THE SWALLOW DORETTI PAGE

A Retrospective Look at Chassis No.1252
by Alec Pringle

As a small boy in the Fifties I lusted after a Doretti - the one car in the "I Spy Book of Cars" which I had failed to spot. A decade later, cruising across the Cambridgeshire Fens in my Allard, I was overtaken by a Doretti. Despite the V12 Lincoln engine, with a supercharger to each bank of cylinders, I was hard-pressed to keep up. The TR3A which I rallied and hillclimbed at the time was no match for the Allard - the Doretti impressed!

In 1975 I saw UHU 134 advertised in Sussex, and bought it forthwith; an early Doretti, some competition history, in pretty fair nick. I sold it four years later, the only car I've ever really regretted losing.

Forget all the twaddle about Dorettis being slower than TR2s. The road test cars may have been five mph slower at the top end, and a second slower from rest to 60 - but the road-test Dorettis were bog standard production cars. Few other 1950's manufacturers were so naive as to submit perfectly standard cars for motoring magazine road test. Blue printed engines at the very least! In any case, the extra wheelbase and front track of the Doretti improved the roadholding considerably, and the additional rear axle location cured the TR2's suicidal tendencies "on the limit". Ride comfort was a great deal better, of course.

In other words, any marginal deficiencies in the Doretti's straight line speed were more than outweighed by superior roadholding. Not to mention that you could drive the Doretti with the hood down at any speed over 40 mph and remain dry in the rain, and drive 400 miles without feeling numbed! Frank Rainbow's grasp of aerodynamics extended beyond passenger comfort - adequate air flow to the drum brakes almost eliminated brake fade, even at racing speeds. A distinct contrast to drum braked TRs.

As I discovered in the mid 1970s, keeping up a 60+ mph cross country average in the Doretti wasn't difficult. The average driver in his Cortina saw my TR6 in his mirror and regarded it as a challenge to keep the 6 behind. But seeing the Doretti, Cortina-man invariably moved over in order to let the beast past, simply to see what it was. In rather more objective terms, I could put the Doretti round a standing lap of Goodwood in 1 min 57 secs without difficulty. To beat two minutes in a drum braked TR2 or 3 in reasonably standard form takes a great deal more bottle.

So there you have it. The TR2 was, without question, a great sports car of its time, and still is. The Swallow Doretti was, in its own way, every bit as good as - and the Mk II Sabre had the potential to be a very much better car than the TR3/3A/3B ever was.
 ... Alec Pringle

This article was first published in TR Action No.113

 

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