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“An Alvis has an interesting effect on observers: they admire its gracious lines and respect its excellence and exclusivity, but without the envy or sarcasm that a more pretentious marque can induce.” Classic and Sports Car, October 2019.
As Alvis emerged from the Second War they found themselves reliant on a succession of fine if somewhat upright machines from the TA14 and TA21 to the TC21 ‘Grey Lady’, all with their roots firmly in the 1930s. As some sort of normality crept back into peoples’ lives and the car industry they commissioned the Swiss carrossier Graber to give the TC21 a much needed update to both its looks and performance and a ‘two birds with one stone’ re-body certainly did the trick. Launched appropriately at the Paris Motor Show in October 1955 the TC108G was lower, lighter and stiffer which ticked the performance box with over 100 MPH now possible, while its airy glasshouse and a la mode curvaceous body represented a considerable step up in the style stakes. The build of the thirty odd cars produced was split between Graber themselves for the European market and Willowbrook of Loughbrough for UK bound machines. An encouraging reception for the car resulted in Alvis looking to increase production though some quality and cost issues with Willowbrook forced them to find an alternative coachbuilder. With previous partners Mulliner and Tickford now wholly owned by Triumph and David Brown respectively, they selected Rolls-Royce and Bentley’s highly respected ‘builders Park Ward and in 1958 the subtly tweaked design was launched as the TD21. The retrospectively referred to Series 1 ran until 1961 with the Series 2 taking over until the TE21 arrived in 1963 by which time just one hundred and ninety-two drop head coupes had been built.
According to the Alvis Car Record (copy on file), Chassis number 26069, a right hand drive ‘Series 1’ TD21 drop head coupe, was originally painted in ‘Alice Blue’, a rather lovely pale metallic. This was complimented by pale blue leather and carpets plus a blue hood lined in grey cloth. Special mention is made of the ‘steel crankshaft’, 3.54:1 rear axle ratio and wire wheels and it was fitted with a Borg Warner automatic gearbox. It was first registered ‘XLE 45’ on 12th September 1959 to a Mr Robert Van Goethem of Harwood Terrace, Fulham. Mr Van Goethem apparently kept the car when he moved to Kenilworth in 1969 before selling it to its second owner, a Mr Timothy O’Conner of Northwood, Middlesex in 1971. When Mr O’Conner, a keen member of the Alvis Owners Club, emigrated to Australia in 1987 he took the Alvis with him. In amongst the copious documentation on file there is a ‘Certificate of Roadworthiness’ (the Australian equivalent of an MOT) and an invoice for rust-proofing, both from 1990 while invoices and insurance documents indicate that by 1999 it was owned and used on the road by the Sutherland family of Bonogin, Queensland. The vendor unearthed 26069 in covered storage at a property in the Australian Gold Coast Hinterland with a pair of left hand drive TD21s in 2013 (please see the sunny photos in the gallery). Having rehomed the left hand drive machines, he bought the Alvis back to the UK as a Personal Import when he returned home in April 2019 and placed it back into storage. Sufficient time has now elapsed for the Alvis to be sold with no further tax or duty to be paid.
Many of you will have noticed that the TD now sports the integrated front fog lights and air intakes of a Series 2 machine (Berlinetta clientele being particularly well educated and observant) though only the really eagle-eyed amongst you will have spotted that it is also fitted with the lighter weight aluminium framed doors, again from the second generation TD21s - a fairly common upgrade due to the weight of the original ash framed versions causing problems with their attachment to the car. Bills on file from Red Triangle Autoservices for Series 2 front wings and various other items suggest that the updated bodywork was fitted in 1982 and a quotation dating from July 1985 indicates that the doors were installed then. The same quotation also seems to point to the Alvis being treated to a new hood, carpets and a respray.
A later, more powerful TE21 engine, along with the desirable ZF five speed manual gearbox, has also been installed along with the transformative ZF power steering system fitted to the later TD21s. The engine was sourced from a TE21, Chassis Number 27218 and though it has not been possible to ascertain categorically when this desirable upgrade was carried out, an invoice for carburettor tuning dated 6th July 1984 refers to 26069 already running the TE engine and various bills on file from Red Triangle point to the transplant having taken place in mid-1982.
