The Fourteen

As the Second World War progressed, thoughts at ‘The’ Alvis began to turn to the future role of the Company after the end of the war. It was by no means certain that car production would resume. The Company was successfully producing munitions/aircraft parts and there was a strong argument to continue on with that profitable work and draw a line on car production. Some did believe it was right to return to car production. Those who favoured returning to car production included A. F. Varney & William Dunn. Thoughts as to exactly what to build also identified differences of opinion. Some thought it best to return to the large sports cars of the 1930s and the taster adverts that appeared in wartime magazines indicated that such a car would be produced. Others, with feet more firmly rooted on the ground, envisaged a smaller car that would use less scarce materials and would be within the purchasing power of the post war car buying public. Once the decision was made as to the smaller design of the car thoughts turned to resurrecting, enlarging and slightly modernising the pre-war 12/70. The 12/70 does not always get the attention it deserves but forever holds the lap record at 110mph (114mph in practice) for the last ever race at the Brooklands circuit. As such this must be a great endorsement for the capabilities of its derivative the TA 14.

Late in 1945, advertisements began to appear in the Motoring Press giving the public a view of the new model as envisaged it would appear in Saloon form. Alvis kept to the principle that they would produce the running chassis with front wings and that the car would be bodied by an external coachbuilder to a design and price agreed with Alvis.

Initially Charlesworth had found favour, but had to withdraw as they could not agree to the price and numbers.  It had also been felt that they would have to completely retool for the new body as those tools for the Speed 25 had been lost during the war. That is until Arthur Varney was discussing the issue in the Mill House Hotel, Bagington, Coventry and was overhead by a fellow patron. For those who do not believe in coincidences look away now. The story this gentleman told was that all the Speed 25 body tools had been put into the bottom of a naval gun barrel quenching pit 100ft deep. Sceptical but buoyed up by the certainty given to the story, the pit was drained by the fire brigade and there at the bottom lay all the body tooling equipment in good condition perhaps not a coincidence but a miracle.
The first chassis number for the TA 14 is 20500 and that proclaims a Charlesworth body.

Mulliners came to the fore and were able to offer bodies at an acceptable price of £125 to £200 per car. These completed bodies would then be returned to the Alvis factory for painting and retrimming.

Alvis wanted to have several catalogued models of the Fourteen that could be ordered as specific cars and so negotiations with a number of coachbuilders were finalised so that after the war the public had a choice.

Alvis could make more chassis than their ability to sell finished cars They offered 1000 chassis, particularly during the early production run, giving customers the opportunity to buy a running chassis to be bodied by other Coachbuilders or enterprising ‘craftsmen’ who put together something that resembled a car body with varying degrees of success. Particularly in the early days of production, boat builders and even a packing case manufacturer turned their hands to creating utility vehicles. The constraints of an austere post-war Britain were considerable and lack of steel, power, double purchase tax on cars costing over £1000, £1 per horse power tax and the need to export were all factors affecting the Fourteen.

In many ways, reverting to a mid range 4 cylinder car was to remain true to T.G. John’s original vision of Alvis building smaller high quality cars. The main technical modifications from the 12/70 specification were to add 2 inches onto the wheelbase of the cars. In addition 4 inches were added to the track and a 1 millimetre increase in the bore diameter. The body dimension changes allowed for the appearance of a more ample car forgoing the leaner appearance of the pre-war 12/70 and modernising with no running boards. For some Mulliners owners there was also the opportunity to specify the body 1 inch higher.

The coachwork styles can trace their origins back further through the 12/70 lineage. As an example the original 12/70 saloon body was a design by James Wignall for a Rolls Royce 25/30 owned by Mulliners’ Chief, Louis Antweiler that was actually constructed and ran.
In 1945 the advertisements began to appear confirming ‘the reconversion of the Company’s productive facilities’ and the slogan developed for the cars was ‘Individuality’. ‘The New Fourteen’ was promoted as the first of their post-war models with deliveries intended to commence in the Spring of 1946.

Sadly, at the time, the Fourteen was viewed by many at ‘The’ Alvis as a stop-gap model and almost immediately plans were put in place to develop the 3 litre model. For a ‘stop gap’ the TA 14 did remarkably well. More Fourteens were produced than any other model in the Company’s history. More have survived than any other model, much due to the robustness of building and construction. Accountants had yet to run car companies!

At a 1940s Motor Show a man was seen to feel the thickness of the front wing metal and exclaim there was enough metal there to make a Ford Anglia! In 1948 it became the only post war Alvis car to make a profit. The actual cost of warranties at £9 per car came in dramatically lower than the budgeted £15.

TA 14 TB 14
Copyright © 2020-2023, Alvis Owner Club. All rights reserved. The Master of the King's Highway.
Admin Login