The History of Alvis
Alvis cars were produced by the manufacturer Alvis Car and Engineering Company Ltd of Coventry, United Kingdom from 1919 to 1967. The company also produced aero-engines and military vehicles, the latter continuing long after car production ceased.
The original company, TG John and Co. Ltd., was founded in 1919. Its first products were stationary engines, carburettor bodies and motorscooters. The company's founder T.G. John was approached by Geoffrey de Freville with designs for a 4-cylinder engine with aluminium pistons and pressure lubrication, unusual for the period. Some have suggested that de Freville proposed the name Alvis as a compound of the words "aluminium" and "vis" (meaning "strength" in Latin) although de Freville himself vigorously denied this theory. Perhaps the name was derived from the Norse mythological weaponsmith, Alviss, but the true origin is unknown.
The first car model, the 10/30, using de Freville's design was an instant success and set the reputation for quality and performance for which the company became famous. Following complaints from the Avro aviation company whose logo bore similarities to the original winged green triangle, the more familiar inverted red triangle incorporating the word 'Alvis' evolved. In 1921, the company changed its name and became the Alvis Car and Engineering Company Ltd. and moved production to Holyhead Road, Coventry where from 1922 to 1923 they also made the Buckingham car.
The original 10/30 side-valve engine was developed progressively becoming by 1923 the famous overhead-valve 12/50, produced until 1932 and one of the most successful vintage sports cars of all time. Exhilarating performance and rugged reliability meant that around 350 of these 12/50hp cars and 60 of the later (and latterly concurrent) 12/60hp survive today representing some 10 percent of total production.
1927 saw the introduction of the six-cylinder 14.75 h.p. and this engine became the basis for the long line of luxurious six-cylinder Alvis cars produced up to the outbreak of war. Not only were these cars extremely elegant but they were full of technical innovations. Independent front suspension and the world's first all-synchromesh gearbox came in 1933 followed by servo assisted brakes. A front wheel drive model was introduced (from 1928 to 1930), a model bristling with innovation with front wheel drive, in-board brakes, overhead camshaft and, as an option, a Roots type supercharger.
In 1936, the company name was changed to Alvis Ltd and by the beginning of the war, aero-engine and armoured vehicle divisions had been added to the company.
In September 1939 following the outbreak of war car production was suspended, but was later allowed to resume and production of the 12/70, Silver Crest, Speed 25, and 4.3 Litre continued well into 1940. During World War II the car factory was severely damaged in the German Luftwaffe raid on Coventry in 1940 though strangely the armaments factory emerged fairly unscathed. Much valuable gear cutting and other equipment was lost and car production was suspended for the duration of the war only resuming during the latter part of 1946. Despite this, Alvis carried out war production on aero engines (as sub-contractor of Rolls-Royce) and other aeroplane equipment.
In 1950 a new chassis and six-cylinder 3 litre engine was announced and this highly successful engine became the basis of all Alvis models until production ceased in 1967. Saloon bodies for the TA21, as the new model was called, again came from Mulliners of Birmingham as they had for the TA14, with Tickford producing the dropheads. But with the first of these becoming part of Standard Triumph and the second being acquired by Aston Martin Lagonda it was clear by 1954 that new arrangements would have to be made. By this time some of the most original and beautiful designs on the three litre chassis were being produced by master coachbuilder Hermann Graber of Switzerland and indeed these one-off designed cars are highly sought after today. With a licence in place, from 1955 all Alvis bodies became based on Graber designs. Early examples, the TC108/G, were built by Willowbrook of Loughborough but at such a high price that very few were made. Only after 1958 with the launch of the TD21 did something resembling full scale production resume as Park Ward, coachbuilders for Rolls-Royce and Bentley, contracted to build the bodies at a much lower price. These cars, the TD21 and its later variants, the TE21 and finally the TF21 are well built, attractive and fast cars. However it was clear by the mid sixties that with a price tag of nearly double that of the mass produced Jaguar the end could not be far off.
Rover took a controlling interest in Alvis in 1965 and a Rover-designed mid-engined V8 coupé prototype named the P6BS was rumoured to be the new Alvis model but with the takeover by British Leyland this too was shelved. By the time the TF21 was launched in 1966, (available, like its predecessors in both saloon and drophead form and with either manual or automatic gearbox), the model was beginning to show its age despite a top speed of 127mph - the fastest Alvis ever produced. With only 109 sold and with political troubles aplenty in the UK car manufacturing business at that time, production finally ceased in 1967. The Alvis name lived on with armoured fighting vehicle production.
