Some classic cars simply display a distinct air of exclusivity and sophistication which invariably raise them above their more common counterparts. Amazingly, some of those classics can even be purchased at surprisingly modest sums if you do your homework right.
It’s certainly no secret that we here at ViaRETRO are big fans of yesteryear’s everyday hero’s, and we passionately wave our “Any Classic is Better than No Classic” banner at any given opportunity. That however should not be confused with being anti-snobs. Needless to say, we too get rather excited about exquisite Maseratis, Facel Vegas and Aston Martins, even if they are out of reach for all of us and probably the vast majority of our readers too. But that’s not to say that classic cars of similar stature can’t be found within a price bracket which easier to stomach.
One marque which seems to fit that bill perfectly is Alvis. The British manufacturer built beautiful and rather expensive cars for the upper class from 1919 until 1967, by which time car production at Alvis’s Coventry site was killed off by Rover who had taken them over only two years earlier. By this time, the cars offered by Alvis were perhaps a little staid compared to their competitors, yet an Alvis sports saloon still cost almost double that of a Jaguar, so the writing was arguably on the wall.
Even so, viewed as a classic car in today’s market, the Alvis carries a majestic yet distinctly sober atmosphere which easily equals that of a Bristol or Bentley from the same era. Some of their more rare models such as the pre-war Speed 25’s or the beautifully sculpted Graber-bodied post-war models have become highly collectable, and this is of course reflected in their current market values. But others, such as the Park Ward-bodied, Alvis-assembled 3-litre saloons or drophead coupés of the late fifties and sixties still seem astonishingly good value considering what they have on offer.
Based on the same chassis and straight-6 OHV engine which the preceding Alvis TA21 had utilised, the new TD21 was launched onto the market in 1958 with a much more up-to-date design highly inspired by the Swiss Graber-bodied Alvis’s, but now built for Alvis by British coachbuilder Park Ward. It’s – at least to my eye – a hugely handsome design, if still profoundly understated and conservative. Inside, the Alvis still played on the old worldly British traditions of leather, walnut veneer and deep pile carpets, all of which you will find in abundance. Mechanically, the Alvis customer got the 3-litre straight-6 engine which had been updated a little with an improved cylinder head and higher compression leading to 115hp. Power found its way to the rear wheels either through a 4-speed manual or 3-speed automatic transmission (although the very last TD21 series 2 cars got a 5-speed ZF manual instead). Suspension was independent at the front with coil springs and a live axle with leaf springs at the rear, while brakes were initially drums all-round with discs making their way onto the front axle in 1959 and then also onto the rear axle with the introduction of the series 2 in 1962.
For 1963, the TD21 became to TE21 with a still more powerful version of the 3-litre straight-6 and a subtle redesign focused mainly around a pair of stylish stacked headlights. Then in 1966, another update came with the TF21 which once again introduced more power to the equation by fitting triple SU carburettors making it the fastest Alvis to be produced, while there were also a few changes to suspension and instrumentation too. The following year, it sadly all came to an end with production numbers for all TD, TE and TF cars only just exceeding 1,500 examples combined. So there you have it – exclusivity guaranteed…
Now I have aired my views on closed cars compared to open cars – or in the case of the Alvis, I should say saloon compared to drophead coupé – previously here on ViaRETRO with my article Topless! – or not? Yet to prove that we are indeed all-encompassing, non-judging and entirely devoted to the service of our dear readers, we have gone above and beyond this weekend by finding not one, but two Prime Finds – one catering for those who prefer a tin top and another for those who insist on wind-in-hair motoring. Don’t say that we don’t care…
Both of these gorgeous Alvis TD21’s are part of the H and H auction held at The Pavilion Gardens in Buxton this coming Wednesday on the 24thof July. But let’s start with Lot 69 – a 1961 Alvis TD21 Saloon. One of 592 series 1 TD21 Saloons, it’s presented in a very regal-looking maroon over an oxblood red leather interior, this TD21 comes with the desirable manual transmission and also has chromed wire wheels and a Webasto sliding sunroof. Factory handbooks are still with the Alvis and there’s a not insignificant 240,000 miles on the clock proving that these are indeed hugely capable touring cars. Even so, the car presents beautifully as you would expect considering the claimed restoration work performed over the past three years amounting to £28,000. The auction estimate is between £25,000 and £30,000, so effectively, you’ll be paying for that restoration work and getting the car thrown in for free. Tempting…
Here’s a link to the auction site: H and H: 1961 Alvis TD21 Saloon
Next up we have Lot 91 – a 1959 Alvis TD21 Drophead Coupé. This one being one of only 192 series 1 TD21 Drophead Coupés, it was first delivered to a member of the Whitbread Green brewing dynasty and therefore painted to special order in a fetching metallic hue of Whitbread Green complimented perfectly by a tan leather interior and chromed wire wheels. This one has an automatic transmission well suited for relaxed and carefree cruising with the top down, and while I would normally opt for a manual transmission and closed bodywork, I must confess that I find the combination perfectly suited for the stylish Alvis. Being offered from current ownership back to 2003, there’s what the auction house chooses to call a “credible” 30,500 miles on the clock (so clearly not fully documented), accompanied by the original instruction manual, a collection of old MOT’s and not least invoices from marque specialist Red Triangle. The auction estimate on the Drophead Coupé is a very similar £26,000 to £30,000.
Here’s a link to the auction site: H and H: 1959 Alvis TD21 Drophead Coupé
Are you tempted by the traditional British charms of these fabulous Alvis’s? Would you regard them as good value for money in the current market of classic cars? And if so, which one would you choose – saloon or drophead coupé?
With our Saturday instalment of Prime Find of the Week, we’re offering our services to the classic car community, by passing on our favourite classic car for sale from the week that passed. This top-tip might help a first-time-buyer to own his first classic, or it could even be the perfect motivation for a multiple-classic-car-owner to expand his garage with something different. We’ll let us inspire by anything from a cheap project to a stunning concours exotic, and hope that you will do the same.
Just remember – Any Classic is Better than No Classic! We obviously invite our readers to help prospective buyers with your views and maybe even experiences of any given model we feature. Further to that, if you stumble across a classic which you feel we ought to feature as Prime Find of the Week, then please send us a link to email@example.com