The Alvis Continuation Series

My intention was to ask readers which extinct car brand they would like to see back in production. My preference is for Alvis. Interestingly, Alvis is not as dead as I thought.

2015 Alvis 4.3 litre Continuation series.
2015 Alvis 4.3 litre Continuation series.

My one caveat was that it ought to be a brand dead for more than 20 years so we can avoid regretting Rover, Pontiac, Austin, Morris and  Oldsmobile, Citroen**, Lincoln**, Saab and Saturn. For example. Alvis are back in the business of car production. They have hit upon the wheeze of completing an unfinished run of cars from 1940. “There is evidence from the 1938 Alvis Board Minutes that 77 of the 4.3 Litre chassis that were officially sanctioned for production were never completed because car manufacturing had to be suspended in 1940. As a result the new 4.3 Litre “Continuation Series” will be limited to the production of these remaining 77 chassis, thereby fulfilling the original intention of the Alvis Board,” write Alvis at their nice website.

1966 Alvis TF21
1966 Alvis TF21

I contacted Alvis who told me that orders are being taken and deliveries made to customers. Quite coincidentally, Top Clarkson magazine has a long article about Alvis. Here is some more information: ” Each car is individually built to order by the Alvis Car Company using the original Works drawings and build specifications from 1936. This includes the original 4.3 Litre six-cylinder engine capable of a hefty 250lb/ft. of torque as well as the chassis and ash frame. The demonstration model weighs in at 1750 kg, and has four speed all synchromesh gearbox with overdrive but as all cars will be built to order cars each can be constructed to the customer’s personal preference.”

I am rather pleased that Alvis is back in production even if the car is a little more retro than my personal preferences can extend to. There must be a few drivers out there for whom a Morgan is not exclusive enough and Alvis’s concept might just be the thing for them.

If I was waving the chequebook for a modern version of the Alvis name, I’d be looking for a car in the mould of the late T-series coupes. You might think this would be something close to a Bristol (a similar package). For Alvis I’d insist on an Alvis-designed engine and I don’t think I’d be demanding anything over 3.0 litres and it would be car under 4.6 metres. The world doesn’t need another huge, wide coupe. I’d keep the interior pretty free of wood too and hopefully find a balance between comfort and luxury. The idea would be for everything to be well-made and not necessarily draped in leather, Alcantara, wood and chrome.

That’s my idea. What brands would you like to see disinterred? Over to you.

**satire.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

50 thoughts on “The Alvis Continuation Series”

  1. Mine is along the same lines as Richard’s. I rather like the idea of Talbot-Lago. These were proper ‘Grandes Routières’, a term that I see Wikipedia now defines as covering large saloons such as an E Class Mercedes. Of course my argument against Wikipedias championing that definition falls down due to the fact that I’d probably let a Citroen CX slip into the Grandes Routières category but, generally, I think of these as primarily French cars, luxurious and costly but designed for fast, long distance travel on roads of various qualities. As such, the last real Grande Routière was a Facel Vega or, maybe, a Citroen SM.

    The Georges Paulin (dentist / designer / secret agent) designed teardrop Talbots of Figoni et Falaschi were lavish yet elegant, avoiding the excesses of many of the other products of the golden age of the French carrossiers – not that I don’t admire those all the same.

  2. Why **satire, Richard? To my knowledge, Citroën is dead since 1974. (**)

    But if I could wish, I’d like to see a mid-sized, but very light car with a small capacity engine (two cylinders might be too few, but why not three?), but still able to transport a family and its luggage with decent speed and comfort. It could for example use a larger amount of aluminium, but I could also imagine more modern materials. And it should be equipped with a reduced, ergonomic and space-saving dashboard.

    1. Are you suggestion Panhard? Sounds like a great formula. To make it a challenge, the length would have to be under 4.4 metres. The two cylinder restriction carries lots of interesting implications. This is the kind of car the public are too dim to understand. It would cost a lot and not use much fuel. The small engine says “Alto” money and the material says “Audi A2 Mk1”.
      You could almost write the automotive journalist review without seeing the car.
      “While Panhard´s 25 has a very frugal engine and the driving dynamics are well-above average, we feel it´s just too expensive for this size-class. Customers used to all the bells and whistles in comparably priced Audis and Lexi just won´t understand why they have to wind down the windows themselves or why it lacks an auto option. We like the nice forms inside the minimal interior. Very clever. The public may think otherwise, if they expect a car to be at least as elaborate as a Kia i30. Nice engineering and great to drive but we´d still pick a 320 coupe for this money.”

