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Featured in the UK Motoring Directory
  January 2008    No.35


Winter catches me unawares each year. Cold days are on the way. It’s time to check the anti-freeze and possibly change the oil to a lighter grade. However there are sure to be days, when suitably clothed, it will be exhilarating to drive around the lanes with the top down and enjoy the scenery.

A couple of months ago while glancing through the Sunday Times Homes section I noticed that the Wappenbury Hall at Wappenbury, Warwickshire, located about five miles from Leamington Spa, is for sale. Built in 1894 the imposing 13-bedroom Victorian country mansion, with 13 bedrooms, a swimming pool, a tennis court, a coach house and a stable-block is set in a 461 acre estate.

Wappenbury Hall was once owned by Sir William Lyons, founder of the Swallow Sidecar Company and the Swallow Coachbuilding (1935) Company Ltd. He purchased the home and estate in the late 1930s and for more than 50 years he lived there with his family until his passing in 1984. For many years he insisted that the prototype of every new model be delivered to the hall for approval by his wife, Greta, before the cars went into production. Lady Lyons continued to live at Wappenbury Hall until she died in 1985.

I was not interested in paying the asking price of £8.5m but the name Wappenbury rang a bell. Frank Rainbow, the designer of the Swallow Doretti, had named his own home Wappenbury and I wonder whether it was just a co-incidence or a tribute to William Lyons.

Looking back through my files I came across a letter from Don Wright in which he recalls that 717 CRF, the factory race car, was driven to the July 1954 Silverstone meeting from Walsall via Wednesbury. The reason it was driven via Wednesbury was to show it to friends of Don who were at his 21st birthday party. When the car reached Silverstone after dark, the driver was frightened to death as he drove down the lane to the track as he was passed by GP cars with no lights which were being driven from Towcester to the track. Don also mentioned an interesting anomaly; although the Doretti was built in Walsall, which had its own registration office with the DH index mark, all works vehicles were registered at Stafford with RE or RF registrations.

In late November I received a phone call from Cornwall in which a car enthusiast reported that he had come into the possession of some old documents salvaged from Frank Rainbow’s old home in Tockington which had recently been sold. Among the papers was Frank’s own annotated draft of the 1983 Sport & GT Market article and a copy of the 1987 Auto Retro magazine which started me off into the whole Doretti experience.

Finally an apology to those of you who have tried sending e-mails to me and had them returned. Because of my website host's catch-all-forwarding service for domain holders being overloaded with spam, they decided to cut back on the demand by imposing a significant charge on their clients. Not being willing to pay to receive spam I am now restricted to one address, which is

Let me know of any address, phone numbers, or e-mail address changes. I would also appreciate any information about modifications or changes to your Doretti. If you have any comments or suggestions about the Swallow Doretti Page, or news and/or information that you want to pass on to me or other Doretti owners then please contact me by post, e-mail or telephone.

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