As part of Rover, Alvis Limited was incorporated into British Leyland but was bought by United Scientific Holdings plc in 1981. Subsequently the company's name changed to Alvis plc. In 1998, the armoured vehicle business of GKN plc was taken on and the main UK manufacturing operation moved from Coventry to Telford.
In 2002 Alvis group purchased Vickers to form the subsidiary Alvis Vickers Ltd which was subsequently purchased by BAE Systems in 2004. BAE Systems have ended the use of the Alvis distinctive 'red triangle' trademark.
The History of Aston Martin
Aston Martin Lagonda Limited is a British manufacturer of luxury sports cars, based in Gaydon, Warwickshire. The company name is derived from the name of one of the company's founders, Lionel Martin, and from the Aston Hill speed hillclimb near Aston Clinton in Buckinghamshire.
From 1994 until 2007 Aston Martin was part of the Ford Motor Company, becoming part of the company's Premier Automotive Group in 2000. On 12 March 2007, it was purchased by a joint venture company, co-owned by Investment Dar and Adeem Investment of Kuwait and English businessman John Sinders. Ford retained a large stake in Aston Martin.
Aston Martin was founded in 1913 by Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford. The two had joined forces as Bamford & Martin the previous year to sell cars made by Singer from premises in Callow Street, London where they also serviced GWK and Calthorpe vehicles. Martin raced specials at Aston Hill near Aston Clinton, and the pair decided to make their own vehicles. The first car to be named Aston Martin was created by Martin by fitting a four-cylinder Coventry-Simplex engine to the chassis of a 1908 Isotta-Fraschini.
They acquired premises at Henniker Place in Kensington and produced their first car in March 1915. Production could not start because of the outbreak of World War I, and Martin joined the Admiralty and Bamford the Royal Army Service Corps. All machinery was sold to the Sopwith Aviation Company.
After the war the company was refounded at Abingdon Road, Kensington and a new car designed to carry the Aston-Martin name. Bamford left in 1920 and the company was revitalised with funding from Count Louis Zborowski. In 1922, Bamford & Martin produced cars to compete in the French Grand Prix, and the cars set world speed and endurance records at Brooklands. Three works Team Cars with 16 valve twin cam engines were built for racing and record breaking: chassis number 1914, later developed as the Green Pea; chassis number 1915, the Razor Blade record car; and chassis number 1916, later developed as the Halford Special. Approximately 55 cars were built for sale in two configurations, long chassis and short chassis. The company went bankrupt in 1924 and was bought by Lady Charnwood, who put her son John Benson on the board. The company failed again in 1925 and the factory closed in 1926, with Lionel Martin leaving.
Later that year, Bill Renwick, Augustus (Bert) Bertelli and a number of rich investors, including Lady Charnwood, took control of the company and renamed it Aston Martin Motors, and moved it to the former Whitehead Aircraft Limited works in Feltham. Renwick and Bertelli had been in partnership some years and had developed an overhead cam 4 cylinder engine, using Renwick's patented combustion chamber design, and had tested it in an Enfield Allday chassis. It was the only 'Renwick and Bertelli' motor car made. It was known as 'Buzzbox' and survives to this day.
They had planned to sell this engine to motor manufacturers, but having heard that the Aston Martin car was no longer in production they realised that they could capitalise on the reputation of the Aston Martin name to give themselves a head start in the production of a completely new car.
Between the years 1926 and 1937 Bertelli was the technical director of Aston Martin, and the designer of all subsequent Aston Martin cars during this period, these being known as the 'Bertelli cars'. They included the 1 1/2 litre 'T-type', the 'International, the 'Le Mans, the 'MKII' its racing derivative the 'Ulster, and the 2 litre 15/98 and its racing derivative the 'Speed Model'.
Mostly open two seater sports cars and mostly bodied by Bert Bertelli's brother Enrico (Harry)a small number of long chassis four seater tourers, dropheads and saloons were also produced.
Financial problems reappeared in 1932 and the company was rescued by L. Prideaux Brune who funded the company for the following year before passing the company on to Sir Arthur Sutherland. In 1936, the company decided to concentrate on road cars. Car production had always been on a small scale and until the advent of World War II halted work only about 700 had been made. During the war years aircraft components were produced.
