How does one enhance a styling landmark?
Carrosserie Hermann Graber came into being in the early 1920s, providing coachbuilt bodies for a wide range of mostly upmarket carmakers, amongst which were such illustrious names as Bugatti and Duesenberg; Graber quickly establishing an enviable reputation for elegance of line and craftmanship at his studios in Bern, Switzerland.
Having clothed a number of their chassis’ at customer request, Graber obtained the distribution rights for the British luxury carmaker, Alvis in 1953. One of these was a rakish and well proportioned two-door design, which so impressed Alvis management that a modified version was produced in the UK and became the Red Triangle’s sole offering between 1958 and the cessation of carmaking in 1967.
By then, the Rover Motor Company had obtained a controlling interest in Alvis, and were looking to continue car production using their own designs as a base. Throughout, Graber had continued to produce Alvis-derived bodies to his own (and customer) specification, but it was clear that the writing was on the wall, and logically perhaps, turned his attention towards the products of Lode Lane, Solihull.
In 1965 Graber had taken delivery of a Rover 2000 saloon, which his artisans rebodied as an elegant two-door drophead coupé, which was displayed the following Spring at the Geneva salon. He followed this up with an even better balanced Coupé version the following year, based on the 2000 TC version of P6. It is believed that at least three of these elegant coupés were built by Graber – at least one of which was powered by the Buick-derived V8.
The P6 lent itself to the Graber treatment, with both body styles being notably well executed. Changes to the base unit structure must have been extensive, since virtually everything above the beltline would have required alteration. The fact that Graber started with a convertible probably aided matters in this regard however. Although it bore all appearances of being so, the Coupé was not pillarless, the rear quarter windows only venting outwards.
Rover meanwhile appeared to have their own ideas as to how the Alvis name could be furthered, now that it had come within their purview; one idea being the somewhat ungainly P6-based Gladys coupé, designed in-house under the supervision of Rover chief designer, David Bache. Produced around the same time as Graber’s conversions, there’s little doubt about which of the two better stands the test of time.
A later proposal came with the mid-engine P6BS (or P9) concept, intended (it’s alleged) to be marketed under the Alvis name. However, the P9 was cancelled in 1971/72 owing, not to the machinations of Jaguar’s Sir William Lyons, as has been widely accepted, but more likely to a lack of resource within BLMC, and the inability of Pressed Steel Fisher to allot it a body production slot, with so many other in-house model programmes in hand. With it, departed any serious chance of Alvis being maintained as an automotive brand.
Hermann Graber died in 1970, and while his wife maintained a semblance of the business, it too faded into history, leaving an enviable legacy of elegance and fine stylistic judgement. Not only does the name of Graber deserve to be better appreciated, so too does this supremely elegant exemplar of his craft.
Driven to Write wishes all our readers a very happy Easter. Stay at home. Eat chocolate. Stay safe.