(first posted 3/16/2017) Welcome one and all to the second edition of the British Deadly Sins, this time dedicated to the swinging ‘60s, the decade that those of us who weren’t there apparently remember best. British industry was in the midst of another round of mergers in this decade: Daimler were gobbled up by Jaguar, Chrysler bought out Rootes, BMC and Leyland got married and Rover (before becoming part of BL) got a hold of Alvis. Let’s start our journey through the ‘60s British Deadly Sins by having a look at how this last one came about.
Alvis is a completely made-up name. It was dreamed up in 1920 by its founders, Thomas G. John and Geoffrey de Freville, when looking for a moniker that would be easy to pronounce in several languages (Japanese not being one of them, obviously). In the interwar years, Alvis became a byword for technological innovation: they pioneered FWD cars in the ‘20s. They were also renowned for being sporty and luxurious cars – Bentley were direct competitors – though smaller cars were also part of the range. Alvis branched out into aero engines and APCs in the ‘30s, which proved to be a shrewd move. The military side of the business quickly flourished and grew much bigger than the original civilian side.
After the Second World War, Alvis restarted car production with a smaller model. The TA 14 was a 2-litre 4-cyl. with pre-war underpinnings (mechanical brakes and leaf-sprung rigid axles front and rear), rather slow but very well built and in tune with the market – except the ungainly roadster. The company saw that the economy was looking promising for the ‘50s and thus came out with a completely new 3-litre 6-cyl. model for 1951, the TA 21. The mechanicals were gradually brought up to date and by 1953, Alvis were producing a very good chassis.
Note that the word here is “chassis”, not “car”: Alvis never had the capacity to produce their own bodies, which were farmed out to various coachbuilders, which soon became a big problem. By the mid-‘50s, Alvis’ main seller was the “Gray Lady” four-door saloon, bodied by Mulliners, but by 1955 that coachbuilder was coming under the influence of Standard-Triumph. It also became clear that Alvis could no longer work with Tickford, which was bought by David Brown and would focus on Astons and Lagondas instead. Ford got a hold of Briggs (causing the end of Jowett) a couple of years earlier and BMC now controlled Fisher & Ludlow. This spate of acquisitions was occurring at a time when Alvis were doing a bit of soul-searching anyhow.
The question was: should Alvis remain a small maker of luxury chassis, or should they try to grow out of the artisan stage and produce a more ambitious product? Alec Issigonis was on the Alvis engineering staff since 1952, and he had lofty ideas of a modern V8-powered saloon with a sophisticated suspension that would compete with Jaguar or Mercedes-Benz. Alvis’ bean-counters added up the investment and manpower needs and threw up their hands: there was no way for the firm to take on the TA 350 without changing the entire scale of the company and a massive bank loan. Furthermore, besides Pressed Steel, no independent British firm had the capacity to manufacture the large amount of bodies needed for the project to make a profit. So instead of the TA 350, Alvis went back to their 3-litre chassis and gave it another round of updates, and Issigonis went back to BMC.
The issue now was finding someone to style the new Alvis. The answer came from an unlikely place: Switzerland. In the ‘50s, Swiss coachbuilders were still thriving. Worblaufen, Beutler, Ghia-Aigle or Langenthal were busy making very high-quality work on a dizzying variety of chassis – anything from Peugeots and VWs to Lancias and Jaguars. One Swiss carrossier that had caught Alvis’ eye was Hermann Graber. Based in Wichtrach (Canton of Bern), Graber had an impressive portfolio since he started making bodies in 1925, with a penchant for convertibles.
Graber started importing Alvis chassis to Switzerland in 1948 and became the marque’s official Swiss representative in 1953. Graber-bodied cars (especially Alvises) were a fixture of the Geneva Motor Shows in the ‘50s and ‘60s.
Compared to the British-bodied cars, Grabers had a much more modern and pleasant styling that suited the 3-litre chassis very well. Alvis therefore commissioned Graber to clothe their new TC 21 108/G with his usual panache, but with a view to license the design. Graber readily obliged, though he reserved the right to make specials for sale on the Continent. Now, all Alvis needed was a British coachbuilder who could follow Graber’s blueprints.
Alvis took the design to Willowbrook, but that firm’s workmanship left a lot to be desired. Very few TC 21 “production” cars like the one above were made due to Willowbrook’s ineptitude. Graber picked up the slack a bit, but did not have the capacity to make Alvis bodies in sufficient amounts – and UK import duties would have made it uneconomical anyhow. Only 37 Alvis chassis were built in 1956-58 due to this lack of adequate body supply.
