Swallow Doretti Newsletter








  October 2011  No.253  


When Mike Ryan of Chicago purchased Chassis No.1292 last year, it still had its 1962 California black licence plates and as a result of sitting around for fifty-five years in different garages in the sunny, warm and dry Southern California climate, Mike described the overall condition of the car as "dead original and bone dry". However, the leather seats, the dash pad and all the upholstery were really dry and cracked, but the engine turned freely. The wiring harness was complete and the lights, switches and instruments were just covered in dust and in need of serious refurbishing. After much consideration Mike decided to undertake a chassis up rebuild of the car. During the restoration work some very interesting hand written pencil marks were found inside of the door panels and in the boot which identified the car number and colour. After carefully disassembling Chassis No.1292 Mike has no dought that it was built by professionals and says, "the build quality is equal to in fact better than a 1950 Aston Martin sitting right next to it."

Swallow Doretti prototype Now that this car has come to light, it calls into question the total number of cars produced by Swallow Coachbuilding Ltd. A photograph of the original brass chassis plate clearly shows the car as Chassis No.1292, Body No.5292 fitted with Engine No.TS-5666 (sic). Unfortunately the previous owner of the car has died but its early history is still under investigation.

Another California resident, Kevin Larkin (Chassis No.1055) has recently displayed his Doretti at the prestigious 2011 Concours d'Elegance, held on the 18th fairway of Pebble Beach's famed golf course, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The event has grown into one of the top-ranking collector car shows and people from all around the world come to compete or simply enjoy the annual event which takes place every August.

Many years ago, information of a Doretti with the registration TME 924 was passed on to me and was subsequently filed in my records as an unidentified chassis. Some years later, I heard about a Frazer Nash being involved and made enquiries with the F-N Register, without success. Recently, contact was made again with the Frazer Nash Register and I have now learned the whole story. The car started life in 1948 as a Frazer Nash High Speed built on Chassis No.421/100/006 with a FNS Bristol engine and registered as TME 924. The car was used as a development racer by the factory and was also lent to Count Lurani for Dorino Serafini & Rudi Haller to drive in the 1949 Targa Florio, during which the car collided with a wall, bending a wheel and the damaging the steering. TME 924 was also entered in the 1949 Mille Miglia but failed to finish. A similar type of car was entered in the 1949 Le Mans 24 Hours, finishing third and was the reason for the re-naming of this model from High Speed to Le Mans Replica. The first private owner of TME 924 was Tony Crook, a very successful racing driver in the immediate postwar era, who took delivery in time for the 1950 season. In 1951, TME 924 was sold to Lawrence Mitchell and during the 1952/3 seasons he drove it to several lesser race wins and had some class wins in the major events. During the 1953 Ulster TT a stub-axle failed causing the car to overturn and finish up on top of a stone wall. Fortunately the car was insured and it was rebuilt by the factory. On its first post-rebuild outing at Crystal Palace the car was again badly damaged when it went on to the grass and hit a discarded railway sleeper. This time, it was rebuilt by Peter Scott-Russell.

The next registered owner of TME 924 was A D Brooks of Cambridge who acquired the car in June1955 for a little while, before selling it on to Tom James. In September 1955, TME 924 was part-exchanged for a Triumph TR2 with John Bain of Kilmarnock. In April 1956 John Bain was driving TME 924 at the Charterhall circuit, when the car overturned and Bain was unfortunately killed. The wreck of TME 924 was bought by Clive Bourchier, who rebuilt the car using a Swallow Doretti body on the original chassis after installing a Ford V-8 side-valve engine. In 1958 the Doretti-bodied TME 924 was sold to David Power and eventually sold on to Peter Nuding in late 1964. The following year Peter Nuding advertised the car for sale and it was bought for £50 by Stephen Curtis, who knew it had a Frazer Nash chassis. The car was again rebuilt, this time by Crosthwaite & Gardiner, with a Bristol 2-litre engine and a new Le Mans Replica-type body. In July 2004, TME 924 was sold at the H&H Auction in Buxton for a hammer price of £151,000 (including premium). The car still exists and is currently undergoing yet another rebuild with a new body that will be even more similar to the original body.

Francois Roux has recently contacted me from France to say that he has bought Chassis No.1241 which was featured in the August 1987 issue of Auto Retro magazine. François has a house in the same village as Pierre Damion (Chassis No.1011) and asked Pierre to accompany him to view the car near Bordeaux. According to Pierre, they arrived to see the car in a filthy garage where the mechanic was changing spokes on the wheels and it looked as if nothing had been touched on the car since 1987 except for the hood which was now black. Pierre goes on to say, that he car is absolutely original apart from the engine which is a late TR4 with twin Stromberg 175 CD carburettors. It appears the last owner, who bought it ten years ago in Saint Emilion, rarely used the car. Pierre advised François to buy the car and they drove it back to La Perriáre, which took them many hours due to overheating problems. Obviously work is required on the engine and cooling system. Philippe Leneveu, another French owner who lives in the same area has reported that his restoration of Chassis No.1230 is almost complete and he will also be joining us at the 2012 Le Mans Classic event together with Pierre and Francois.

As a result of failing eyesight, Simon Brooks (Chassis No.1155) a long time Doretti owner has handed over the ownership of his very well prepared LDP 107 to his daughter Emma Thompson who will hopefully be joining us for some future events. In a farewell message Simon, wishes all Doretti owners the best of good fortune over the years to come.

Early this year I made contact with Nathan Redfearn of the Harrington Group and arranged to supply them with a set of Doretti bumpers and over-riders. The company have now announced the production of a stainless steel bumper kit for the Swallow Doretti which consists of front and rear bumpers and four over-riders. All of the parts are finished to a high mirror polish and the back of the bumpers are acid etch primed and painted with ICI two pack paint. A complete kit will be available for inspecion on the Swallow Doretti stand at the NEC Classic Car Show 11th/13th November.


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