The only Swal­low Doretti the deal­er­ship man­aged to sell – and a story of sur­vival

Al­ready ob­so­lete when bought new, this rare Doretti toured Europe, crashed twice, caught fire and was re­peat­edly left to rot be­fore a ded­i­cated duo stepped in to save it

Classic Cars (UK) - - Contents - Words AN­DREW ROBERTS Pho­tog­ra­phy ADAM SHORROCK

Roy Stimp­son buys it new in 1955 This Swal­low Doretti’s story com­mences in 1955 when a young man in his mid-twen­ties named Roy Stimp­son paid a visit to car dealer Browetts of Le­ices­ter with the in­ten­tion of plac­ing an or­der for a new TR2. As his brother Frank re­calls, ‘he was told by the sales­man that he would have to wait sev­eral months for de­liv­ery of a new Triumph be­cause they were so pop­u­lar. But what they did have on the show­room floor was a Swal­low Doretti and the sales­man talked him into buy­ing that.’

Browetts was a Stan­dard, Triumph and Fer­gu­son dealer, also sell­ing Reliants and op­er­at­ing as a Jaguar agent. Ac­cord­ing to for­mer Browetts sales man­ager Gerry Hayes, ‘In the late Fifties our sales mainly de­rived from Van­guards and other Stan­dards so the Doretti cer­tainly stood out on the show­room floor.’

Only 276 cars were made at the Wal­sall com­pany be­tween 1954 and 1955 be­fore pro­duc­tion ceased. NBC 742 was des­tined to be a rare ve­hi­cle from the mo­ment Roy took de­liv­ery.

Chas­sis 1200 was a con­sid­er­ably more ex­pen­sive ma­chine than the TR – the list price be­ing £1102 as op­posed to £902 – but its cur­rent owner Peter Lock­ley be­lieves that there was prob­a­bly a cer­tain amount of dis­count, ‘The dealer prob­a­bly split the dif­fer­ence.’ One ma­jor sales fac­tor in Roy’s favour was that when he en­coun­tered the Swal­low, pro­duc­tion had al­ready ceased and his car had been un­sold for quite a time, oc­cu­py­ing valu­able show­room space. In Peter’s own words, ‘I spoke with Robert Browett, the son of the dealer prin­ci­pal of Browetts, and he con­firmed it was the only one they ever sold.’

At that time, Roy Stimp­son worked for the fam­ily firm of builders and civil en­gi­neers in Le­ices­ter. In ad­di­tion to be­ing reg­u­larly driven around the East Mid­lands, the Swal­low was also used for Con­ti­nen­tal tour­ing. Says his younger brother Frank, ‘In 1956 we took it on a grand tour of Europe. The AA helped plan the route to the South of France and one of my favourite mem­o­ries of the Doretti is of us driv­ing it through Aus­tria and Switzer­land. It proved as re­li­able when trav­el­ling over the Got­thard Pass and al­though there was a heater mounted un­der the dash­board, that didn’t make much of a dif­fer­ence be­cause we al­ways trav­elled with the roof low­ered. When we reached Italy the Swal­low caused a mi­nor sen­sa­tion – I will al­ways re­mem­ber peo­ple in the street point­ing at the Doretti and shout­ing “Bella, Bella!” In fact from then on­wards that be­came the car’s uno£cial name.’ Frank be­comes tem­po­rary cus­to­dian in 1956 ‘At the time I was a stu­dent at Lough­bor­ough Col­lege; my own car was a Singer Road­ster and we reg­u­larly swapped cars. The Swal­low was a lovely car to drive and as to the way it looked – it still seems mod­ern to­day. When Roy had to go to Germany on mil­i­tary ser­vice, he didn’t want to take it with him so I gave him the Singer and I got to use the Doretti. It was great – I vividly re­call driv­ing it at 100mph!’ To put that fig­ure into con­text, 90mph was at the time seen as a rea­son­able top speed for a six-cylin­der saloon.

Frank also points out that de­spite the ex­otic ap­pear­ance, the Doretti was an em­i­nently prac­ti­cal car. ‘The cabin was smaller than a TR2’S but we would reg­u­larly travel with three peo­ple in it – my­self, a friend and Roy. My brother was a big man but we all seemed to fit with­out any prob­lems, al­though I don’t think we could get away with driv­ing like that to­day!’

The shenani­gans were cur­tailed af­ter an ac­ci­dent in the Le­ices­ter­shire town of Oadby dam­aged the body. ‘We took it back to Browetts but they had only one crafts­man who could work on alu­minium body­work

Frank and the Doretti in Switzer­land in 1956

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