Alvis decided to put the TC experience behind them and launched the TD 21. This time, Alvis managed to find a British coachbuilder that was up to snuff. Park Ward, owned by Rolls-Royce, was happy to make the TD 21 coupés and convertibles to their customary high standard. The design, still penned by Graber, would remain essentially unchanged from the greenhouse to the rear bumpers until the end.
The TD 21 debuted at the Earl’s Court Motor Show in October 1958 and was a very successful car for Alvis. The chassis and the engine (mated to a BMC gearbox) were already well-known and dependable, but the workmanship and presentation of the coachwork now matched the mechanicals. Alvis cars were never cheap, and the TD 21 was certainly competing with Bristol, Jaguar or Jensen. The image that the TD 21 had was more sedate though, more of a dignified grand tourer than a brash sports car like an XK150.
By 1959, servo-assisted front disc brakes and Rolls-Royce’s Borg-Warner-derived 4-speed automatic transmission were on the options list. In 1961, the Series II cars were introduced, with several changes including a 5-speed ZF gearbox and integrated foglamps.
While most of the 1069 TD 21 chassis made from 1958 to 1963 wore Park Ward bodies, about 50 were specials made by Graber with several variations in styling. By this point, Graber was focused almost exclusively on Alvis – the last Bentleys bodied in Wichtrach were made in 1957. When Alvis decided to update the TD 21 in 1963, they called upon Graber again.
The TE 21 – also dubbed Series III by Alvis – was immediately recognizable by its stacked quad headlamps. It gave the new model a bit of a Facel-Vega / Mercedes-Benz appearance, but was well received overall. Other details also changes here and there (such as rear disc brakes), but fundamentally, the TE 21 was pretty much a TD 21 with a new face and an extra 15 bhp.
This led a few critics to lament Alvis’ lack of innovation. And they were right: Alvis itself saw no future in car-making. They were making money with armoured vehicles, not passenger car chassis. At best, the cars were now a vanity PR exercise. As long as a few customers were buying them, Alvis were happy to keep on selling them, but the automobile branch was clearly not going to go on forever.
That’s not to say that Alvis’ car division had just been sitting idly. Indeed, the engineering staff had explored many different avenues for the marque’s civilian branch. Engine-wise, everything from a 4-cyl. to a V8 was looked into, along with using the new Lagonda 4-litre straight-6. David Brown tried to make a deal with Alvis for them to manufacture Aston Martin and Lagonda engines (which could also be used in Alvis cars), but Alvis declined and were left stuck with their ageing 3-litre six.
By 1965, the writing was on the wall. Alvis Motor Cars were still operating, but the branch had become irrelevant to its parent company. The TE 21 added ZF power steering to its options list, but little else was newsworthy on that front. Alvis decided to sell its civilian branch and its small Coventry factory to Rover.
The buyout went smoothly, as most of the Alvis staff were long aware of the inevitability of their fate. Rover, a reputable automaker in its own right, were keen to use the Alvis marque to its advantage. Plans were soon drawn for a new Alvis coupé, based on the Rover P6. The car, nicknamed “Gladys”, was designed by Rover stalwart David Bache in 1966 and built by Radford. Bache used it as his personal mode of transport from January 1967. Perhaps Alvis might survive after all?
Around the same time, Alvis and Rover engineers also worked together under the aegis of Spen King on a completely new project, a mid-engined sports car using the Buick-sourced 3.5 litre aluminum V8. Unlike the Gladys prototype, there were no plans to ever use the Alvis name on this car, however. Alas, the P6BS project was nixed when Rover merged with BMC, at the insistence of Jaguar boss William Lyons.
Meanwhile, there was a factory to run, so Alvis continued to churn out its old 3-litre chassis. By 1966, that was called the TF 21 (or Series IV) and the 3-litre engine now produced 150 bhp, allowing the latest Alvis to reach a top speed in excess of 120 mph. It was, in almost all respects, still very similar to its previous iteration, which means it was essentially a 1958 body on a 1951 chassis.
Fewer and fewer people were persuaded to part with over £3200 to sample the unique delights of driving a 3-litre Alvis. The death knell for the car came in late 1966, when Park Ward told Alvis that they intended to stop body production next year.
