TA21 Description

After World War 2 the nation was desperate to revive personal transport as the pre-war motor industry had been dedicated to war production during the conflict. Alvis met this need for personal transport by revamping the pre-war 12/70 into the TA14. This was a stopgap for Alvis as it had every intention of producing a new model as soon as practicable. The design of the Three Litre, as it was then known in its early stages before being later designated the TA21, took place during the late forties with the first two production cars being made ready for the Geneva Motor Show in 1950. Alvis wanted to continue with their prestigious thirties success of six cylinder engines so an all-new six cylinder engine was produced. Brake horsepower was rated at 90 with a compression ratio of 7:1. The design incorporated an all-new box section chassis with independent front suspension and traditional leaf sprung rear suspension. The first production cars had down draught Solex carburettors deemed more suitable for use with pool petrol, which was the only petrol available in the early fifties. As petrol quality improved the later TA21s had twin SU carburation. Transmission was via a 10in Borg and Beck clutch through the 12/70 – TA14 Alvis gearbox with synchromesh on 2nd , 3rd and 4th gears. A Hardy Spicer prop shaft took the power to a Salisbury back axle. Alvis had now decided to buy in many of the component parts of the car in order to keep costs under control. The aim being to produce the car to a budget of below £1000 as cars above this value attracted a higher purchase tax bracket.

Alvis always followed the tradition of using other companies to produce the bodies and this tradition continued after the 2nd World war. Mulliners of Birmingham produced most of the TA14 four door saloons and so this body was adapted to fit the TA21 chassis. The saloon compartment being very similar but the bonnet and boot were extended and reshaped. Soon after the first saloons left the factory there became a demand for an open top version. Tickford of Newport Pagnell were contracted to produce the drop head coupes with two doors.

Nine chassis went to Graber in Switzerland who produced bespoke bodies for the Alvis. One was a fixed head coupe and the other eight were drop head coupes. Tickford also produced a one off fixed head coupe, and also supplied up to six cars without the folding hood mechanism for customers to install their own bespoke fixed head hoods. One Mulliners saloon without its engine was delivered to Freeman Sanders who was a diesel engine pioneer. He installed his own six-cylinder diesel engine.

After a production run of 1316 cars from 1950 to 1953 Alvis moved on to develop the TC21 and TC21/100 which became a genuine 100mph car. The design of body shape remained very similar until production of bodies ceased at both Mulliners and Tickford in 1955. This left Alvis with no body manufacturer until a license was granted by Graber to produce bodies for the 3 Litre at Mulliner Park Ward in the late fifties through to the mid sixties.

The breakdown of the TA21 production run is as follows:-
9     chassis to Graber                3 are known to survive
303    chassis to Tickford            Approx 163 survive
1004    chassis to Mulliners             Approx 198 survive
Approximately a further 17 cars survive as conversions to Specials.

TA21 Prototype

There were three prototype TA21s: 3LI; 3L2; and 3L3.

  • 3L1 was a one off saloon with pressed steel body looking very much like a Sunbeam Talbot and was intended to be competitive with the Jaguar. However production costs stifled the development of this car as Alvis could not produce the chassis in sufficient numbers to match the production requirements of the body which economically required a minimum of 5,000 cars. This car was sold into the private sector but was written off and scrapped after an accident in the 60s.

  • 3L2 was also a one off car with an estate body by Harold Radford and was left hand drive. The car was extensively used by JJ Parkes, the Managing Director of Alvis, as his personal transport. The car was never sold into the private sector as it was scrapped at the factory on the specific instructions of JJ Parkes.

  • 3L3 was also a one off car which incidentally still survives in the custodianship of a Dutch Enthusiast. The car was basically a Mulliners saloon bodied TA14 with an extended bonnet to accommodate the three litre straight six engine. The front of the TA14 chassis was adapted to include the new independent front suspension. The car was used as a test bed for the development of the front suspension and new six cylinder engine. The car became the property of Captain Smith-Clarke the Alvis chief engineer for use as his personal transport. The car was extensively rebuilt by the Club Registrar in the 60s. The car is now in need of some loving care and attention.

TA21 Mulliners

The majority of the TA21 production was bodied by Mulliners. Mulliners started production of bodies for the pre war 12/70 and continued with the post war TA14. The cabin part of the body, with four doors, being very similar to the TA14 but the bonnet and boot were reshaped. The headlights were incorporated into the wings and the spare wheel was tucked under the boot on a tray to make better use for luggage space. Two bodies were produced as developments for the TC series, one of which survives in excellent condition. One saloon was delivered to Freeman Sanders without an engine. Freeman Sanders was a six cylinder diesel engine pioneer and put one of his two engines in the TA21.

TA21 Tickford

Approximately 23% of the production of the TA21 went to Tickford for the DHC bodies. This was a genuine four seater but with only two doors. The front seats folded forward to allow access to the rear. The front and rear of the car looked very similar to the Mulliners saloon. The hood was a three position hood. Fully enclosed, fully folded, neatly into the well area behind the rear seats, and also in the De-Ville position giving that open air motoring feeling without all the drafts. The hood was fully lined and insulated to make the car feel like a saloon in the colder months. Tickford built one body as a fixed head coupe by special order from an aristocrat.

TA21 Graber

Nine chassis were sent to Switzerland for special bespoke bodies by the specialist body manufacturer Herman Graber. One was bodied as a two door fixed head coupe which survives in Australia and the rest were made as two door drop head coupes. All the bodies were bespoke and none matched exactly the other. Two DHCs survive, one in Switzerland and the other in the Philippines.
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