The Cumberland Post

The Cumberland Post
My Backyard, Six Miles from the Cumberland River

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Peter Kingdom's Alvis TE21 Drophead vs. Facel Vega HK500

Joyce and I have enjoyed Netflix streaming for several months now and I have a long queue of movies and TV shows lined up for our nighttime viewing.

It's a lot of fun to discuss a movie afterward and then decide on a rating. The ratings we give what we view are important because the computer program makes suggestions based on that and develops categories that might interest us. The more shows you rate, the better the program gets at knowing what you like. It's fun but a bit scary in a Big Brother kind of way.

Over the past couple of years we've enjoyed quite a few British TV series, including Doc Martin (5 stars), Monarch of the Glen (4 stars), Midsomer Murders (4 stars), as well as several British produced miniseries (e.g. The Politician's Wife, 5 stars).

We have recently watched a few episodes of a show starring Stephen Fry called Kingdom. The show is about Norfolk solicitor Peter Kingdom whose "quirky clientele supplies him with a bounty of unusual cases, which he juggles with tending to his unbalanced half-sister, Beatrice, and searching for their long lost brother."

I wanted to give the series 5 stars but Joyce convinced me that just because I love the stunning car that Kingdom (Fry) drives around in I shouldn't be guilty of grade inflation. This is true. But the Alvis TE21 Drophead is such a beauty. I think I'm in love. Sigh. Joyce is used to this. Especially since we sold the XK8.
I hadn't heard of an Alvis before. As a matter of fact when I caught the first glimpse of the car used in the Kingdom series, I thought it was a Facel Vega HK500, which I remembered seeing long ago in a magazine, and which you'll have to agree shares some features with the Alvis. Well, actually one feature, the dual over/under headlight pods.

When I thought of the Facel Vega, I wondered immediately, why would the English be using a French car for a very English hero in an English TV series? Well they wouldn't now, would they?

But here's a pic of the Facel Vega HK500 so you can see the slight similarity. That chap standing proudly by his own HK500 is English racing driver, Stirling Moss, who's often called "the greatest driver never to win the World Championship."

But the car in Kingdom is not an HK500. The two are quite different. The Facel Vega is a French made car. The Alvis is very much an English automobile. From Wiki:

Alvis Car and Engineering Company Ltd was a British manufacturing company that existed in Coventry,England from 1919 – 1967. In addition to automobiles designed for the civilian market, the company also produced racing carsaircraft enginesarmoured cars and other armoured fighting vehicles, the latter continuing long after civilian car production ceased.

Alvis manufactured the TE21 between 1963 and 1966. It was powered by a 130hp, straight six. According to the producers of the Kingdom series, it was selected because it's very rare and it was designed as a gentleman's car. Here's Fry standing by the one used in the series.

Here's a brief video of the beautiful Alvis spinning around slowly so you can see it from all angles.

Now, let me briefly consider the Facel Vega HK500. I said earlier that it was built by FACEL (Forges et Ateliers de Construction d'Eure-et-Loir); the company manufactured Facels between 1954 and 1964. The engine the French used in the '54 HK500 model was a 275 cubic inch Desoto Firedome, Hemi V8. That's right. A Hemi. A French car company actually used something made in America. In '56 they even used the bigger 330 cubic inch Chrysler hemi.

As you look at the car you may notice a few external American style cues as well--wrap around windshield, lots of chrome. And here's another fact: a new Facel Vega cost more than a Rolls Royce. The advertising slogan the company used was "For the few who own the finest."

The HK500 had a sleek and elegant skin, but hiding under that beauty was enough brute power to give Facel the confidence to claim it was the world's fastest production car at the time. Guess that explains why Sir Stirling had one.

Ah gee whiz. I'm so fickle. I think I want both cars. I love this HK too.

Maybe when it comes to cars, I'm a bigamist. Actually make that a depraved, lust ravaged, polygamist.

I'll leave you with a brief video of this lovely, but very, very hot car. You can check out the curves, look at the fabulous interior, and listen to that lusty Hemi V8. I'm starting to sweat a bit here.


  1. The Ol' Man was stationed in Paris from '53 - '56 and he lusted after a Facel Vega. He was an automotive polygamist too... or would have been if he could have afforded the freight. His Ultimate Lust Object was the Mercedes 300-SL and he actually knew a guy that had one. That drove him nuts.

    So what did he drive? An early 1950-sumthin' Citroen like the one pictured in my old post "When I Was Eight, Part III," followed by a '54 Hillman Mynx convertible.

    Both the Facel Vega and the Alvis are beautiful cars. I won't invoke the "they don't make 'em like that anymore" old saw, even if it's true.

    Wait. I just did.

    1. Buck,
      The 300SL Gullwing was one classic beauty. I did not have the dinero so I setteled for the Delorean DMC Gullwing. If you can't afford Marilyn Monroe you settle for _______ (fill in the blank).

  2. Dan, the obvious lust in your heart might be considered "sinful" by some.

    I'll reserve judgment, though. But man, (okay, I can't write what I'm thinking)...

  3. Albeit, todays comment is on cars, I'de like to recommend two movies you can stream on Netflix.

    1. Night Train (thriller) with Danny Glover. I've never heard of it but we were on the edge of out seats, yeah, and I was bitting my nails.

    2. Lilyhammer: (filmed in Norway) I gave it 5 stars!! It has eight 45 min. episodes. Netflix liked it so much, they bought the second season.

    We've got lots of Netflix time on our hands since the gods bestowed over a foot of snow yesterday. The bad news, we're low on popcorn.

  4. Buck, I think I remember seeing a couple of those Hillman Minx's back in the day. They were slick looking small cars. And apparently more reliable than the Fiat I owned for awhile.

  5. Andy, thanks for not passing judgment. I've tried everything, including the Autorette patch and it didn't work. I just can't help myself.

  6. George, thanks for the tips. Joyce and I are already about 4 episodes into Lillyhammer. It's great fun. I'm not 100% sure, but I don't think we've seen the Night Train thriller; I will definitely add it to my queue. Sorry about the popcorn. Maybe you could make some that snow ice cream!

  7. Notice the white rag under the Alvis as it rotates? Probably to catch drips from an oil leak. NONETHELESS - it's a beautiful car and some of the most enjoyable scenes in the Kingdom series are watching the Alvis motor thru the countryside.

  8. lwh128c was my car from Nov 86 to Dec 88 - great fun.

    Bare metal respray, rebuild engine, gearbox and diff and much much more.
    Saw it again at an Alvis club meeting Aug 2o12 in great shape - now worth
    5 times what I sold it for - which was 5 times what I paid or it!