There was no solution to this particular problem: there were no independent body-makers around anymore in Britain. The few that remained either had very limited capacity or no experience with high-end body and interior work. And to compound the matter, Rover themselves were bought out in early 1967 by Leyland-Triumph, who were already in advanced merger talks with British Motor Holdings (BMC/Jaguar) to create a slow-motion, multi-marque car crash called British Leyland. The cancellation of the Park Ward contract was a perfect excuse to quietly finish off Alvis – for the sake of Jaguar/Daimler’s continued dominance in the luxury car field. Altogether, Alvis had produced 1631 of the TD/TE/TF 21 chassis in nine years.
A knock-on effect of Alvis’ extinction was the end of Carrosserie Graber. The Swiss coachbuilder sold the few remaining Alvis specials still in his inventory until early 1968, but Hermann Graber knew there would be no more after that. Graber had become the Rover distributor for Switzerland when Alvis were taken over and exposed a pair of Rover P6 coupés at the 1967 Geneva Motor Show, following his Rover 2000 cabriolet of 1965. These, along with the last few TF 21s, were the last Graber-bodied cars. Hermann Graber died in 1970.
So how were the ‘60s Alvises Deadly Sins? They represented an automaker that was brimming with talent, but petrified by indecision, underinvestment and a lack of vision. The 3-litre models were very good cars, but they were stuck in the early ‘50s in many ways. While Jaguar launched its 2.5 litre Mark 1, Rolls-Royce created its V8 and Aston Martin made ultra-cool thoroughbreds, Alvis struggled to find a way to clothe its chassis and dithered with various projects and ended up committing to none.
The fact that Alvis’ car branch lasted as long as it did was pretty extraordinary. Alvis were perhaps the last true chassis-maker, like Delahaye in France or Alfa Romeo before the 1900 – most had disappeared by the mid-‘50s, or (like Rolls and Aston) had bought out a coachbuilder to safeguard their source of quality bodies. By the time the TD 21 came out in 1958, Alvis’ future was unsustainable without either a merger with another automaker, an ambitious cash injection from the military vehicles side to create a modern factory and a new product, or sinking into obscurity. The Rover buyout came a bit late to avoid the latter.
Join us tomorrow as we take a gander at one of the biggest British flops of the ‘60s, the Lagonda Rapide.
I’ve always found these to be tremendously elegant cars, kind of a British version of Facel-Vega but without the V8 power. Sure, it would have been very hard to compete with the Jaguar XK or the Aston Martin, but it seems there’s a market for this type of car, albeit a small one. If they had committed to modernizing it under the skin–who knows? Maybe it could have carried on for a few more years. Look at Bristol, who survived past the turn of the millennium.
*Speaking of Bristol, how did they avoid a similar fate? Did they actually make their own bodies, despite being a very low-volume outfit?
As I understand it, Bristol survived on the sheer audacity of its owner/manager Tony Crook. I don’t have the details, so I may be wrong, but it seems he made a sort of management buyout in the 60’s, and ran Bristol (cars) as his personal fiefdom almost up until his death. They only had one showroom in Kensington, and he also controlled the market for second hand cars. The company refurbished all the trade-ins almost to as new condition, they were thus able of controlling supply and demand of new and used cars, and succeeded in raising the prices for both. If you wanted a Bristol, new or used, you had to go through Tony Crook and pay the price. I guess they never made more cars than the market could handle, and to a price that made it profitable, and I guess Bristol (planes) let him do that as long as he made money for them, even if it was just a trickle…
Bristol Cars was first sold in 1960, to Sir George White, one of the founders. In 1973, he sold the majority shares to Tony Crook. And Bristol Aviation/BA kicked them out of their plant about the same time, so they opened a new facility near Patchway.
Bristol built their own bodies.
“Bristol built their own bodies.”
When they were part of the aeroplane company their bodies were built by the aero engineers, aluminium in on a wooden frame. They also built their own engines. When the Bristol aeroplane company and Hawker Siddley merged, the plan was to merge Armstrong Siddley with Bristol cars, but Bristol refused and so consequently got the boot.
The 406 to 411 models were built by Park Royal, who did most of London Transport’s busses including the famous Routemaster, aluminium panels on a steel frame. All the engine builders went too as the Chrysler V8 was adopted.
the 400 was built on a wooden frame, the 401 and 403 were super-leggera. 405 and 406 on wooden frames.
Bristol Siddeley wanted to close down Armstrong Siddeley and Bristol but Bristol was purchased by the MD and the distibutor.
On our trip to the UK we stayed in a small village pub where the landlord had a Bristol that he had put up for sale. He was contacted by Bristol who offered to restore the car and sell it on, upon when he would receive his asking price (or a negotiated value, can’t remember precisely). From memory it was a 407-409 era car, possibly a 410.