As offered today the Alvis requires a full restoration though its completeness and the integrity of many elements of the car will hopefully make this a rewarding experience for the new owner.
The paintwork has suffered in the Australian climate and it has taken on the appearance of dried mud, having shrunk and cracked; we found this reminiscent of a skin revitalising treatment which once removed will surely reveal the Alvis’ Graber penned underlying beauty. Maybe we are getting just a little carried away and we accept it will reveal some areas of corrosion too. From what we could ascertain, there is certainly some rust in the floors and the front shroud around the bonnet aperture, headlights and air intakes. The wings and wheel arches do not seem to be suffering dramatically while the sills are starting to get a bit frayed. Overall the body is still very straight with good panel alignment and no major dents while the flowing contours of the rear wings are still sharp and well defined. The off-side door has been removed due to the traditional problems with the wood frame A Post so one can assume some repair work will be required here – it doesn’t sound too bad if you say it quickly!
Re-plating of the chrome is a given though the underlying metal is not majorly deformed or rusty. In fact wiping a finger over the grill surround showed it to perhaps be in the ‘polish only’ category though how it would ultimately look against fresh paint is another matter.
The chassis seems to be in a pretty good state though the sections which extend forward of the anti-roll bar mounts have either been repaired (off-side) or need to be (near-side); please see the photo gallery. For what it is worth, the suspension looks to be in good condition being complete and with evidence of past maintenance though many of the rubber components such as bushes have suffered in the dry heat of Queensland.
Inside the carpets will definitely need to be replaced and while some areas of the leather trim could undoubtedly be refurbished the front seat bases look to be beyond that. The wood trim appears to be sound, still displaying its traditionally good fit and we would hope it could just be striped and refinished. A hood cover and tonneau are present along with the original rear view mirror and green tint sun visors. A very nice wood rim Moto-Lita steering wheel is fitted which, with a slightly smaller diameter than the standard offering thanks to the power assisted steering, emphasises the TD’s more sporting credentials. Electric windows have been installed. The hood is all there but will more than likely need replacing though its frame seems to be in good order with just a little surface rust showing. The engine bay is a little scruffy but everything seems to be present and correct with no evidence of any major fluid leaks.
The well-stocked history file contains numerous bills both from 26069’s early life in the UK and its time in Australia. Though they are from a variety of sources, Red Triangle Autoservices Ltd., official keepers of the Alvis flame, feature strongly. A useful “Catalogue of Spare Parts, TD21 S2 & TE 21” is present along with a number of Mr O’Connor’s Alvis Owners Club membership cards and the aforementioned Alvis ’Car Record’. Documents relating to the importation of the TD 21 into both Queensland, Australia and back into the UK are also on file along with a copy of original buff/green logbook and an MOT certificate dating from June 1985. A V5 document is present and this along with the copy of the original log book, old MOT certificate and numerous invoices showing the registration number XLE 45 should make reregistering the Alvis with this number relatively straightforward. It is worth noting that XLE 45 is still on the DVLA’s records as a blue Alvis 3 Litre.
With Alvis having been sold to Rover in 1965, the company could so easily have been swallowed up, along with so many other British brands, by the homogenous British Leyland when they absorbed Rover, only for the proud name to be debased as a trim level indicator on some item of 1980s grey porridge - “Introducing the Metro Alvis with luxury velour rear-view mirror dice”. As fortune would have it, Alvis was closed and the whole shooting match was transferred to Red Triangle who have protected and nurtured it ever since, supplying parts and support for the legion of remaining cars and even producing new machines. Always machines of the highest quality sporting plenty of Connolly leather and burr walnut encapsulated in a proper ash framed, coachbuilt steel and aluminium body there is much to recommend an Alvis in today’s Classic market.
This TD21 looks to be a virtually complete machine with all the stylish, unique items such as the boot handle and trim present and correct; for us, it represents a rare opportunity for a new owner to either return it to its original factory specification or to keep it as it has been for what appears to be at least the last thirty-five years. With the most powerful and best developed engine, super-desirable ZF five speed gearbox and power assisted steering, we know what path we would take.