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Motor Mouth articles 2010

Alvis looks ahead to its golden past

The original pre-war Alvis 4.3-litre: set to be reborn

ALVIS, one of the great old names of British car production, is on the verge of an extraordinary comeback.

Red Triangle, the company that assumed responsibility when the marque ceased production in 1967, have announced that they are to produce a 21st century version of the company’s most famous model, a 4.3-litre, open-top classic from the 1930s.

The new incarnation will have the latest, most sophisticated engine management systems, hydraulic brakes and fuel injection – and will cost around £170,000. A good original at auction could fetch £450,000.

Red Triangle say they will be using the original technical drawings allied to the latest computer-aided design technology to produce a faithful re-creation of the car some 71 years after the last one was produced.

The company, named to honour the car’s famous red triangle emblem, owns the brand and trademarks and says it has evidence from the original Alvis board minutes that 77 examples of the chassis officially sanctioned for production were never fulfilled after production was halted in 1940 because of the war. Now they are to be used at last.

The 4.3-litre Alvis was the fastest non-supercharged production car of its day, capable of going from a standstill to 60 in 11 seconds, and the continuation series will live up to that heritage. Manufactured from the original drawings, the Alvis in-line six cylinder engine will be faithful to the 1936 design, maintaining its period character and quality, yet by utilising modern technology it will be emission compliant and will deliver even more horsepower.

The Red Triangle plans were formally unveiled at the recent Goodwood Festival of Speed when the new engine and chassis were on display. “This is part of our overall business plan,” said Alan Stote, Red Triangle and Alvis Car Company proprietor. “To maintain service to existing Alvis owners but also to reintroduce selected authentic Alvis models in line with the vision of the board all those years ago.”

Production of Alvis began at Coventry in 1920. Five years later a supercharged front-wheel drive Alvis lapped Brooklands at 104mph. In 1926 the firm designed and raced the first straight-eight front-wheel-drive grand prix car and two years on they marketed the world’s first front-wheel-drive production car.

In 1933 Alvis designed the world’s first all-synchromesh gearbox and initiated the first British car with independent front suspension. During the war they controlled 21 ‘shadow’ factories producing aero engines for the RAF. In 1959 the first hovercraft to cross the Channel was powered by an Alvis engine.

In 1965 Alvis merged with Rover, but two years on, after 47 years and manufacturing almost 22,000 motor vehicles, Alvis ceased car production. The ex-employees, helped by the Alvis company, created Red Triangle and took over the complete stock of parts, nearly 22,000 car records and more than 50,000 works drawings, technical data sheets and correspondence files.

Alvis has left its mark all over motoring history in many different ways, and it’s nice to think that the story may yet have more interesting chapters in the years ahead.

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