Great article as always Mr Tatra! Seeing the TB14 roadster reminded me of a flathead Ford-engined special that was owned by a guy I met years ago, he had not been able to determine its origins from what I remember. No connection to Alvis, just a similar aesthetic – unfortunately!
Ingvar and Paul wrote the majority of the case for Bristol’s uncanny survival.
I’d only add their other ace in the hole: the Chrysler V8 (from the Bristol 407 onward) was, compared to the Alvis 3-litre six, a huge plus point. Powerful, reliable, huge. Just what you want in a luxury coupe.
Thank you, as always these articles fill in blanks and lend insight.
Another old British marque demystified. Excellent reading.
I see some parallels to Packard in the US, which also got hit by the loss of its body builder (Briggs) at a critical time.
We don’t always agree in discussions, Tatra87, though I must say I enjoy these European Deadly Sins immensly. These are simply top notch writings, and I hope you’ll never end. You got something there, and it is good, and I always long for more.
We disagree? Sorry, I’m baffled. I don’t hold grudges, except if a post is dreadfully sloppy (that Ami 6 one got me going a while back)…
Ingvar, Ingvar, how have I slighted thou?
No, you haven’t slighted me, not in the slightest. We are just strongly opinionated, and sometimes we disagree. I don’t remember the article, and it doesn’t matter really. Well, as they say, forget I brought it up, and the drinks are on me….
I think the wider-grilled Graber Specials look the best of the bunch.
The Gladys coupe reminds me a bit of an Opel Kadett B made bigger without gaining any of the gracefulness of the bigger GM cars from its’ time. Just as well it wasn’t built.
Always had a sweet spot for the Graber cars. Very elegant, even if it was a bit too narrow for the times. Sadly, it was just destined to peter out.
I knew Issigonis was at Alvis for a while, but did not know he was working on such an ambitious car.
It’s sort of like the SAAB model of carmaking, sans innovation
Great article. As bad as that TA 14 roadster was (actually it’s a TB 14), the original 1948 show version was even worse.
You’re quite right, of course, it’s a TB 14. Fixed the text.
The TB 21 (same body but with the traditional grille) looked pretty good, so they did get it right in the end, though that one also sold pretty poorly.
Wonderful Issigonis TA350. Long wheelbase, short overhangs. Very modern.
The owner of a repair shop near my home town drove a TD21 beautiful car and quite fast he used to hammer it along, it was meant to be the last model they built, 65 or 66 but its a long time since Ive seen it.
If I were given my choice of just one Trad Brit from the days of my youth to keep in the garage and drive when I felt like it, that one would be an Alvis TD21, and rather a four-door saloon than a coupe. Much less common than its runner-up, the Mk VI Bentley, and likely easier to find someone to work on it, since guys in that part of the field welcome the unusual if it doesn’t require a lot of weird tools.
They are extremely well-built and by all reports very nice to drive. At the same time they weren’t so damn precious that you can’t convert to an alternator and electronic ignition or add A/C without giving some purist onlooker apoplexy. They did eventually come with 4-wheel disks so why stop there? Three-point belts too, of course, because we will be taking some road trips.
But most of all it comes down to this: I have always liked cars I enjoy looking at, and that just get better looking the longer I know them, and the TD21 is emphatically one of those. It was love at first sight back in 1958, and it still does it to me.
Along with the Alvis TA350 prototype which put out around 124 hp via its light-alloy 400 pound 3.5-litre OHC V8 engine (and at around 1067kg was significantly lighter than the Jaguar Mark VII at 509kg it was directly compared to as well as the later Jaguar Mark I at 130+kg), it was to also spawn the TA175 variant that was to be powered by a related 1.75-litre 4-cylinder engine.
However Alex Issigonis despite his reputation was never known for being good at building engines and it was indeed the case with the 3.5-litre Alvis V8 (though it seems most of the TA350’s problems were resolved prior to being shelved just as it was on the verge of being produced), its issues being similar to the failed 4.5-litre 4-cam Lagonda V12 engine in the mid-50s Aston Martin Lagonda DP115 and DP166 racing cars.
Prior to the Alvis “Gladys” and Rover P6BS V8 projects, Alvis were working on the Alvis TA30 project aka the last true Alvis car as a TF21 replacement until 1965, which was to be powered a 220 hp 3.5-litre OHC Inline-6 unit with the chassis formed by a prefabricated underbody / integral body construction.
