were built by Willowbrook of Loughborough and in 1958, with the launch of the TD21, production was contracted to Park Ward, coachbuilders for Rolls-Royce and Bentley. They continued to manufacture coachwork for the TD21 range, the TE21 and finally the TF21.
Rover took a controlling interest in Alvis in 1965 and TF21 was launched in 1966. It had a top speed of 127mph - the fastest Alvis ever produced.
In 1968 the passenger car interests were relocated to Kenilworth along with the complete stock of spares, nearly 22,000 Car Records and over 50,000 works drawings, technical data sheets and correspondence files and as Red Triangle they have continued to provide support for passenger car owners to the present day.
The armoured fighting vehicle production continued under various ownerships until 2004 when it was absorbed into defense giant BAE Systems.
The Alvis Car Company has now resumed production of the famous Alvis 4.3 Litre model, 72 years after the last 4.3 Litre car was produced.
This Alvis model was the fastest non-supercharged production car of its day, and the all-British “Continuation Series” will live up to that heritage. Manufactured from the original works drawings, the car will be powered by the Alvis 4.3 Litre six cylinder engine faithfully produced to the 1936 design and retaining all its period character and quality, but utilising modern technology for emission compliance as well as delivering even more power.