Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Alvis

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1949.The Sport Two Seater.
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Alvis Car and Engineering Company Ltd of Holyhead Road, Coventry produced cars from 1919 to 1967 and also produced aero-engines and military vehicles.

General

1919 The original company, T. G. John, was founded. Its first products were stationary engines, carburettor bodies and motor-scooters. The company's founder, Thomas George John, had been approached by Geoffrey de Freville with designs for a 1,498cc 4-cylinder engine with aluminium pistons and pressure lubrication, unusual for the period. Freville also owned the red triangle trade mark from his company Aluminium Alloy Pistons and the name Alvis.

1920 The first car model, the 10/30, using de Freville's design was an instant success and set the reputation for quality and performance for which the company became famous. By the end of the year they were producing two cars a week.

Following complaints from the Avro aviation company, whose logo bore similarities to the original winged green triangle, the more familiar inverted red triangle incorporating the word 'Alvis' evolved.

1921 the company changed its name to the Alvis Car and Engineering Company Ltd and moved production to Holyhead Road, Coventry where from 1922 to 1923 they also made the Buckingham car.

1923 George Thomas Smith-Clarke joined from Daimler as Chief Engineer and Works Manager and was soon joined by W. M. Dunn as Chief Draughtsman. This partnership lasted for 25 years and was responsible for producing some of the most successful products in the company's history.

1923 The original 10/30 side-valve engine was developed progressively becoming the overhead-valve 12/50, produced until 1932.

1924 produced more than 900 car chassiss

Smith-Clarke designed the six-cylinder Speed 20, the Speed 25 and the 4.3 l model. The company used coachbuilders such as Cross and Ellis, Charlesworth and Vanden Plas.

1935 Started producing aircraft engines

1936 The company name was changed to Alvis Ltd and by the beginning of the war, aero-engine and armoured vehicle divisions had been added to the company.

1936 They formed Alvis-Straussler Mechanisation to produce armoured cars designed by Nicholas Straussler

1938 Strassler left and the name changed to Alvis Mechanisation

1939 The first Leonides aero engine flew in a Bristol Bulldog

1939 September: following the outbreak of war, car production was suspended, but was later allowed to resume; production of the 12/70, Silver Crest, Speed 25, and 4.3 l continued well into 1940.

WWII The car factory was severely damaged in the German Luftwaffe raid on Coventry in 1940. Much valuable gear cutting and other equipment was lost and car production was suspended for the duration of the war only resuming during the latter part of 1946. Despite this, Alvis carried out war production on aero engines (as sub-contractor of Rolls-Royce) and other aeroplane equipment.

Post-war, car production resumed with a four-cylinder model, the TA14, based on the pre-war 12/70 with an engine of 1,892cc and the body was built by Mulliners

1947 The government asked the company to design a six-wheeled armoured car and the result was the Saladin

1950 Smith-Clarke retired and Dunn took over as chief engineer.

1950 The TA21 with a six-cylinder 2,003cc 83 bhp engine and body from Mulliners was introduced

1955 With a licence in place, from 1955 all Alvis bodies became based on Graber designs. Early examples, the TC108/G, were built by Willowbrook of Loughborough but at such a high price that very few were made.

Only after 1958 with the launch of the TD21 did something resembling full scale production resume as Park Ward, coachbuilders for Rolls-Royce and Bentley, contracted to build the bodies at a much lower price. These cars, the TD21 and its later variants, the TE21 and finally the TF21 were well built, attractive and fast cars. However it was clear by the mid sixties that with a price tag of nearly double that of the mass-produced Jaguar the end could not be far off.

There were several 'might-have-beens.' From 1952 to 1955 Alec Issigonis, the creator of the later Mini worked for Alvis and designed a new model with a V8 engine which proved too expensive to produce.

1965 Rover took a controlling interest in Alvis[1] and a Rover-designed mid-engined V8 coupé prototype named the P6BS was rumoured to be the new Alvis model but with the takeover by British Leyland this too was shelved.

1966 By the time the TF21 was launched in 1966, (available, like its predecessors in both saloon and drophead form and with either manual or automatic gearbox), the model was beginning to show its age despite a top speed of 127mph - the fastest Alvis ever produced. With only 109 sold and with political troubles aplenty in the UK car manufacturing business at that time, production finally ceased in 1967. The Alvis name lived on with armoured fighting vehicle production.

1967 As part of Rover, Alvis Limited was incorporated into Leyland Motors

1968 Leyland joined with British Motor Holdings as British Leyland Motor Corporation

By 1981 Alvis was mainly making the Scorpion armoured vehicle. The company was bought by United Scientific Holdings plc

1992 United Scientific Holdings changed its name to Alvis plc.[2]

1997 Acquired Hagglunds Vehicles, of Sweden, makers of armoured vehicles

1998 the armoured vehicle business of GKN plc was taken on and the main UK manufacturing operation moved from Coventry to Telford. The site of the Alvis works in Holyhead Road is now an out-of-town shopping complex, but its name, Alvis Retail Park, reflects the heritage of the site.

1999 With German partners, secured contract for European "battlefield taxi"[3]

2002 Alvis group purchased Vickers Defence Systems and Vickers Bridging, making it the dominant UK maker of armoured vehicles[4]; formed Alvis Vickers Ltd which was subsequently purchased by BAE Systems in 2004. BAE Systems have ended the use of the Alvis distinctive 'red triangle' trademark.

Aeromotors

See Alvis: Aeromotors

Cars

See Alvis: Cars

Military

See Alvis: Military

Motorcycles

Alvis produced a motorcycle in 1920. The machine was actually a scooter known as the Stafford Mobile Pup. The machine itself was flimsy and unstable as the 142cc John engine hung to one side of the front wheel. [5]

See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. The Times, Saturday, Jun 05, 1965
  2. The Times, June 13, 1992
  3. The Times, November 06, 1999
  4. The Times, August 03, 2002
  5. The British Motorcycle Directory - Over 1,100 Marques from 1888 - by Roy Bacon and Ken Hallworth. Pub: The Crowood Press 2004 ISBN 1 86126 674 X