    2. My hints were quite obvious, weren’t they?
      Thinking about it again, two cylinders might still be two too many. An electrical powertrain would fit in well with Panhard’s image and the efficiency goal. Alas, the batteries would also compromise some of the benefits of pure lightweight design.

      Great review, Richard. But you might be wrong with the window winders. My Lotus-driving friend claims his Elise has electrical windows, as they apparently are able to make them lighter than manual units.

    3. “The Panhard 25 might appeal to you if you want a lightweight, frugal, earth-friendly compact car with impeccable road manners and distinctive styling. But when that byword of suburban good taste the Golf TDI is thousands less, and for a few thousand more you could stretch to a BMW 223i MSport with adaptive suspension and the essential limited-slip diff, why would you bother? Panhard, more like Tryhard mate, and nobody likes a Tryhard. Off to the Toyota Pious corner with you, hippy. Three stars.”

    4. “We spent 10 minutes trying to find how to disable traction control, only to find it isn’t fitted. Panhard’s PR bumf tells us how much work they’ve put into developing lightweight sound insulation for the twin. It’s effective but we reckon they needn’t have bothered. The engine has a solid, gutsy thrum to it reminiscent of a BMW twin and we think most enthusiastic owners would appreciate it. The ride is soft, excellent in fact, but at a cost. Pushed hard there’s far too much body roll and the seats are designed for comfort, not support. Panhard needs to address this quickly. Acceleration is surprisingly brisk, but you have to work it hard. Turn-in was good and it sticks to the road but there are definite deficiencies. On a favourite stretch of moorland road we usually look forward to getting airborne over a small humpback bridge but, even at 70 mph, the Panhard stayed doggedly on the road, hardly registering the hump. This was typical of the overall driving experience which is generally disappointing. There are rumours of a 4 cylinder version, with harder springing and 50 Series rubber. Can’t come too soon for us. In summary, in its present form families will love this car but, for the rest of us, it’s deeply flawed. Two Stars (Mark was too generous)”

  3. Auburn, Cord and Duesenberg. Originally I was just going to bring back Auburn, because managing three luxury brands with similar cars proved too much for Indiana-based conglomerate during the depression. But fhen I decided that Auburn would do elegant GTs and sports saloons, Cord would do overtly futuristic vehicles with alternative energy powertrains and advanced active suspension (a sort of midwestern Tesla meets pre-PSA Citroen) , and Duesenberg would do bespoke super-luxury cars (the American Rolls-Royce.) Just to confuse things, Duesenberg would also supply championship-winning indycar engines, as an illustration of the Duesenberg mastery of engine design and a nod to their earlier Indy 500-winning heritage.

    1. I felt like it wasn’t doing the other brands justice to just bring Auburn back on its own. There would be shared ‘component sets’ in the modern manner, and some commonality around things like electronics and HVAC systems but the things would deviate from there, no doubt ensuring that all three companies died when Cord blew the R&D budget on a mag-lev hover car; Duesenberg sales were hit by scandal over creating a conflict diamond encrusted car for an eastern energy oligarch; and British motoring writers said the Auburn speedster was ‘a bit old man at the golf club, and who wants a yank car named after a hair colour anyway?’
      and you should buy a Ferrari instead because it’s got real emotion, or a Porsche GTRSClubsport Spyder R, because nobody likes comfort and you ought to be wearing racing overalls when driving anyway.

    2. (That’s the last time I use the tiny reply window on the WordPress dashboard page. Apologies for paragraph-long run-on sentences)

  4. I would like to see a what Matra would create today, because i always admired their creativity in finding new car concepts.

    And i want to see something refreshing from the States – i remember Kurtis. The 1941 Kurtis Buick Special had a lot of fresh steel – maybe this was an inspiration for the Citroen DS, the Jaguar XK and the Corvette….