In 1947, David Brown Limited bought the company under the leadership of managing director Sir David Brown its "post-war saviour". David Brown also acquired Lagonda that year, and both companies shared resources and workshops. In 1955, David Brown bought the Tickford coachbuilding company and its site at Tickford Street in Newport Pagnell, and that was the beginning of the classic series of cars bearing the initials "DB". In 1950, the company announced the DB2, followed by the DB2/4 in 1953, the DB2/4 Mk11 in 1955, the DB Mark III in 1957 and the Italian-styled 3.7 L DB4 in 1958. All the cars established a good racing pedigree for the firm, but the DB4 was the key to establishing the company's reputation, which was cemented by the famous DB5 in 1963. The company continued developing the "grand touring" style with the DB6 (1965-70), the DBS.
Despite the cars' appreciation in value, the company was often financially troubled. In 1972, the company was sold to another company called Company Developments Ltd., backed by a Birmingham-based consortium, and chaired by chartered accountant and company director William Willson, (MBE). The company was resold, following a further bankruptcy event, by the Receiver in 1975 to North American businessmen Peter Sprague and George Minden. A successful turn-around strategy led to the recruitment of 360 new employees and, by 1977, a trading profit . The new owners pushed the company into modernising its line, producing the V8 Vantage in 1977, the convertible Volante in 1978, and the one-off William Towns-styled Bulldog in 1980. Towns also styled the futuristic new Lagonda saloon, based on the V8 model.
The company was badly hit by the economic contraction of the early 1980s as worldwide sales of Aston Martin shrank to three per week and production was almost shut down to concentrate on service and restoration.
Victor Gauntlett bought a 12.5% stake in Aston Martin via Pace Petroleum in 1980, with Tim Hearley of CH Industrials taking a similar share. Pace and CHI took over as joint 50/50 owners at the beginning of 1981.
Understanding it would take some time to develop new Aston Martin products, they bought Tickford to develop automotive products for other companies. Products included a Tickford Austin Metro, a Tickford Ford Capri and even Tickford train interiors, particularly on the Jaguar XJS. Pace continued sponsoring racing events, and now sponsored all Aston Martin Owners Club events, but sales of production cars were now at an all time low of 30 cars produced in 1982.
"As trading became tighter in the petroleum market, and Aston Martin was requiring more time and money, Gauntlett agreed to sell Hays/Pace to the Kuwait Investment Office in September 1983. As Aston Martin required greater investment, he also agreed to sell his share holding to American importer and Greek shipping tycoon Peter Livanos, who invested via his joint venture company with Nick and John Papanicalou, ALL Inc.
The uneasy relationship was ended when ALL exercised options to buy a larger share in AML. In 1984, Titan the main shipping company of the Papanicolaou's was in trouble, so Livanos's father George bought out the Papanicolaou's shares in ALL, while Gauntlett again became a shareholder with a 25% holding in AML in the year it built its 10,000th car."
Gauntlett bought a stake in Italian styling house Zagato, and resurrected its collaboration with Aston Martin.
Although the company was doing well, Gauntlett knew it needed extra funds to survive in the long term and in 1987 Ford took a share holding. In 1988, having produced some 5,000 cars in 20 years, a revived economy and successful sales of limited edition Vantage, and 52 Volante Zagato coupes , the company finally retired the ancient V8 and introduced the Virage range - the first new Aston launched in 20 years.
Ford placed Aston in the Premier Automotive Group, substantially invested in new manufacturing and quickly ramped up production. In 1994, Ford opened a new factory at Banbury Road in Bloxham. In 1995, the company produced a record 700 vehicles. Until the Ford era cars had been produced by hand coachbuilding craft methods, such as the English wheel. In 1998 the 2,000th DB7 was built, and in 2002 the 6,000th, exceeding production of all previous DB models. The DB7 range was boosted by the addition of V12 Vantage models in 1999, and in 2001 the company introduced the V12-engine Vanquish.
At the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan in 2003, Aston Martin introduced the AMV8 Vantage concept car. Expected to have few changes before its introduction in 2005, the Vantage brought back the classic V8 engine to allow the company to compete in a larger market. 2003 also saw the opening of the Gaydon factory, the first purpose-built factory in Aston Martin's history. Also introduced in 2003 was the DB9 coupé, which replaced the ten-year-old DB7. A convertible version of the DB9, the DB9 Volante, was introduced at the 2004 Detroit Auto Show. In 2006, the V8 Vantage sports car entered production at the Gaydon factory, joining the DB9 and DB9 Volante.
On 12 March 2007 a consortium led by Prodrive chairman David Richards purchased Aston Martin. Ford will keep a stake in the company. The consortium also consisted of John Sinders, an Aston Martin collector; and two Kuwaiti investment companies, Investment Dar and Adeem Investment Co.
On 1 September 2008, Aston Martin announced the revival of the Lagonda marque. The first production cars should come in 2012.