Rare Rides: The Very Rare 1964 Alvis Graber Super Coupe
A small British firm headquartered in Coventry, England, Alvis faded from the automotive memory of most long ago. But for over 50 years, Alvis produced quality, hand-made British cars for the moderately- to very-well heeled.
Today’s Graber Super Coupe was one of the more luxurious ones.
Alvis was founded as a business concern in 1919 and offered race cars, armored military vehicles, and aircraft engines in addition to its passenger car lineup. The company’s basic first car the 10 appeared in 1920, but a decade later Alvis was producing fast coupes and expensive touring sedans.
WWII destroyed the Alvis production facilities entirely. Upon rebuilding the company debuted a new line of T cars that began with the TA 14. By the third generation of post-war models circa 1953, Alvis advanced to the TC. Around that time, Alvis had some body issues. The company had typically sourced its coupe and sedan bodies from Mulliners. But Mulliners were busy building Standard Triumph bodies, a company that ended up the owner of Mulliners by 1958. At the same time, Alvis had relied on Tickford for its luxury convertible bodies. Tickford too fell under new ownership, by one David Brown who happened to own Aston Martin and Lagonda. Thus Tickford was too busy for Alvis as well.
But Swiss firm Graber had made a few bodies for the TC 21, and they happened to look much more modern than the British bodies otherwise available. So in 1955 Alvis secured the rights to the Graber design, and started producing the new car as the TC 108G. Initially, the new TC was built by Willowbrook in England but Alvis needed more capacity and asked Graber to start up production again. Graber agreed and produced the TC once more. This time, they altered the design slightly and did not build the same cars as Willowbrook.
Meanwhile, Willowbrook’s bodies were slow sellers because they were too expensive. Alvis canceled the deal and sent their business over to Mulliner Park Ward who reworked the Graber design. This slightly revised version was called TD 21, and started production late in 1958. TD 21 was available from 1958 through 1963, and all the while Graber made their own custom bodies and refined their designs.
In 1963 a new Alvis was released, the TE 21. Another update, the TE was still in essence the 108G underneath. Available in two-door sedan or convertible variants, all examples used an Alvis-designed 3.0-liter inline-six. Though the engine dated to 1950, it was massaged by Alvis over the years. For the TE it got a new cylinder head and manifold, which upped horsepower to 130. Top speed was 107 miles per hour, reached via a manual or automatic transmission provided by ZF.
The TE’s complete chassis was still sold to Graber, who applied their own current design in very small numbers. By that time Graber models were called the Super Coupe and Super Cabriolet. The TE 21 was available through 1966 before a final revision into the TF 21, which was sold for only 1966 and 1967. By that time Alvis was under Rover ownership, and Rover told them to stop building cars. Armored vehicle production continued through 2004 with that portion of Alvis under various ownership. Along the line, it acquired Vickers Defence from Rolls-Royce and was folded into BAE Systems after 2004.
Alvis is back in business today as a car firm and will hand-build you five different models from their Continuation line. That means you can order a Graber coupe or cabriolet new, right now. Today’s original Graber is for sale in Switzerland, the country which bore it. Yours for $176,000.
Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Writing things for TTAC since late 2016 from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio. You can find me on Twitter @CoreyLewis86, and I also contribute at Forbes Wheels.
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