Alvis Cars

From Academic Kids

Missing image
The Alvis Eagle emblem.

Alvis cars were produced by the manufacturer Alvis Car & Engineering Company Ltd of Coventry, England from 1919 to 1967. The company was also involved in aero-engines and military vehicles, the latter continuing after the car production was stopped.




The ancestor company, Tom G John Ltd, built scooters from 1919. Tom G John was approached by Geoffrey de Freville with designs for a 4-cylinder car. The design called for aluminium pistons and pressure lubrication, unusual for the period. Some have suggested that de Freville proposed the name Alvis as a compound of the words "aluminium" and "vis"(Latin=strong); it is also possible that is was named for the Norse mythological weaponsmith, Alvis, but the true origin is unknown.

In 1921, the company changed its name to become Alvis Car & Engineering Company Ltd. and moved to Holyhead Road, Coventry. The first model, the 10/30, was an instant success and set the reputation for quality and performance for which Alvis brand became famous. The company logo of an inverted red triangle incorporating the word 'Alvis' was used from this period.

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An early Alvis model from 1935

Captain GT Smith-Clarke joined from Daimler as Chief Engineer & Works Manager in 1923 and was soon joined by WM Dunn as Chief Draughtsman. This partnership lasted for 25 years and was responsible for many designs.

Alvis went into receivership in June 1924 and the Board was reorganised. T G John remained on as Managing Director.

The company was notable for experimenting with independent front suspension and a front wheel drive model (from 1928 to 1930), and for introducing an all-synchromesh gearbox in 1933.

Smith-Clarke designed remarkable models during the 1930s and 1940s - the handsome, low-slung six-cylinder Speed 20, the Speed 25 and the 4.3-litre model. These were commonly fitted with coachwork by Cross & Ellis, Charlesworth and Vanden Plas. In 1937, the company name was changed to Alvis Ltd, by which point they had established an aero-engine division.

World War Two

During World War II The car factory was severely damaged in the German Luftwaffe raid on Coventry in 1940. Despite this, Alvis carried out war production. The company built armoured vehicles and aero engines (as sub-contractor of Rolls-Royce).

Post War

After the end of the war, a model designed before the war was produced as the TA 14. Smith-Clarke retired in 1950 and post-war models were signed by Dunn. THe company continued to make high quality sporting cars.

In 1950 a new chassis and six-cylinder 3-litre engine was announced. This engine was used until the company ceased car production. From 1952 to 1955 Alec Issigonis, the later creator of Mini, worked for Alvis. Alvis cars were sometimes offered with special bodies made by Hermann Graber of Switzerland, Vanden Plas or Mulliner, coachbuilders for Rolls-Royce and Bentley.

Rover took a controlling interest in Alvis in 1965. Alvis was working on a Rover-designed mid-engined V8 coupé prototype named P6BS for a while. Car production ceased in 1967 but armoured fighting vehicle production continued.


As part of Rover, Alvis Limited was incporated into British Leyland but was bought by United Scientific Holdings plc in 1981. Subsequently the company's name changed to Alvis plc. In 1998, the armoured vehicle business of GKN plc was taken on and the main UK manufacturing operation moved from Coventry to Telford. In 2002 Alvis group purchased Vickers to form the subsidiary Alvis-Vickers which was subsequently purchased by BAe.


  • 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.

Alvis vehicles

Alvis Car models

Model Name Type From To
Alvis 10/30 1921
Alvis 10/50 1923
Alvis SD 12/50 1928
Alvis SA Silver Eagle 1929
Alvis Speed 20 1932
Alvis Crested Eagle 1933
Alvis Firefly Speed 20 Special 1935
Alvis 12/70 1938
Alvis TA 14 sports saloon, drophead coupe 1946 1950
Alvis TB 14 2 seater sports 1948 1950
Alvis TA 21 sports saloon, drophead coupe 1950 1953
Alvis TB 21 2 seater sports 1950 1953
Alvis TC 21/100 Grey Lady Sports saloon 1953 1955
Alvis TD 21 1958
Alvis TE 21 2dr saloon, drophead coupe 1964 1966
Alvis TF 21 2dr saloon, drophead coupe 1966 1967

Alvis Military Vehicles

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