Alvis TD21, TE21 and TF21 3 Litre

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Alvis TD21, TE21, TF21

1958 - 1967
United Kingdom
6 cyl.
2993 cc
4/5 spd. man, 3 spd Auto
Top Speed:
106 mph
Number Built:
4 star
Alvis TD21, TE21, TF21
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 4


Alvis turned to Graber of Switzerland after the war to design a new body style for their GT lineup. The TD21 was a sight to behold from every angle, the simple and handsome lines never dating like the more mainstream. It was also a genuine 100-mph vehicle - which in those days made it one of the worlds elite.

The Worlds Most Beautiful Car

When the model was unveiled at the 1955 British Motor Show it was hailed as one of the world's most beautiful cars, beautifully proportioned because of its clever Continental coachwork. And the exterior was matched by an equally-attractive interior, faultlessly trimmed and luxuriously appointed. Using the same sweet 2993cc 6 cylinder engine as used in the older Alvis saloon models, it afforded respectable power of around 118bhp, although some minor tweaking would see this fogure bumped up to 120 bhp in 1959.

Production of the English-built bodies was originally delayed due to difficulties in importing the Graber jigs from Switzerland. The bodies for the TD21 were manufactured in England, first by Willowbrook in Loughborough, then later by Park Ward. There were two iterations available, the fixed or drophead coupe form. The separately-adjustable front seats, upholstered in fine leather and situated on either side of the propeller shaft offered incomparable comfort. This also applied to the rear, although some leg room for tall people was a sacrifice given the shape of the modern close-coupled saloon.

Behind the Wheel

The wide windows and slender supports gave almost perfect all-round vision, while the then modern-styled dashboard contained a full range of instruments, the large dials of the speedo and tacho being easily read with a cursory glance at any speed. Also a Smiths air-conditioning unit was a standard fitting. All the instruments were lit internally.

Fuel consumption was better than 20 miles to the gallon, the tank itself holding 14.3 gallons including one gallon reserve operated by a switch on the dash. The engine and chassis were virtually are the same as the well-tried 21/100, but the Graber body was largely made of aluminium, making it some three cwt. lighter than the previous "Grey Lady" saloon.

This was particularly noticeable when negotiating traffic, because the customary frequent gear changes became unnecessary and it was possible to roll along with no snatch whatever. The short centrally-placed gear-lever came easily to hand and enabled the driver to make quick positive changes at all speeds. When driving fast the four-speed synchro box was a joy to handle, performance in third being phenomenal. Going through all the gears from 0 -60 mph could easily be reached in 12 seconds. It could accelerate up to 80 mph in third gear, and, if needed, 50 mph was possible in second without over-revving. Gear ratios were: 3.77, 5.01, 7.28, 11.20, reverse 11.20 to one.

The Alvis would cruise all day at 70-80 on the open road and yet be surprisingly economical on fuel. Top speed on the autobahns of Europe was (an indicated) 110 mph at about 5000 rpm. The steering was very positive but light. The brakes were magnificent. The Alvis inspired confidence in the driver, with corners able to be negotiated at 50 to 55 mph with no noticeable roll or undue passenger discomfort. Perhaps this was because the Alvis had independent knee-action suspension in the front with long semi-elliptic springs in gaiters with fitted grease nipples at the rear, and Girling ram-type shock absorbers. Large Lockheed full-hydraulic two-leading-shoe brakes with 11 in. diameter drums 2.25in. wide were fitted. Total lining area was 189 square inches.

The handbrake, operating on the rear wheels, was operated by pistol grip under the dashboard by the driver's knees. It was perhaps one of the only failings of the car, as you needed to be a bit of a contortionist to reach it in a hurry – which was strange given the ergonomics of the rest of the car were so well sorted. The steering was Burman recirculating ball-type with a 17-inch spring-spoke wheel. Sure, there are much better units around today, but the Burman was one of the best units then available. It all added up to a car that instil a pride of ownership and reward with the sheer joy of driving. It was also very good value with a basic price of UK£1850, although the purchase tax in the UK added £926/ 7/-.

In 1962 a Mk II version became available, and featured four-wheel disc brakes, a five speed manual gearbox or optional 3 speed automatic. The TD21 would be replaced in 1963 by the TE21, then the TF21. Each revision offered some minor styling changes and mechanical improvements, however you would need to be a real Alvis fan to spot the differences. What a shame then that such a wonderful car would be the last to be manufactured by Alvis, but then again, what a swansong!

Alvis 21 3 Litre Quick Specifications

Engine: Six-cylinder, ohv three-litre of 84 mm bore x 90 mm stroke; eight-to-one compression (RAC rating, 26.25 hp). Chrome-iron cylinder block with detachable head and overhead valves actuated by Alvis design pushrods and rocker mechanism. Camshaft is driven by duplex chain with spring-loaded automatic chain tensioner. Dynamically-balanced crankshaft running in seven Vandervell thin-shell bearings. Positive lubrication throughout with forced feed to main and big-end bearings and rocker shaft; submerged oil pump, gear-driven from camshaft. Twin SU carburettors and Lucas coil and distributor ignition system with automatic and vacuum advance and retard.
Cooling: Pump circulation with belt-driven fan, thermostatically controlled. Capacity, three gallons.
Transmission: Four-speed synchro-mesh gearbox of improved design with exceptionally robust helical gears mounted in large-diameter bearings. Clutch, 10in. Borg and Beck. Centrally-placed gear-lever. Hardy Spicer propeller shaft with needle-roller bearings. Hypoid bevel semi floating rear axle.
Suspension: Front, independent knee-action with rubber-mounted transverse wishbones and large diameter coil springs. Rear, long semi-elliptic springs enclosed in gaiters and fitted grecsirg nipples.- Giriing ram-type shock absorbers.
Brakes: Lockheed full-hydraulic two leading brake shoes; 2.25in. diameter wide. Handbrake to rear wheels through separate linkage operated by pistol grip.
Steering: Burman recirculating ball - 17in. spring-spoke wheel.
Petrol Supply: 14.3-gallon tank at rear of chassis with engine-driven mechanical pressure pump. One gallon reserve operated by switch on dash.
Instrument Board: Fitted with speedometer, clock, oil pressure gauge, petrol gauge, water thermometer, ammeter ignition warning light, ignition switch and start control. All instruments lighted internally.
Dimensions: Wheelbase, 9ft. 3.25 in.; track, 4ft. 6 5/8 in. (front), 4ft. 6 1/8 in. (rear). Ground clearance, 7.5 in. Turning circle, 39ft. 6in. Weight, chassis, 17 cwt; complete dry weight, 27.5 cwt.
Alvis TD21 3 Litre

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