    1. Matra could be very cool. Does Renault still own the name though?

      Seeing the Kurtis made me wonder about Studebaker, since they made some stylish cars in the Raymond Loewy days. But it looks like someone has already decided to try resurrecting the firm: http://www.studebakermotorcompany.com/

    2. Mark. I opened this page with the intention of typing ‘Studebaker’ and there you are. As you say, someone is already trying (cars, bikes and scooters!) but illustrating their prospectus with an SUV both suggests they know which way the wind is blowing, yet don’t realise that ‘Studebaker’ will have no clout with those people. Studebaker cars should be svelte. Here are some I wrote about earlier.

      https://driventowrite.com/2014/07/21/theme-facelifts-the-loewy-studebaker/

      There is something endearingly naive about fledgling car company prospectuses. They often lack the gloss of a big company’s PR machine. They never really convince with any hard information. The often offer lapsed promises “Look out for an important announcement in 2013!”

      I don’t think that Renault ever actually owned the Matra name. It remained a separate company. In fact it still makes vehicles.

      http://matra.com/

    3. I am embarrassed to say I never heard of the Kurtis Buick. The pontoon shape on the side is the important bit.
      Matra were a fascinating corner of the automotive world – sadly they don’t pass my stringent requirement for this thread. Didn’t they close when the Avantime stopped?

    4. Sean Patrick on 30 June 2015 at 07:18 said: Edit
      As far as I understand it, Matra was owned by Lagardere Group a conglomerate in a wide range of areas, including publishing (Hachette). Matra built cars in collaboration with Renault (early Espace and Avantime) but were never under their control. When Renault pulled the plug on the Avantime Lagardere closed the factory and decided to concentrate on media. They seem to have sold off the Matra name, hence the current electric bike firm. Not quite the spirit of Mécanique Aviation Traction.

    5. The thing about the resurrected Studebaker website was that it looked just like I would have imagined Benny Doha’s Hillman website looking, except that the concept renderings were worse. Witness the last entry on the ‘events’ page:
      “2014. Can you believe it? It’s April 7, 2014 already. I’m planning to be in Las Vegas for a few days in June. Is anyone interested in meeting me there? Let’s have some fun in the sun, and maybe even talk Studebaker.”

    6. Yes, I noticed that too. For a company seeking investors, an announcement from the CEO that he’s off to Vegas for Fun In The Sun is, maybe, ill-advised. But endearing. If anyone from Studebaker Driver’s Club is reading this, We’d like your opinions.

  5. Nobody has offered to bring one of the mass-market British brands back, so I’m going to bring back Triumph. This involves going to Munich and asking BMW (who own the brand) to take the 1, 2, 3 and 5 series, plus the Z4 and 6-series cabriolet and giving them a unified family style by an Italian designer. Assuming that Michelotti is no longer a going concern, they could get Ercole Spada & son to do the job. With the platforms and powertrains sorted they could have a new Herald range, Toledo/Dolomite, 2000, a 2-series based Spitfire & GT6, a Z4-based TR9 and a Stag GT. Then they can put some effort into a TR9 sports car. If this could all be accomplished with BMW not Doing A Rover or covering the entire enterprise in union flag bunting and British Racing Green paint, then it might just work. In the penny-pinching spirit of the Z3 and 3-series compact, BMW could use obsolescent components to pitch Triumph at the cheap & cheerful end of their model range. That would take care of Alfa Romeo, while providing a nice earner from people who hate BMW’s ubiquity and want to buy something different but roughly equivalent. They will need to build some sort of factory in the UK, but could probably get by with a ‘Heritage Centre’ in Coventry where they make the badges and sold restoration parts for old Triumphs; and using existing capacity in other plants around the BMW world to build the cars. They could even use the front-drive BMW/Mini platform and build a new Acclaim for Triumph completists. Sorted.

    1. Triumph would be a good candidate if BMW wasn’t the proprietor. I see Triumph as brand with the same potential as BMW, competiitive with and not complimentary to Munich’s pride and joy. Remember there are only three natural categories of brand: sporting, luxury and economy. Triumph would be sporting but forced to stay at the economy end of the spectrum just as Rover was forced to be trad and comfort orientated.
      That said, I’d like a modern Triumph, selling laid back performance in the British idiom. Perhaps they could be an entry into Jagaur, selling a hot hatch and a fwd sport saloon in the A3 mould. A small rwd roadster would be good too.

