Alvis began in the years before the First World War, as its founder Thomas John began learning about production through Armstrong Whitworth Armaments and Siddeley-Deasey light cars. John then bought a small foundry in London and started producing cars. It’s unclear where the Alvis name came from, but some have speculated that it was a combination of “Al,” the chemical symbol for aluminum, with “vis,” the Latin word for strong. Alvises quickly gained a reputation for performance and reliability in the 1920s.
In the 1930s, the company built the Speed 20 and Speed 25 models, which were competitive with the Lagonda, Invicta and Bentley models of the day and favored by several coachbuilders.
After John passed away in 1946, a man by the name of J.J. Parkes took over the company. The Alvis factory had been destroyed by the German bombing raid over Coventry during the war, so Alvis moved to a different location and introduced the TA14 model. An updated version of the 1938 12/70 model, it features a 1,892 cc OHV four that made 65 bhp and could do an honest 75 mph. Body styles included drop head tourers by Tickford and Carbodies as well as sedans by Mulliner. A few coachbuilders also produced woody station wagons. By 1950, a little over 3,200 Alvis TA14s had been built.
The TB14 roadster came in 1948, but it had fairly awkward styling and only 100 were sold. A new 7-main bearing six-cylinder engine came two years later and was very well received, while the TA21 came in longer body styles that included handsome saloons and drop head coupes. Top speed rose to 95 mph and front suspension now featured coils and wishbones. A TC21 model gained dual carbs. In all, just over1,300 Alvis TA21s were built, including 302 drop head coupes and 757 TC21 saloons.
The final model in this series of postwar Alvises was the TC21/100, a faster and more handsome update known as the “Grey Lady.” It was capable of 100 mph. Alvis production was always on a fairly small scale and many examples remain in long-term ownership, so they don’t often come to market. Most six-cylinder cars offer adequate performance as well as elegant British coachbuilt styling, but offer quite a bit more exclusivity than the equivalent Jags or Bentleys.