“That’s not to say that Alvis’ car division had just been sitting idly. Indeed, the engineering staff had explored many different avenues for the marque’s civilian branch. Engine-wise, everything from a 4-cyl. to a V8 was looked into, along with using the new Lagonda 4-litre straight-6. David Brown tried to make a deal with Alvis for them to manufacture Aston Martin and Lagonda engines (which could also be used in Alvis cars), but Alvis declined and were left stuck with their ageing 3-litre six.”
Interested in finding out more specific details about the different engines Alvis looked into beyond the Aston Martin Inline-6 units, since the other engine proposals do not seem to be mentioned in Kenneth Day’s Alvis book.
The 4 (1.75L) and V8 (3.5L) were the Issigonis-era engines; Alvis also toyed with shoving a Rover V8 in there, the 3.5 litre for the TA30 and the Lagonda engine = many avenues. All the while, the old 3-litre stayed on the production line, alone.
I see, was thinking you were referring to more obscure engines that Alvis considered
Kind of wonder whether a properly-developed TA350 V8 (and TA175 4-cylinder) would have had similar potential as the Rover V8 in spite of its initially underwhelming power output, perhaps with the Alvis TA175/TA350 engines even being carried over to a Rover P6-based Alvis TA175/TA350 successor using a lighter gauge body to reduce weight.
Thinking Alvis would have ultimately benefited from using the Tadek Marek designed Aston Martin inline-6 engines in terms of power output though the 3.5-litre TA30 engine is another potential candidate that should have at least powered a Rover-based car or few.
I agree on the wonderful Issigonis TA350 – another example of his genius and how his thinking was ahead of the game. With a V8, it could have been a real winner.
A few of the Graber designs reminded me of several Maseratis of the day – could they have been styled by the same people ?
1,631 Alvis fans can’t be wrong…
I knew someone would get it!
I’ve always loved these – proper cars. Those Graber specials are delicious.
As a kid I only knew Alvis for cars, then 10-15 years ago I was overcome by irrational excitement to see that Alvis logo, writ large on a “totem” outside what I think was an Alvis Vickers plant in Newcastle.
Would that have been the former Vickers Armstrong Tank factory?
The greenhouse on that last Graber four door carries uncanny echoes of the Rover P6’s top half.
+1 to everyone who said they’d like to have one of these. More graceful than my dream-garage P5B Coupe!
The Rover’s roof is very much like a Citroen DS minus the rear window.
The market for 4-wheeled fossils has become quite tiny in recent decades and lately had been amply served by the likes of Morgan and Bristol. Question: Are either still in business, and if , do they still make the same type products as in the past.
My only encounter with these was a blue TD I saw about seven years ago — a really attractive car and obviously finished to a high standard. Looking at the specifications, though, is really pretty disappointing; one would expect something more in the realm of Aston Martin or the Ferrari GTs, so the fact that the TD could be outrun by a Mk1 Cortina GT is disconcerting.
I think ‘Gladys’ and the P6BS were both pretty odd-looking, but Leyland’s plans for Rover-based Alvis cars were at least on a more viable track. I think their lifespan would have been questionable in any case, since they would likely have ended up becoming a top trim level for the Rover P8 (sort of as LeBaron became for Chrysler’s Imperial), but I suppose Daimler-trimmed Jaguars survived for a remarkably long time in the British market and Volkswagen still commands a premium over mechanically identical (and often better-styled) SEAT models, so who knows?
One minor point: The automatic, at least on the TD and TE, was indeed a Borg-Warner unit, but it wasn’t a four-speed and I don’t think it was from Rolls. The Rolls-Royce automatic at that point was GM’s 1952-vintage four-speed Dual-Range Hydra-Matic, which Rolls actually built under license for many years. Alvis had a three-speed torque converter automatic.
You’re quite right, Aaron — I mixed up my autoboxes! Definitely B-W, not R-R/GM. Will amend the text. Apparently, quite a few Alvis owners have tried to install either the RR unit or an overdrive on the B-W 3-speed. The old Alvis 3-litre apparently likes the OD / 4speed better than a 3speed in highway cruising (and I’m sure mpg would be much improved, too).
The TD was plenty slow enough with a manual gearbox, so I can’t imagine the old Borg-Warner auto did its performance any favors!
