Swallow Doretti Newsletter









  June 2008    No.37  


At 9.30am Thursday 6th March 2008 John Rummery parked his Swallow Doretti at the Town Basin in Whangarei, New Zealand. It was going to be a hot day, so the hood is down and both he and the car were ready to head off to Napier, some 400 miles away, for the TR Register (NZ) National Rally. This is to be the first real journey in his newly restored Doretti. So why is John sitting there in the shade?

Well, he's just enjoying the moment and reflecting on the journey that has got him to this point. And then, having run through in his mind all the good things that have happened in the last seven years and said his thanks, heíll put his foot down and head up highway SH1 to pick up son David in Auckland later in the day.

However itís easier to let John tell his own story. ďIt all began with the December 2000 issue of NZ Classic Car magazine in which there was a write-up of Wayne Buttís restoration of his Doretti, Chassis No.1142. That article reminded me of the good times I had had when I owned No.1148 as a student in Auckland in 1964-66. My Doretti was a sports car of character, an eye-turner in its day, and one of those cars, which, in hindsight I wish, Iíd never sold. So then and there I decided that another Doretti would be a good thing for me to rebuild and use in my approaching retirement. To start the process I wrote a letter to the editor of Classic Car noting the Doretti story in the previous issue and in which I told him about my enjoyment of No.1148 as a student, and then added that if any Doretti owner wished to get in touch then that could be a good thing. Eventually I met up with Wayne Harris to whom I had sold he car back in í66. Neither of us recognized the other of course but it was good to catch up with him and share both stories and photos of our days with No.1148. Finally, as the conversation drew to a close, Wayne quietly said that actually he now had No.1148 again, re-discovered by chance twenty-seven years after he had sold it! Did he want to sell I said? No way, was the firm reply!

As it happened, my wife and I had planned a bit of a tour to England as a last hurrah with our fast growing up family, so while there in October 2002 I took the opportunity to have a look at a Doretti for sale in London. The car seemed pretty tired but it was mostly complete with nearly all the Doretti specific bits and pieces present so I negotiated a sale from Duncan Rabagliati and DHU 548, Chassis No.1425 was mine. Now where did that number come? The last production car was numbered around 1290 and was not a production car but one assembled from parts removed from the factory after production ceased, by an ex-director of the company and assembled by him for his daughter over the following three years. The No.1425 chassis number assigned was plucked from thin air it appears.

As my restoration progressed, I went on to discover that 1425, while 99% original Doretti had a very early TR2 engine that the original assembler had reconditioned, and doors that were home made and therefore are different to standard. But those little things that differ are OK with me; in fact I rather liked that. Restoration started immediately and lasted 5 years during which time the car was completely stripped down to the last nut and bolt, everything that was suspect and that didnít leave much was replaced or repaired, with the body work being given to John Ashcroft at Ngunguru to work his magic on, and that he certainly did that.

1425 has been rebuilt to drive; it will not be a show pony car. But having said that, I have been meticulous in presenting that car pretty much as it would have been when first registered, the exceptions to this being power assisted TR3 disc brakes on the front to better cope with todayís driving conditions, and a TR4 axle at the rear for a wider track, better half shafts and brakes. Otherwise itís as was, even down to sourcing UNF fillister head screws that were originally used extensively throughout.

This restoration would have been infinitely more difficult if possible at all without the help of good friends; locally Wayne Harris who loaned many parts from his car 1148 for me to copy and Nick Jarman of Tamaterau Engineering with his patience in making many little parts for me and the use of his sand blaster; Doretti owners both local and overseas that through email and the internet have been invaluable with their support and assistance. I thank them all sincerely for being there for me. I have also been fortunate that those I have employed to work on the car have shown considerable interest and patience in meeting my expectations and I thank them too for that; John Ashcroft (body work and paint), Brian Clancy (upholstery), Hyde Automotive New Lynn (gearbox and diff), Northland Automotive (engine), and Woods Glass (windscreen and side curtains). And not the least my family too, who as every restorer knows, need to be and were alongside me at every step of the way.

A year ago, and confident that I would have 1425 completed in time, I suggested to the three other Doretti owners in New Zealand with roadworthy cars, that because the next TR Register National Rally was in Napier, and as it was a very central location, that perhaps we could all make a special effort to have a have more than one Doretti in the same place at the same time. They accepted the invitation so now it was up to me to make it happen. But with just 10 days to go I found myself working frantically to meet a self-imposed deadline!

One thing I had learned to my cost over the rebuild was that this car was a mixture of early and lateĒ Doretti parts. Those folk knowledgeable in Doretti lore will know of the changes made during the 10 months production, things such as taillights, guard edging, and especially windscreen and hood bows. The combination of an early windscreen and late hood bows actually did not work for me, and I have to say I am still mystified as to how it had ever ďworked for the car up to this point. The problem was exposed when shaping up the polycarbonate side screens and planning for the hood. So two weekends beforehand we had to re-shape the hood bows to suit the early screen. The following week saw an operation of military precision to complete the hood bows and side screens then a very busy week making the hood. This left me no time to complete a final service myself, so on Wednesday, with 900 miles on the clock it was into Whau Valley Motors for a head tighten, tappets, oil change and lube then home to complete the hood installation around midnight.

The trip to Auckland was uneventful the Doretti effortlessly eats up the miles, stays with the traffic flow, and I found this section of the trip was really all I needed to understand how to drive her. Drivers of modern cars, for some reason, want to get past an old car at the earliest opportunity, and while cruising at the legal limit regularly I found them doing naughty things just to get past. Silly people, Iíll bet they were not having as much fun as I was!

After an overnight stop in Auckland we arrived at our motel on the Napier foreshore at around 4.30pm. During the trip from Whangarei to Napier 1425 had out performed every expectation I had of it. ďTeam DorettiĒ soon found each other and for the first time in living history thatís possibly a bit dramatic but it was special to us, three Doretti were together in NZ. Wayne Butt had come across from New Plymouth in 1142 and Brent Cameron up from Picton in 1201. Unfortunately in Gisborne Bill Gerrard had 1177 off the road following a rear wing argument with a tree in his yard and so was unable to make the occasion, but 3 out of 4 ainít bad!

No.1425 didnít miss a beat as we headed back over the Napier/Taupo road that evening, and also on the following day as we headed home, arriving back in Whangarei late in the afternoon and with 1070 miles more on the clock. 1425 has turned out to be everything Iíd hoped it would be. It is fun to drive and easily keeps up with the traffic. I can see Iíve got some really interesting and enjoyable times ahead of me!


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