Alvis has a history of engineering excellence and innovation. They invented the synchromesh gearbox and were the first to design and race a front wheel drive car, winning Le Mans. This wonderful TA 21 is a product of that history. Only 303 of these rare drophead cars were ever produced, and it’s estimated that 154 survive. The flowing coachwork was manufactured by Tickford, and built on top of the Alvis chassis with it’s 3 litre OHV six cylinder engine which is fitted with two SU carburettors. This handsome luxury car is one of only 85 produced in left hand drive, but this particular example is even more special than that…
This car was purchased new by the film composer Bernard Hermann from Cavalier Motors in Los Angeles in 1952. He was great friends with the film director, Alfred Hitchcock, (Hermann wrote the music for Psycho and Taxi Driver amongst many other movies), and the two of them went out one day planning to buy matching Bentleys. However, they were snubbed by a snobbish salesman at the Bentley-Rolls dealership, and so moved on to the Alvis dealer, pursued, in vain, by the Bentley showroom manager who had, belatedly, realised who they were.
The car was Bernard’s pride and joy, and has stayed in the family since that day. It is still almost entirely original, something very few 70 year old cars can say, and wears it’s age and lovely patina very well. The car was imported from the USA in 1972 when the family moved back to the UK and it consequently has the K registration UK plate.
There is a wealth of original documents with the Alvis, including the Manual of Instructions, some early Alvis Owners Club year books, and a copy of a contemporary magazine review of the same car.
We have been lucky enough to be able to drive this lovely machine, and can testify that the three litre engine still pulls smoothly, and is powerful for a car for this period, meaning she copes well in modern traffic.
The car is finished with lovely period cream and green paintwork with hand painted pinstripes. The paint appears to be original, and the green paint is in great condition, though the cream does show its age in some places, in particular, there is some crazing on the front wings and some behind the front and rear bumpers. Otherwise, the deep paintwork is in very good condition. The front bumper also sports the optional driving lights either side of the Alvis Owners Club badge. Although the radiator cap is currently blank, the family still has the silver fox bonnet ornament, which will be provided with the car and can be re-instated. The other chrome-work on the car is also very original and shows some age patina, but is entirely in keeping with this very original vehicle.
The wheels are also original and in good condition with correct, matching Firestone tyres. The hood appears to be original and is still in very good condition, with sound stitching. The only minor issue being about a 2 inch section at the base of the hood where it has pulled out of its fixing to the body. This again should prove to be simple to correct. It can be fully retracted or, unusually, deployed in the half-way ‘coupe-de-ville’ position. There is a tonneau cover, which is a bit too tight to fit, and the headlining has been renewed as well.
The car has additional indicator lights fitted above the rear bumpers, probably done when the car was imported into the UK, but more interestingly, it still has it’s functioning trafficators, which pop out and send little semaphore signals when you want to turn.
Stepping inside, this was obviously a very luxurious car in it’s day. The unusual rear-hinged doors close with a solid, heavy thunk, and, once inside, the polished solid walnut dashboard is the first thing you notice, populated with Smiths dials and lovely early plastic (possibly cellulose or Tenite) pull switches. The steering wheel is in very nice condition and all of the switches and controls function as they should. The vinyl seats are aged but appear undamaged, and all the other parts and accessories are present, from the walnut pull-out ashtrays in the back, to the sun visors with their Alvis-logo shaped hinges.
Under the skin
Fold back the bonnet and the 3 litre OHV 6-cylinder engine is revealed. It has some lovely details, such as the Alvis logo-shaped cam cover wing nuts, and sports a couple of SU carburettors for you to practice your tuning on. The car has been serviced annually since it was purchased, and has in that time received whatever work was required. Underneath it is in good condition. It has benefitted from a stainless steel exhaust being fitted and eveything underneath is solid, with just a little surface bloom visible. The car has obviously received some underseal in the past, but this is worn in places and would benefit from a quick rub down and reseal to give the car many more years of protection. Given it's age the underneath really is in great condition, that isn't a surprise though for a car that spent the first twenty years of it's life in Los Angeles, and then, after returning home, lived in a garage and was only used for high-days and holidays.
In addition, and due in no small part to its illustrious owner, this is the very car that David Culshaw devotes some time to in his respected Alvis tome, "Alvis Three Litre in Detail." Well worth digging out, and further confirmation of this car's interesting past. Also accompanyng the vehicle is a handwritten note from Hermann's widow confirming the story of how her husband and his friend Alfred Hitchcock became the proud owners of these fine machines.
Good luck bidding; if you become the new owner of this Alvis, you will own not only a great machine, but a little bit of history.
Vehicles sold at auction are sold as seen, the sale of goods act 1979 does not apply for used goods sold at auction. The description of this lot is accurate to the best of the sellers knowledge, and 0-60 have performed an HPI check and looked at the MOT history. We cannot in any way guarantee the condition or description of the vehicle, and there is always the possibility that repairs or renovations could have been carried out in the past that may not be easy to see. We encourage bidders to take the time to look at all of the photographs and information in the listing. Bidders must satisfy themselves as to the condition of the auction lot before bidding and undertake any research or inspections necessary.