I keep thinking of the Alvis in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. A Wikipedia post says that the movie car is “a 1939 4.3 Litre Vanden Plas tourer (which they borrowed from the then secretary of the Alvis Owner Club, Mike Cummins),” but I remember reading the book and desperately wondering what the car looked like…
I wondered the exact same thing when I read the book! They neglected to mention whether pre- or postwar, even, just “an old red Alvis” towing a trailer. So quite a few possibilities including these later cars. Having been published in ’74 there were probably quite a few running around in various states of repair at the time.
I think the TOTAL production of all Bristol cars up until their demise in 2011 was/is 3000. So the fact that Alvis was able to produce 1631 of the TD/TE/TF 21 chassis in nine years is an achievement. I would think an Alvis TF 21 would be a better car than a Bristol 410/411, but so few of either were made it hardly matters.
They’re back with some “continuation” runs.
in this article, lic. plate NMT 395E a B&W photo of a very rectilinear design, 2 door coupe. banks of 4 round taillights, and ….What … some sort of bubbled popcorn popper behind the rear window ?!?!?!
WHAT on Earth is that thing?
beyond the car/model … can someone explain the purpose of the bubble and the pistons that appear to be poking their heads out for the better view…
all seems very Jetsons – on an otherwise very out of character car.
The “popcorn popper” is a clear cover for the twin SU carbs on the Rover V8…
Is it my old eyes that cannot tell one from another but does the TA 350 look like Issi copied it into the MG Magnette?
Alvis was done when, Rover joined BL.
Sir William Lyons of Jaguar didn’t want any threats from V8 powered Sports Cars & Sports GT’s, to sales of the E-Type, and the future XJ-S.
So he got together with Lord Stokes who controlled Triumph, to kill off Alvis.
Alvis was the first British manufacturer to win at Le Mans, in 1928. In the 1500cc Category.
The mid engined Alvis P6BS / P9, with its V8 would have been the first British supercar and only the 2nd after the Lamborghini Miura.
Lyons, paid back Stokes, by helping to kill off the Riley marque in return.
The possibility of a P6 based Riley Coupe, using either the Zagato designed, Rover 2000 TCZ and Graber designed Convertible & P6B Coupe.
Could have affected the launch of the Triumph Stag.
And new Rover based Riley’s being competitors to other Triumph’s.
It would have replaced the Austin-Healey 3000, in the USA.
All that inter company warfare in BL. What a waste.
You would never have got the German government trying to merge BMW, Porsche, Opel, Mercedes-Benz and VW – Audi into one automotive group.
It is funny seeing William Lyons and Lord Stokes working together to product their interests, when Lyons wasn’t sure whether to join Leyland under Stokes due to being friendlier with Sir Henry Spurrier who retired and passed away before he was able to agree to be part of Leyland.
Either way Lyons came to bitterly regret joining BMC instead of opting for Leyland, whereas Rover kept clashing with Triumph.
Agree BL should not have happened, also how the companies consolidated prior was stupid and non-complimentary as well with little-to-no room for any synergies. Also BMC should have rationalised their marque portfolio with a focus on what was commercially successful and eventually future endeavoured the Healeys who in reality had little future apart from their cars being rebadges.
I have a fantasy where I travel back to 1968, and manipulate things at BL.
They are grouped into the following, as soon as possible. Then either floated on to the stock exchange or bought by private companies.
Napier Automotive Group of:
Triumph, Jaguar, Daimler & Lanchester with Coventry Climax engines, become one group based in Coventry. With the Fisher & Ludlow body plant at Castle Bromwich producing the car bodies. This group copies BMW & Porsche. (I also tap up Lord Rothschild, with bits of future info) Bosch Electronic Fuel Injection is introduced as soon as possible. But Weber carburettors takeover for now.
The rights to the coachbuilders Hooper & Co, Barker & Co, Swallow, Corsica Coachworks, Charlesworth Bodies Ltd and Avon (New Avon / Avon Warwick) are acquired. Daimler gets the Empress name as a result. The Princess name & marque are transferred from Austin to Daimler. The Lynx name from Riley. The Swan name from Avon. Rights to the defunct marques Standard, Invicta, Railton and Swift are also acquired.
Guy Lorries, moves to the Alcester plant of ACV Maudslay Motor Co.
L Gardner & Sons Ltd, of Patricroft, Manchester & W.H. Dorman & Co Ltd, of Stafford, Diesel Engine manufacturing companies are purchased. With Turbocharging introduced, engines are built producing 75 to 600hp.
Armstrong-Whitworth Automotive Group of:
Alvis, Rover, Riley, and Vanden Plas coachbuilders, Land Rover & Range Rover and SCG, are another grouping based in Wolverhampton and Solihull.
