Alvis

1935 Alvis Speed 20 SC
1935 Alvis Speed 20 SC

Classic Alvis Tyres

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Alvis History

From 1919 through 1967, Alvis Car and Engineering Firm Ltd was a British manufacturing company based in Coventry. Aside from passenger autos, the firm also manufactured race cars, aviation engines, armoured cars, and other armoured warfare vehicles.

1954 Alvis TA 21G Coupe
1954 Alvis TA 21G Coupe

Thomas George John (1880–1946) started the original firm, T.G. John and Company Ltd., in 1919. Stationary engines, carburettors, and motor-powered scooters were the company's first products. The more recognised inverted red triangle with the word "Alvis" arose as a result of objections from the Avro aircraft firm, whose emblem was similar to the initial winged green triangle. The firm formally renamed itself The Alvis Car and Engineering Company Ltd on December 14, 1921.

Over the years, there has been a lot of discussion about the true origin of Alvis. It was suggested that it might be derived from the Norse mythical weaponsmith Alvss, or it could be a combination of the terms "aluminium" and "vis" meaning "strong" in Latin. Geoffrey de Freville said in 1921 that the title had no true meaning and was selected merely because it could be spoken readily in any language. De Freville's initial engine design was a four-cylinder motor with aluminium pistons and pressure lubrication, uncommon for the time. The Alvis 10/30 was the first automobile to use de Freville's engine. It was an instant hit, and it cemented the company's reputation for exceptional craftsmanship and performance.

The six-cylinder Alvis 14.75 was introduced in 1927, and it served as the foundation for a lengthy series of elegant six-cylinder Alvis automobiles built until the onset of WWII. These automobiles were both stylish and technologically advanced. In 1933, servo-assisted brakes were introduced, along with independent front suspension and the world's first all-synchromesh transmission. Alvis, like many other premium engineering firms of the period, did not manufacture its own coachwork, instead of depending on coachbuilders.

1954 Alvis TC 21-100 HD Coupe
1954 Alvis TC 21-100 HD Coupe

By the start of World War II, the company's name had been simplified to Alvis Ltd, and it had established aeroplane and armoured vehicle divisions. During the 1930s and 1940s, Smith-Clarke created various models, such as the six-cylinder Speed 20, the Alvis 4.3 Litre, and the Speed 25. Following the onset of war in Europe in September 1939, car manufacture was temporarily halted, but it was eventually resumed, and manufacture of the 12/70, Crested Eagle, Speed 25, and 4.3 Litre persisted well into 1940. The automobile plant was substantially damaged on 14 November 1940 after multiple Luftwaffe bombing raids on Coventry, however the weapons complex, oddly, was spared. Much valuable cutting equipment and other machinery were lost, and automobile manufacture was halted for the remainder of the war, only to resume in late 1946.

The TA 14, a four-cylinder variant based on the pre-war 12/70, saw manufacturing continue. The TA 14 was a sturdy, dependable, and beautiful automobile that fit well into the post-war ethos of austerity in Britain, but much of the glamour that had been attached to the powerful and sports pre-war versions had vanished, and life for a specialised car company had become difficult. Not only had Alvis lost their vehicle factory, but so had many of the pre-war coachbuilders, with those that did being soon bought by rival manufacturers. The quest for durable and moderately priced coachwork dominated Alvis' postwar existence.

In 1965, Rover acquired a majority stake in Alvis, and a Rover-designed mid-engined V8 coupé prototype known as the P6BS was reported to be the future Alvis model, but this, too, was shelved with the purchase by British Leyland. All Alvis vehicle design drawings, customer information, stock of components, and surviving staff were handed to Red Triangle, a firm created by ex-workers of Alvis to offer parts and servicing for their automobiles, in 1968. Alvis Limited was absorbed into British Leyland as part of Rover but was purchased by United Scientific Holdings plc in 1981. The firm's name was changed to Alvis plc as a result. The formal transfer of the Alvis vehicle trademarks was handled by Red Triangle in 2009. The business said the 4.3 Litre Short Chassis tourer will be available again the following year.


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