    2. What about comfort brands? I know that’s something that often gets forgotten today, but I think that’s what Citroën was in its best days: comfort and practicality, without necessarily being luxurious (i.e. expensive).

      About Triumph: good idea! To my ear, this brand still has a good reputation that could be a starting point for good products. Unlike many other British brands, I’m afraid to say…

    3. Do we get Standard too? I like the name Standard. It’s a …. uh ….. standard sort of name. Unassuming. Apparently the Fee Nicks Four were going to call their City Rover a Standard until they found that their £10 didn’t include buying the name from BMW. Crikey, I bet they felt cheated.

    4. chrisward1978: thanks
      Richard: you’re right, and I’m assuming that the British brand champions within BMW senior management were cleared-out after the Rover debacle. So the current leaders are probably happy to have a potential rival brand parked under their control, never to surface again. But the reason I thought it might work was that VW group have been doing the same thing recently – Think Skoda and VW, or VW and Audi. Yet they seemed to have made it work well enough in enough cases across the range that the only thing that’s happened recently is… Well, I’ll admit the chairman of the board being ousted after seeking to remove the CEO is a bad look; and the company suffering lower than expected growth and tight profit margins doesn’t help my case. But the concept is sound. Alfred P. Sloan made it work for GM, and look where they are today-
      Simonstahel: the problem for me was thinking of a comfort-oriented brand that isn’t either still going in some form like Lancia, Citroen or Volvo, or too recently deceased like Lancia, Saab, Oldsmobile or Rover (Lancia may be Schrodinger’s Carmaker at this point). The British candidates that come to mind, like Wolsley or Armstrong-Siddeley all sound a bit fuddy-duddy to 21st century ears. Were Jowett cars comfortable?
      Sean: Yes, Standard comes standard with all Triumphs. Rather than a separate brand, it is the trim level: Eg. “Mrs Wilberforce has recently upgraded from an Audi A1 to a Standard Herald cabriolet, and very happy she is too, for Triumph sets the Standard very high indeed.” It lends itself to all sorts of inventive cross-branding opportunities, for instance the limited edition Triumph Toledo London Evening Standard, which features starlight LED headlining, a digital edition of the newspaper installed in the infotainment system synced by bluetooth with the driver’s smartphone, and authentic London Cabbie mode for the sat-nav and infotainment system voice.

  6. Reverting to your original mail, Richard, the circuitous ways that manufacturers and others attempt to give provenance and gravitas by announcing ‘sanctioned’ runs is particularly weaselly. Back in 1938, someone at Alvis said “I reckon we’ll knock out 77 of those”. But the War intervened and so they never did. There aren’t 77 half-finished cars waiting around in a lock-up to be finished. Someone else is going to knock a few more out. Bearing in mind the high standards in the UK restoration industry they will possibly be beautifully made, better than the originals, and maybe very covetable. But they are still really contemporary knock-offs, not the official conclusion of some pre-destined purpose.

    Car manufacturing is full of broken promises and over-optimistic forecasts. This gives endless scope for automotive necromancers.

    1. I expect they will be really nicely made. You could not re-make a car from 1989 even if you wanted to. There’s a thought.
      “Renault announces the 25 Baccara Celebration edition. Only 5000 of these exemplary grande routieres are being made. The fit and finish is identical to first series and the body will be pressed from newly re-tooled dyes which were made using the latest CAD-CAM methods. In every detail, the Celebration resembles the path-leading car of 1989. Ask your Renault dealer about this special order.”

  7. BMC Motors (2015) Ltd today announced a sanctioned run of nearly nine million, brand new Morris Marinas.

    In 1971, the then head of British Leyland, Sir Donald Stokes, was heard to declare “I could sell 10 million of those ugly little buggers”. This is being accepted as a sanctioned production run so, since the amount of vehicles actually produced was a bit over one million, BMC Motors (2015) Ltd intend to restart production. BMC Motors (2015) Ltd head, Benny Dohar stated “This will be a once in a lifetime opportunity, never to be repeated. We will stick firmly to Sir Donald’s sanction figure of 10 million. Demand will be strong and when they’re gone, they’re gone. We will of course be bringing the cars discreetly up to 21st Century specification with items such as Bluetooth enabled ashtrays, but otherwise they will be the classic Marina that the British nation took to its heart 44 years ago”.

