ALVIS CAR CLUB of VICTORIA

 

A BRIEF HISTORY of ALVIS


NOTE This is not intended to be an exhaustive history of Alvis but to provide some insight into the company’s products. For further information there are a number of books available on the company and its many acheivements: (Follow the links for photographs of the variuos models and for more information see reading list below ).

Alvis in the 1920's
The early years of Alvis are a little vague however what we can be sure of is that T.G John, a Marine Engineer, acquired the Holley Brothers (Coventry) carburettor company in 1919 and renamed it T.G. John Limited. A short stint producing a motor scooter called the Stafford Mobile Pup followed by the Buckingham cycle car, lead to the production of the 10/30 using a design purchased from Geoffrey de Freville. The first of this model was introduced in 1920.
Car production through the 1920’s was relatively straight forward with the initial design being continuously improved and refined, progressing through 11/40, 12/40 and then the long lived 12/50.
3,612 12/50’s where produced, with mainly minor but some major improvements, from 1923 until 1930 when it was upgraded to the 12/60.
1928 saw the introduction of the six cylinder engine, the early car’s being essentially 12/50’s with two extra cylinders (14.75) and then a slightly improved version called the Silver Eagle. This theme continued with the Vintage Silver Eagles through 1929 to1931 with continuing improvements (which were also incorporated into 12/50’s & 60’s of about the same period).
The major step away from this theme where the Front Wheel Drive cars introduced in 1928 and continuing until 1931. This was the first FWD production car by any manufacturer. These, in the main, are of four cylinder OHC design however a small number of straight 8’s where produced in 1931.
Alvis in the 1930's

During the 1930’s, Alvis produced a bewildering number of models and I am not going to attempt to describe its tangled complexity. Instead, I direct the reader to the excellent “family tree” produced by the Alvis Owners Club’s Technical Director, Nick Simpson {link to family tree}.
Close examination of the many models will reveal the quality engineering and workmanship in the components and there is a similarity through most of the models, with some exceptions.
One major component introduced in 1933 was the four speed, all synchromesh gearbox, the first of its type produced. It was said at the time that the Alvis gearbox was more expensive to produce than a complete Morris car. Another development in 1933 was the introduction of Independent Front Suspension.
Until the late 1930’s Alvis engines comprised of four major sections, cast iron head and block (two sections) with aluminium castings for the crankcase and sump (with the exception of the early side valve cars which had the head and block as a single casting). 1936 saw the introduction of the 6 cylinder Silver Crest and a move to a new style of engine comprising of three sections, cast iron for the head and now combined block/ crankcase and with an aluminium sump. This design was also used to produce the four cylinder engine used in the 12/70, introduced in 1937.

Alvis, 1940 and beyond

Post War England was a very different economy with a lot of infrastructure destroyed, including the Alvis Factory in Coventry, and the need to develop an export market to provide the income for recovery. In light of this Alvis introduced the TA14, an upgraded version of the 12/70, and considered by many to be a big step backwards in innovation from the expensive ”Speed” models of the 1930’s.
Although it could hardly be considered sporting in nature, the TA14 (and short lived TB14) had reasonable performance and proved to be the most popular Alvis produced, with 3313 manufactured in just three years, 1948 - 1950.
In 1950, production of the Three litre commenced and although it continued until 1967, the longest model run of any Alvis model, just 3,670 cars where manufactured across 9 model designations.
During its seventeen years in production, engine capacity remained unchanged however its performance continued to improve through various subtle upgrades to its design. Initially the engine produced 83 HP at 4,000 RPM however by the end of its life, with the TF21 it was producing 150Hp at 4,750RPM.
Alongside its car production the Alvis Engineering Company also manufactured a number of innovative medical machines, fighting vehicles, aero engines and many other products. With various mergers the Alvis logo finally disappeared when BAE Systems acquired the company in 2004 and integrated the fighting vehicles into its own branding. This was not the end however as Red Triangle Services was finally able to secure the rights to the name and logo and is continuing to produce spare parts and continuation vehicles under the Alvis banner.
Alvis was not a large car manufacturer, producing only 21,263 chassis in its 47 years of production, however it introduced a number of innovative designs and its products have proved to be popular amongst those who have had the honour of sampling them.

 

The text for the attached booklets (follow links above) was originally prepared by Charles Mackonachie
and extra text by Rex Harvey for an Alvis Owner Club publication entitled
’A year by year history of ALVIS with illustrations of car model types.’
Following an initiative by the Alvis Car Club of Victoria and the authority of
the authors, the original text has been retained and photographs of
‘Australian’ Alvis cars, with a few exceptions, have been used in the
production of this booklet.
The AOC booklet also had photographic and other material from Dave
Culshaw and his input is also acknowledged.
This booklet will provide a quick reference resource, dating significant
events and model runs for both the beginner and the seasoned Alvis
enthusiast.
Acknowledgement is also made to the many photographers whose art is
featured in this booklet.
John Lang
August 2009

For further information see one of the many ecellent books written by experts in the marque, some of which are listed below:

The Vintage Alvis, Peter Hull and Norman Johnson

The Alvis Car 1920 to 1966, Ken Day

The Story of the Red Triangle, Ken Day

Alvis Speed Models in Detail, Nick Walker

Alvis, Three Lite in Detail, David Culshaw

Alvis, the postwar Cars, John Price Williams

Alvis Cars in Competition, Clive Taylor

Alvis Cars 1946-1967, The Post War Years, John Fox

And many others