Alvis – The Car Maker That Refuses to Die

Neo Alvis TD21
Image courtesy of Norbert Wisden

The postman’s just been, and in among them is a pile of model cars – I really must stop browsing auction sites! In this set, however, is an Alvis TD21 in metallic blue – it really is lovely.

As ever, that started bringing back memories. I’d always loved the shape of this car since seeing the Coventry Transport Museum’s TE21 when they still occupied space in the Herbert Art Gallery (how to age myself!). There weren’t many cars there but, to this young child’s eyes, the sleek elegance was captivating, and I wanted one.

A proud Coventry manufacturer

I’m not alone in that, of course. Alvis, a proud Coventry manufacturer, had been in the business of producing top quality automobiles since the 1920s, having been formed in 1919. They moved to Holyhead Road, Coventry, and built up an enviable reputation for fast, quality, and stylish tourers. The war saw their factory bombed, but car production resumed after the war. Focus was more on the aircraft and military side of its business however and, after a takeover by Rover in the mid 1960s, car production halted soon after. I remember being driven past Baginton airfield, seeing the famous red triangle Alvis badge on one of the buildings, and wondering if car production would ever start again. Ah, the fantasies of youth… or maybe not.

For this is not the end of the story. In 1968 a management buyout saw a relocation to Kenilworth, along with the complete stock of spares, the car records (all 22,000 of them), and over 50,000 works drawings, technical data sheets and correspondence files. The company was called Red Triangle in honour of that famous Alvis badge, and they ensured support was forthcoming for Alvis car owners from that point on.

Built in Kenilworth

Furthermore, the Alvis Car Company (sister company to Red Triangle) announced in 2010 that the 4.3litre model would be resurrected, in a ‘continuation’ series to note the over 70 year gap between its ‘final’ production and resurrection. ‘New’ models have continued aplenty, with the Graber Super Coupe announced just recently, and further models expected in 2022.

It seems, then, that I’m not alone in finding that style timeless. While I might have to make do with a model of the car rather than the real thing, the aesthetic still holds, the craftmanship is still top quality, and it shows that in all manner of ways Coventry and Warwickshire, Britain’s motor manufacturing centre for so many years, can still turn out products that are desirable, and show that its heritage has a place in the modern world.

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