They are joined by Morris (just the Minor, ADO15/20 Mini, and ADO16 1100/1300 models), Morris Commercials and Pressed Steels Plant in Oxford.
I reach out to Rubery Owen & B.R.M. to design a new small 4 cylinder engine. Rover’s 2000 engine gets a new Double Overhead Camshaft head, and an 1800 is added to the 2200 in the range. The ex Buick V8 engine is also further developed, enlarged, and fitted with a Overhead Camshaft on each bank. It also has 2 cylinders cut off to produce a V6.
Zenith-Stromberg Carburettors replace the SU’s on all cars, before Electronic Fuel Injection is introduced.
AEC (Lorries & Buses) and Thornycroft (Lorries) are also part of this grouping.
But they move from Southall, London and Basingstoke to the old Rolls-Royce engine site at Leavesden, Watford.
The overseas sites assembly plants in Spain, Portugal, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Argentina, Rhodesia and South Africa are also part of this grouping.
Basically this grouping copies Mercedes-Benz and VW.
Austin, MG, Wolseley cars with Mayfair coachbuilders and SU Carburettors, are left in Birmingham.
While BMC, Albion, Leyland & Scammell making Vans, Pick Ups, Lorries, Buses & Coaches are part of this grouping.
(All Morris cars, vans & pick ups, are to have a front Transverse Engine & Front Wheel Drive)
While Austin are now use the K.I.S.S. principle, and try to take on Chrysler, Ford and GM Vauxhall.
MG sports cars are re-engineered to use the driveline of Austin cars. MG Saloons, have Twin Carbs, Stiffened and Lowered suspension, with Recaro seats.
Wolseley, come with an Automatic as standard, or manual at no cost option, and have a traditional English interior of Connolly Leather seats and panelling, Wilton Carpets and Walnut Dash. The ride is optimised so the cars glide.
With help, I manage to get all of the awkward squad sent to the Longbridge plant.
Eventually I try to merge the BL group, into a Euro pudding with Renault Cars & Light trucks, Berliet, Saviem (and possibly DAF Trucks & Cars).
Coventry Climax Forklifts (renamed Invicta), and Aveling-Barford construction equipment, are privatised in a management buyouts or bought by JCB.
All the agricultural Tractor manufacturers with in the group, are merged into Marshall Tractors, based in Gainsborough.
What would replace the pre-war engines at Morris in place of the Austin designs?
Had a vaguely similar although different automotive consolidation in mind for the British Car Industry, however there still are some loose ends that need to be wrapped up involving separately:
– Fedden – Influenced from BMW like Bristol yet at the lower end of the range (involving Motorcycle Flat-Twins – see BMW 331/531, CEMEC powered Rosengart Sagaie, Orix 610, etc) with a similar K.I.S.S. principle as the Toyota Publica before later becoming a British version of DAF Cars (via Comet/Salsbury pulley belt drive CVT system as on Invacar) instead of the Beetle or a radial Jowett Javelin lookalike.
Being state and co-op owned with a kind of sacred cow status, it would also tie into analogues of Greeves motorcycles developed Invacar 3-wheeler including the Wilson Government’s idea for a 4-wheeled Town Car project, that all featured the Steyr-Puch Twin (see Puch Roadster S for how it could have spawned a small Flat-Four).
It would also be the type of environment that would be more receptive to Harry Ferguson’s R3, R4 and R5 car prototypes powered by Claude Hill’s originally Jowett Javelin rooted larger Flat-Fours.
Perhaps it would be the British Automotive scapegoat to save the other consolidated combines, which expands into deprived areas of the country outside of the traditional UK automotive heartland?
No idea how to involve any commercials into the mix, though as the Invacar was said to be overengineered to meet ever changing government demands rather than built to a price as expected. Maybe it is the sort of place where individuals like Dr Albert Fogg or a Gesamtkunstwerk small car duo seeking Alec Issigonis after leaving BMC, effectively given a blank check could leave a lasting mark on the industry?
– Daimler – Pre-Jaguar minus Lady Docker yet possibly with a pre-war divergence has the ability to utilize a British Army captured DKW F9 prototype and achieve a similar level of success as it did with the DKW RT 125 based BSA Bantam, resulting in a more DKW / Auto Union under Mercedes type path the former is eventually rebadged as Daimler in case of rationalisation (see Mercedes W118/W119 and imagine Daimler analogue with V8 derived Slant-Four replacing old two-stroke engines).