    1. As I understand it, following Mr Dohar’s ‘controversial and sudden’ departure the major shareholder of Hillman, internet entrepreneur Jonni Roots (who, despite the lack of an ‘e’ on both his names claims to be a distant member of the Rootes family) put an immediate freeze on all model development. He brought in a team of management consultants and trimmed plans back to a more credible single model. After several months tantalising wait and a slew of teaser photos, this was revealed as a ‘Mighty Eagle’, a Chinese copy of a French microcar, which was to be rebadged as a Hillman. The last News item on their website states:

      “March 2014 : Great news. After pre-production glitches with the new badge, our technicians have completely revised the adhesive layer. We are now full steam ahead, with all guns blazing. We’re disappointed to have missed Geneva but look out for an exciting reveal next month!”

  8. Simon: I didn’t address your point about comfort brands. My established line on this is that comfort is a legitimate charcteristic which needs to be allied with acceptably modern design and not “traditional” styling (not Lancia Lybra/Rover 75). The modern design attracts younger types and foils associations with retirees. I must note that the ageism inherent in this is not praiseworthy. However even older folk don’t want a car screaming OAP.
    I notice that for the sole reason of having warm-tones inside, the Vignale Mondeo was jeered at for being a pensioner’s idea of comfortable. While that criticism is clicheed and unfair, Ford might perhaps have looked around for another palette expressive of luxury.

  9. Hillman’s news is disappointing. You’d have expected something more after this long wait. Hillman enthusiasts must be choking. One intermediate step would be to buy the Pathan tools and resume production of the Hunter and Sceptre. The Rover K-series would fit and I know the Rover V8 is good for another decade.
    Pretty much the only changes needed inside the car are fitment of an airbag and Bluetooth plus a big touch screen.

    1. Apart from the financial irregularities, apparently one of the other criticisms of Mr Dohar’s reign at Hillman was his lack of engineering nous, illustrated by his idea that it would be a benefit, both in terms of cost and safety, to market the car with the airbag permanently inflated.

  10. On a related subject to both Mark’s and Richard’s comments, I’d remembered that the Rover SD1 was made in India from the mid 80s but wondered what happened to it. This article in aronline gives more information, including the incredible fact that it was fitted with a Standard Vanguard engine dating back to the 1940s. Surprisingly the ‘Standard 2000’ was not a runaway seller.

    http://www.aronline.co.uk/blogs/cars/rover/sd1-rover/gallery-standard-2000/

  11. I don’t have a good business plan for this one, it could be as some semi-retired craftsfolk in a big shed building replicas with modernised engines and suspension. But I’d quite like an Amilcar. They were a French manufacturer of cyclecars to begin with, but their range grew into some very nice touring and sports cars with an unfashionably-generous number of overhead camshafts and valves for the time. The sports & racing cars look like 3/4 scale Bugattis. This Amilcar book review is a much nicer read than the wikipedia listing: http://www.velocetoday.com/amilcar-the-poor-mans-bugatti/

    1. I’ve always thought well of Amilcar. Were they the pre-War Lotus? Actually the (by which I mean my) problem with Lotus today is that they don’t make their own engines anymore. Good business sense of course but, disregarding Bristol and maybe some others, I just feel there is something missing if a manufacturer doesn’t produce its own power unit.

      It’s always nice to find a manufacturer whose end ambitions aren’t to make something much bigger. Very few sports cars surprise with their restraint. I sometimes like the idea of an Elise, but imagine a Seven would be more fun – actually an updated Seven, slightly more civilised with modern styling is what I’d like. Oh, that would be the commercial failure that was the Caterham 21 then. So much for me having a finger on the market.

      In a similar vein was the Italian manufacturer, Moretti.

      http://www.cliffreuter.com/etceterinimoretticliffreuter.htm

    1. The 750 Berlinetta Michelotti or 1200 coupe would be my pick of the bunch if I’m not too tall to fit comfortably behind the wheel

    2. These guys I came across in Southern Germany last year weren’t small and they seemed OK, though they do ending up look a bit out of proportion.



  12. I second Amilcar and Moretti! Small, light and simple (and fun, Ms. Jackson!) is what we are missing today. Has it become impossible at all (regulations) or just unmarketable?

    Interestingly, like Sean, my first thought of a modern Amilcar equivalent was immediately “Lotus”.

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