HomeCar CultureCloser look: Graber-bodied Alvis TF21 takes FIVA honors

Closer look: Graber-bodied Alvis TF21 takes FIVA honors


The recent and 24th Pays de Fougeres international rally in France attracted 180 teams from as far away as Thailand and, for the first time, FIVA as well to present a Best Preserved Vehicle award, which was won by a 1966 Alvis TF21 Graber Super owned by Paul Chasney of England.

The car was one of the last six bodies produced by famed Swiss coachbuilder Herman Graber, the Fédération Internationale des Véhicules Anciens noted in its news release.

As stunningly preserved as the Alvis was, FIVA judges said they were hard-pressed to decide between it and a 1959 Lancia Flaminia saloon owned by Claude-Michel Perseil.

Alvis was founded in 1919, but its production was limited to armored vehicles just two years after it was acquired by Rover in 1965. 

Alvis cars, Closer look: Graber-bodied Alvis TF21 takes FIVA honors, ClassicCars.com Journal
Winning Alvis at Château des Rochers-Sévigné, XVIIth Century home of the Marquess of Sévigné, a woman famous for her letters to her daughter, Countess de Grignan, with gossip from the court of Louis XIV

Launched as the T.G. John and Company, Alvis produced carburetors, stationary engines and scooters. The company moved to Coventry in 1922 and produced the Buckingham car. For nearly three decades, the company was led by engineer George Thomas Smith-Clarke and designer William Dunn, both formerly of Daimler. Alvis cars were innovative with independent front suspension, power-assisted brakes and the world’s first all-synchromesh transmission. It also was early with front-wheel drive, in-board brakes, overhead camshafts and in offering a Roots-type supercharger.

Various coachbuilders supplied bodywork in the pre-war period.

Its factory suffered extensive damage from bombing during the war, when it was used to produce aircraft engines and other equipment.

Smith-Clarke retired in 1950 but had designed the TA21 prototype and new 3.0-liter 6-cylinder engine before he left. Swiss coachbuilder Herman Graber created special bodywork for some of the ensuing “3 Litre” Alvis cars. 

But the company never flourished in the post-war era and the TF21, introduced in 1966, was the final Alvis car produced. It also was the fastest, able to reach nearly 130 mph. 

The Pays de Fougeres was one of the first rallies to combine vintage automobiles with architectural and gastronomic historical sites in northwest France.

“It has always less about discussing nuts and bolts and valves than discovering the many facets of a rich heritage, both mobile and immobile,” FIVa noted in its news release.

“Above all, perhaps, it’s a chance to introduce the general public to the intriguing world of historic vehicles, as the cars are exhibited at locations accessible to the public during the three days of the event – this year at Dinard, Granville and Fougères. 

“Meanwhile, the Sunday afternoon of the rally sees each vehicle presented to the public with a detailed but lighthearted account of its history. 

“Free-of-charge to visitors, the aim is to tell the story of each car, reviving happy memories and, it’s hoped, awakening the interest of the younger generation in our industrial heritage, in the aesthetics of car design, and in the people and human activities behind it all.”

The rally annually features rare marques. This year they included Marauder, Swallow Doretti, HRG, CG and Darracq, as well as more well-known brands such as Bentley, Aston Martin, Alfa Romeo, Bugatti, Delage, Delahaye, Rolls-Royce. and even a Ford GT40.

Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


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