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Alvis T 21 3 litre 1958 - 1967

our thanks to the Alvis owners club


Critics of the TC 108G liked its style and performance, but passenger and luggage accommodation were unsatisfactory. Accordingly the amalgamated firm of Mulliner Park Ward, by now a Rolls Royce subsidiary, was approached to redesign the body to meet with British market requirements. The result was the TD 21 introduced late in 1958. Mechanically the early cars were similar to the TC 108G and TC 21/100 except that the Alvis made gearbox was supplanted by a 4-speed Austin Healey unit, a retrograde step, but one that must have saved money. This, coupled with savings on the body cost, allowed a substantial price reduction. An anti-roll bar was added to the front suspension. Park Ward's redesign of the body retained a superficial resemblance to Hermann Graber's original, but allowed greater room, especially in the rear, and better luggage capacity.

1959 TD 21 Mulliner Park Ward DHC

Once again Alvis had a successful car. The standard bodies were two door, a saloon and a drophead coupé. Lockheed front disc brakes, augmented by a vacuum servo, were offered, initially as an option, and as production proper got under way a better cylinder head, with 12 ports and higher compression, plus larger SU carburettors, raised power to around 120 bhp and speed to 105 mph. Wire wheels could be specified, also reclining seats and Borg Warner automatic transmission, the latter in conjunction with a higher axle ratio. Thankfully the pistol grip handbrake was replaced by a substantial lever between the front seats fairly early during the production run.

1960 TD 21 Series I Mulliner Park Ward saloon

The instrument panel in the middle of the dashboard now included a tachometer. A few cars had Laycock de Normanville overdrive, a worthwhile fitting. For younger readers, this was an electro-hydraulically operated mechanical device which stepped up the gearing after the gearbox, normally operable on third and top gears only. For 1962 the Series II version had slight revisions to the body work, aluminium framed and panelled doors being substituted for the wood/steel items, and the spot lamps repositioned in the front panel. The rear number plate mounting was simplified. Disc brakes by Dunlop were now fitted to all four wheels. Except for the very first cars, the German ZF five speed gearbox, with direct drive on fourth, was fitted, the Borg Warner three speed automatic remaining an option. Nearly 1,100 TD 21s of both series left the works.

1963 TD 21 Series II Mulliner Park Ward Saloon

The TE 21 came in late 1963 for the 1964 model year. External revisions were a new front panel incorporating four headlamps, in vertical pairs on each side and modifications to the rear wings. Under the bonnet a new cylinder head with larger valves, new exhaust manifolds and a larger bore exhaust system put power up to 130 bhp and speed to 112 mph, at the expense of some increased noise. In 1965 power steering became an option and it would appear that most cars were fitted with it. Chassis were still being exported to Hermann Graber who fitted his exquisite more or less one-off bodies at the high prices his clientèle was prepared to pay. The construction and finish of these was rather superior to the English bodied examples. TE 21 production was just over 350 examples.

TE 21 Mulliner Park Ward DHC and 1920 10/30

The last Alvis, the TF 21, came in 1966. Rather more than 100 were made. Externally, there are no changes from the TE, but the engine was uprated to 150 bhp with a further rise in the compression ratio and the fitting of triple SU carburettors on a water-heated manifold. An improved, closer-ratio version of the ZF gearbox was fitted, and the instruments were now positioned in a binnacle in front of the driver. Power steering became standard on all but a few of the very earliest chassis. Adjustable dampers were fitted at the rear. Top speed went up to 120 mph.

1966 TF 21 Graber coupé

Alvis left the field of car manufacture with its head held high, and never compromised the ideals of the men who worked so hard at all levels in the early days of the firm to give it the reputation it still enjoys. The company remained independent almost to the very end of its car-making life and the name has not yet suffered the ignominies of badge engineering or spurious revival as have so many of its competitors from the golden years. In the end the company left car making because it had been swallowed up by the tottering British Leyland empire and internal BL politics effectively killed off Alvis car production. The company has continued to prosper and still produces high quality engineering products. It maintains a keen interest in the products of its past.

1968 TF 21 Graber DHC - the last Alvis passenger car

The survival rate of the cars is high: they were well built and keen owners usually looked after their cars well. Many records were destroyed by the bombing of the factory in the war, and later owners were asked to provide sample parts so that new drawings could be made to allow the production of fresh spares. This fantastic support continued to the very end of car production, even beyond. If the accountants could have seen the correspondence relating to small details of cars made over thirty years before they would have been horrified at the "waste" of resources. Great things are not done by those who count the cost of every word and deed. When Alvis was forced to give up support, others took up the cause and few, if any, Alvis cars are off the road today through lack of spares. Many Alvises remain in use today and many are still driven in anger in historic competition. They're pretty successful too.

1966 TF 21 Mulliner Park Ward DHC

Numbers built 1070 (all bodies)
Body design Graber
Weight 1575 kg / 3472.3 lbs
Engine Straight 6
Engine location Front, longitudinally mounted
Displacement 2.993 liter / 182.6 cu in
Valvetrain 2 valves/cylinder, OHV
Fuel feed 2 SU HD6 Carburetors
Aspiration Naturally Aspirated
Gearbox 4 Speed Manual
Drive Rear wheel drive
 Performance figures
Power 115 bhp / 85.8 kW @ 4000 rpm
BHP/Liter 38.4
Torque 206 Nm / 151.9 ft lbs @ 2500 rpm
Power to weight ratio 0.07 bhp/kg
Top Speed 119.9 mph / 193.0 km/h
0-60 mph Acceleration 9.90 s