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TC108G to TF21

By 1955 the problem was not finding customers, it was finding production capacity for bodywork. The reduction in taxation on new cars in 1953 had fuelled a boom in new car sales. This in turn drove take overs of the remaining independent coachbuilders so reducing the availability of low volume production bodies. Whilst car makers such as Jowett where forced out of business, Alvis were saved by having access to the striking designs of Swiss Coachbuilder Graber.

The TC21/100 morphed into the TC108G with a license built version of the Graber body for a short run of cars 37 cars between 1955 and 1958, before production switched to the definitive TD21 built by the London concern of Mulliner Park Ward. Shown for the first time at the 1959 Motor Show, the TD21 was a further refinement of the Graber body style for mass production. It was this basic body style that was to carry 3L production until its end in 1967. Compared with the earlier 3L cars, the TD21 featured integration of the bodywork and chassis together to produce a stiffer chassis which improve road holding. Other changes were introduced, including an automatic gearbox and a further increase in power to 115bhp, which was matched with the introduction of Disk brakes. The TD21 was visually refreshed in 1962 with the earlier cars being referred to as Series 1 and the new cars as Series II.

1964 saw the introduction of the TE21, which featured a suite of revision, including the visually most significant feature the twin stacked 5” headlights, but also included an increase in power to 130 bhp achieved through changes to the valves, a revised exhaust and larger carbs. This was evolution and not revolution and matched what the demand was from the Alvis customer base, whilst minimising the cost of staying competitive with the likes of Jaguar.

There was one final model to be delivered, the TF21 which saw engine power raised via triple carbs and an increase in compression ratio to 154bhp. To most these cars are indistinguishable from the TE21 and unless the bonnet is raised, the only obvious visual difference is the instrument binnacle has moved from the centre of the dashboard to in front of the driver.

Productions of the cars were 1070 TD21, 352 TE21 and 106 TF 21s between 1959 and 1967. Though the styling is understated for the period, their rarity and the correctness of the proportions mean that they are cars that draw an audience, whether moving or stationary.

It was this combination that drew in the owners of these last of the long line of Alvis cars. As ever, the owners were well heeled secure individuals, content with their positions and without a need to advertise themselves. Stars of the screen such as Tony Curtis owned one as did Fleetwood Mac drummer Mick Fleetwood, rumoured to have bought his TE21 using proceeds from the Reading Festival carried in a brown paper bag. Prince Philip’s TD21 Srs1, with a heightened windshield to allow him to drive it wearing hat is to be seen at Sandringham.

The cars continue to be popular on the Silver Screen in their own right. TV’s Kingdom drove a TE21 DHC through the series and another DHC was featured in the screen adaptation of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. And more recently the car has been the personal driver of Jack Davenport of ITV’s Breathless, a early 1960s Doctor and Nurses piece featuring a lot of style.

These cars drive well on the modern roads, especially the later cars fitted with power steering and all round disk brakes. They are all powerful and quick enough to maintain the pace of any European Motorway. As grand tourers they offered more space than rivals from Aston Martin for much less money then as now.

There were attempts to prologue the models existence. Talks with Aston Martin and a trial fitting with a Lagonda engine were considered and rejected. As was a last minute attempt to continue production using a V8 Motor in a TD21 chassis and modified bodywork; resulting in the Burns Special, but by 1967, it was all over.

TC108G TD21 TD21 Series 2 TE21 TF21 Burns Special
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