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Alvis TD-TF

Alvis TD-TF Published: 20th Mar 2019 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Alvis TD-TF
Alvis TD-TF
Alvis TD-TF
Alvis TD-TF
Alvis TD-TF
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The TD-TF offers unrivalled levels of dignity and decorum and are a match for any of the better known grand touring aristocrats – yet for a fraction of the cost

Founded a century ago, Alvis is probably a name you never think of including when talking about prestigious British GTs from the likes of Newport Pagnell, Browns Lane or Crewe. And yet the TD-TF range, which was the final curtain call for the marque after being acquired by Rover in 1965, are up there with the very best providing the quality of a Rolls (most of the bodies were built by Park Ward no less), more exclusivity than an Aston and are much simpler to run than a Jaguar XK; more like an MGC in fact. Indeed, you can own and run this Alvis for the price of that six-cylinder MGB meaning that there’s surely no easier, cheaper top drawer tourer around, backed by fantastic specialist support, started up by ex factory staff. Loved by Royalty and A-list celebs of that time for the car’s impeccable taste and breeding, what’s not to like?

Timelines

1956 The TC108G débuts, fundamentally it’s a TC21 that’s been redesigned by Swiss coachbuilder Graber, with the pre-war styling replaced by a modern, elegant coupé or drophead design although under the bonnet there’s still the familiar 2993cc straight-six, tuned to give a very unstressed 104bhp.

1958 Welcome redesign by Park Ward ushers in a single-piece rear window in place of the previous wraparound item of the TC108G, along with a name change to TD21.

1959 Desirable front disc brakes are now fitted as standard, thankfully as power increases to 115bhp courtesy of a better six-port cylinder head. An automatic gearbox is now available as an option.

1960 Facelift; larger sidelights, Austin- Healey gearbox gains overdrive option.

1962 Still the TD21, but from this point it’s the Series 2, fitted with rear disc brakes plus a five-speed ZF manual is now available to special order. By the time the last car is built (in 1963), 1073 TDs had been made, making it the most numerous of the series.

1963 TE21 débuts, identified by those stacked headlights. Mechanically, a five-speed gearbox plus improved front suspension and steering (now with optional power assistance) feature. The 2993cc straight-six is also now uprated to 130bhp plus the clutch is now coil spring instead of a diaphragm design, which makes it much lighter.

1966 Before the TF21, final iteration of this quaint dying breed, was introduced power steering was made standard on the last TEs. The TF, bolstered with its triple-carb 150bhp engine, and uprated suspension also features a different dashboard design from its predecessors.

1967 Alvis brand killed off as Rover is gobbled up by BMC but continues to make military vehicles until 1981 when British Leyland jettisons brand. Alvis plc continues until it’s bought by BAE in ’04.

Driving

These aristocratic automobiles are some of the most capable grand tourers of their era although don’t expect sports-car-like handling. Having said that, the Alvis is more than a match for an XK or an Aston in period even if it lacks similar straight line panache or overtly sporting pretensions; 0-60 is no faster than a Capri GT for example although a top speed of well over a ton is quite high.

Classy, comfy, spacious and with excellent visibility, the 3-Litre in particular makes the ideal long-distance companion that works well within its powers. Refinement is pleasingly good too sporting the type of innate luxury a Bentley Continental does.

“In an era when the number of truly distinct cars tends to diminish, and those makes which are available tend often to be of very similar layout, the Alvis remains as something exclusive with very definite individuality of character” remarked Motor.

Our contributor Robert Couldwell would agree as he replaced his XK140 with an Alvis and, apart from more sedate performance is well pleased, more so since he’s had electric power steering fitted – read about it in a later issue…

Best models

With well under 2000 made (Only 784 examples of the Series I TD21; just 289 Series 2 versions were made. With all of 352 TE21s and a mere 106 TF21s), there aren’t many to go round, meaning it may be case of what you can get, but like-for-like the TE/TF are the ones to opt for because of their better running gear, with power steering and disc brakes the most desirable fittings. This is not set in stone however because, being a small specialist car maker, specifications can vary and it’s not unknown to see cars fitted with different running gear depending upon what was available at the time.

Prices

Costing perhaps a tenth of the price of a DB2, it’s difficult to think of another upper crust British GT that offers such prestige class and exclusivity for comparatively minor outlay. You can own a fairly decent coupé for well under £40,000 with the best around the 60 grand mark although dropheads can command three times as much and Garber-bodied cars up to 50 per cent more. It’s as well to bear in mind that at this price level leading Alvis specialists Red Triangle can offer factory renovated and in certain areas modernised alternatives although the company says these recreations won’t diminish the value of ‘originals.’

Red Triangle, grew out of Alvis’s demise in 1967, operate by ex employees. “Although the survival rate is very high, relatively few of these cars were made and owners tend to hang onto them. As a result you might have to wait a long time to get exactly what you want.

“It’s not unusual for people to see one and think it’s a Bristol, but once someone has experienced a TD, TE or TF they’re often hooked and want one of their own. But most of these cars are in long-term ownership – it’s common for them to be passed from one generation to another”, it once told us.

Verdict

Alvises are sporting gentlemen’s carriages for connoisseurs who don’t feel they have to try too hard. Rare, yet this low-profile marque is amazingly keenly priced and brilliantly supported by clubs and specialists. If you can’t afford a DB, XK or Bentley, a TD-TF makes not only an ideal less costly alternative but is just as good in its own right with a unique detached air of dignity most rivals can’t offer.

Top five faults

General

Watch for non-standard parts and bodges due to lowly values. Originality will count in years to come but some mods are approved such as electric fans, better brakes and, lately, a fuel injection system from Earley Engineering for TD-TF that ekes out a useful 160bhp and 210lbft of torque although it costs a hefty £7000 or so.

Body

Chassis is strong albeit features a closed box section so it can trap water – pay especially close attention to the front box sections where the lower front wishbones attach. Also closely inspect the sections rising up over the rear axle around the jacking tubes, sills and around screen surrounds.

Engine

Aside from the usual checks (blue smoke from the exhaust under power), ensure the oil pressure reads 60psi once up to temperature, but even higher readings are normal and shouldn’t be a problem. Some parts have to be remade and a full overhaul is likely to run up a £10,000 bill.

Trim

Rolls-Royce levels of wood and leather comes at a price – running into thousands of pounds if a significant amount of refurbishment is needed – Red Triangle can help. A new convertible roof costs around £4500 – so check all trim is in good enough order and start haggling if it’s below par.

Running gear

Early models used a Healey gearbox, replaced by a ZF unit and parts for the latter are scarce and costly – autos are available but rare. If car is jacked up incorrectly, it’s hard to detect suspension wear – lift by the outer edge of the wishbones. You need to check for rot in the lower wishbone spring pan as well as bottom damper mounts.



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