– Singer and Riley – Could both have amounted to much more had they not overexpanded during the pre-war period and experienced their respective declines? Singer was at one time the 3rd largest carmaker in the UK before it was reduced to a indebted poisoned chalice for Rootes in a similar manner to Riley by Nuffield (at the expense of MG).
Could Singer have at least maintained a pre-war share of the UK in 1937 to Standard and Rootes at 15% and 13% respectively, before the government finds some excuse to nationalise and later merge it with Riley (followed later by Singer-Riley being the Leyland to Fedden’s BMC with all it entails)?
Could the British government have used Riley deciding to agree to BMW’s pre-war offer whether directly or indirectly by AFN Ltd later Frazer Nash BMW under the Aldington Brothers as an excuse to both nationalise it pre-war and later establishing post-war ties of sort (with the Riley Brothers* back in control), where Riley acts similar with BMW as Rover did with Standard during merger talks and perhaps even capitalize on their bleakest period to gain discount licences (if not look into the development cupboard like Simca’s Henri Pigozzi did at Fiat for what became the 1000 and supposedly even the 1100) before BMW were saved by the Quandts?
Only for Riley to be more mainstream relative to BMW with a more modular M20-like engine family against BMW’s M10 and M30 engines.
*- A longer-lived Percy Riley manages to succeed Victor Riley and also produce an alternate version of his stillborn small car project under PR Motors, which may possibly have been a successor to the pre-war Riley Nine of some sort. Riley as a marque being said to have the flexibility to be both downmarket as well as upmarket.
– And lastly the British government could have at least retained a post-war share in Volkswagen, rather than the hackneyed idea of looking Wolfsburg as war reparations to remove a competitor.
For Morris engines.
BRM and Rover engineers, would have created a small straight 4, around 1 litre to 1.6 litre.
The new 1.8 litre & 2.0 litre versions of Rover’s own 4 would be in the replacement for the Minor & ADO16. Something similar to a VW Golf.
BMC tried to turn Riley into a Jaguar rival in the 50’s with Pathfinder and the 2.6.
It didn’t work.
It may have added to Lyons helping to kill the marque off.
Though BMW kept both Riley & Triumph.
Looking at what Rover were developing in real-life, am not sure either their P6 or P10 engines was capable of being reduced to 1.8-litres nor forming the basis of a smaller engine. They via Land Rover did look at P6 based 1.5-litre triple for an 80-inch wheelbase Land Rover successor project though nothing else.
Surely it would have been within the talents of Nuffield to start off the post-war period from 1948-1954 with an earlier 1.1-2.9-litre 4-to-6-cylinder OHV like the updated 1967 C-Series, before being redesigned by Harry Weslake with OHC, a further 59kg weight reduction and more?
Which would soon be followed by a smaller engine resembling in general design and overall appearance a scaled-down iteration of the above, replacing the Wolseley Eight OHV X engine that by all rights should have powered the Minor from the start.
Although am assuming a Nuffield under decent management amongst other divergences beginning pre-war.
BMC picked the wrong horses with Riley and Austin-Healey, yeah the Austin-Healeys carved out their own niche yet short of the Big Healeys being pushed further upmarket both marques effectively acted like a glass ceiling to MG’s post-war success.
I used to regularly pass an Alvis slowly rotting away in a West Belfast street on the Sixties. Before the MOT arrived, cars that broke down were regularly dumped outside their owner’s home, presumably in the vain hope something would turn up to get the beast moving. Rust seemed to be the killer as in so many post war British cars
Alvis were said to have pre-war plans to increase production capacity to 3000 a year, depending on what their production capacity in real-life how would that have affected their fate later on post-war when the TA350/TA175 project appeared?
Fwiw also read the all-alloy 100-160 hp 2.6-3.2-litre BMW OHV V8 was only about 20kg heavier than the Issigonis-designed ~124 hp 3.5-litre Alvis V8 and based on the BMW engines books by Dr Karlheinz Lange, had Alvis (and Issigonis however unlikely) swallowed their pride actually had more untapped development potential from growth up to a 4.8-litre V8 as well as a 1.3-2.6-litre OHC Slant-Four and more (think Six spinoffs were also investigated IIRC before BMW went with what became the M10 and M30 engines).
To add to the previous comment Thomas George John aka T G John’s aim was to increase pre-war output from a peak of 1110 cars in 1934 (against a rough average of 600) to 3000 cars per annum with the company building its own bodies using bought-in pressed steel panels.