Celebrating motoring tradition in a small Midlands town where history is being made – again
Syd Taylor Freelance motoring writer
Imagine, if you will, witnessing the flickering resurrection of a golden age. You wouldn't need to travel back in time or go as far as you think, in years or distance. The location? The Warwickshire countryside a short distance outside the lovely town of Kenilworth. Here, history is being made.
Your senses are stirred by a sound that you haven't heard for years. It's something much more exciting than the whine of the latest electric car. It's a powerful machine working hard and approaching fast: and then it's upon you.
With a burble from the exhaust it rounds the bend and attacks the gradient ahead. It's the kind of scene I remember vividly from more than 60 years ago.
Motoring demands emotional involvement as well as physical: it puts more premium on spirit than on substance
This is no ordinary car. The shape gives the game away. No perfect aerodynamic casing here. She's in pristine condition and like a famous actress from yesteryear she has her admirers and can still give a winning performance. An Alvis 21 was built for speed and lopes along gracefully even at 70mph, secure in the knowledge she could go so much faster if she really wanted to. As she draws level the driver gives a wave and in an instant she is gone, racing on her way.
If this is not quite the final curtain of a golden age, it's certainly close to the last act of an era that saw breathtaking courage, sublime skill and artistry of the highest order, producing one of the finest feats of automobile engineering: an exquisite masterpiece of a motor car – Alvis.
The great majority of motor cars have been anything but memorable even though they were machines of technical merit. But motoring is more than a matter of what the technologists have put into them. It demands emotional involvement as well as physical: it puts more premium on spirit than on substance. It's a means to raise one's awareness of environment while yet escaping from its pressures. It is, therefore, entitled to its traditions.
At the factory, the Aladdin's cave of Alvis parts contains everything that's needed to assemble a new car or keep an old Alvis in running order
The Alvis Car Company lives and is manufacturing to special order a limited number of famous Alvis models. They are faithful to the original design and by using works drawings from the period, they retain all the traditional character and quality - yet are emission compliant. The cars carry Alvis chassis numbers and engine numbers which follow on from the last in the model sequence: which is why they are designated The Continuation Series.
At the factory, the Aladdin's cave of Alvis parts contains everything that's needed to assemble a new car or keep an old Alvis in running order. Original drawings, original patterns for casting new parts, documentation detailing every Alvis sold and letters to and from customers whose names are the stuff of legend. Would the great Douglas Bader have chosen anything less than an Alvis? All these sit within the extensive spread of workshops which constitute the Alvis factory.
Here at work are specialist craftsmen with skills that you would think lost to time. Technicians carefully hand-assemble engines, woodworkers construct ash frames and panel beaters create impossible curves and swage lines that would challenge the veriest in modern robotics.
A sight to behold like no other, these are the scenes that you will remember vividly if you enter the world of Alvis in 2023 where the underlying proposition is simple and clear – to understand the history of the marque you must first grasp its true essence. The weight of evidence could be oppressive but Alan succeeds in distilling that essence and picks out everything to sum up the marque today.
Some day modern car manufacturers may celebrate the coming of a designer who will redeem us from all the sins of years and years of commission and omission – but it's unlikely. Until then the Continuation Series Alvis is certainly inspired by an altogether greater spirit that thankfully frees us from our slavery to convention.