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Featured in the UK Motoring Directory
  April 2004    No.17 Equipo Doretti
 

 

Winter has now returned with a vengeance. As I write this, the snow and the rain are lashing at the windows and the wind is howling around the house. Summer seems such a long way off, but plans are well underway for the 50th anniversary meeting at Malvern. The highlight of the celebration to mark fifty years since the public launch of the Swallow Doretti will be the Golden Jubilee Dinner at the Foley Arms Hotel in Malvern, on Saturday 24th July 2004. Details of booking arrangements for the dinner and other events planned for the weekend can be seen on the Swallow Doretti Page website.

While browsing the internet I came across an item by Simon Taylor in which he mentioned a telephone conversation with American racing historian Jim Sitz. During their chat Jim mentioned "my wife Dorothy Deen". Simon asked, "would this be the Dorothy Deen?" It was.

In 1952 Dorothy was a 'go-ahead' young Californian with her own firm making automotive accessories - from luggage racks and steering wheels to cast alloy rocker covers - for the newly fashionable European sports cars. Seeking a European-sounding name for her products, she called them Doretti, an italianisation of her name. In fact it is not an uncommon Italian surname.

When her father became involved with Frank Rainbow in the sports car he had designed for the Swallow Coachbuilding Company, he thought Doretti would be a good name for it, so Swallow bought the name from Dorothy for one dollar. By the time cars began to arrive in the US early in 1954, the American press had picked up the myth of an attractive blonde from California who had conceived and designed her own sports car. In fact Dorothy did much of the promotion of the car herself.

Some 275 Doretti sports cars were built over the next year and most were exported to the USA. But after pressure from some of the big UK automotive makers, Tube Investments, (Swallow's owner), was persuaded to stop competing with its own customers and the Doretti project was killed off.

Dorothy Deen went on to become America's largest Standard-Triumph distributor. In 1960 when Triumph took over its own US marketing, she qualified as a helicopter pilot and started another career selling aircraft.

Chassis N° 1209 in 1977
Does anybody recognise this Doretti?

Robert Methuen is another Doretti enthusiast who recently wrote to me with his reminiscences about RLL 273 Chassis No 1172 which he bought new from Welbeck Motors of Marylebone, London in the summer of 1955. According to Robert, Welbeck Motors bought the remaining ten or eleven Dorettis after the Swallow Coachbuilding Company ceased production and most of the cars had registration numbers in the RLL 270 to 280 range. The Doretti at that time was priced at about 1100, compared to the Triumph TR2 which he thinks was on the market at about 850. However, the Welbeck Dorettis were priced at about 750, and at that price were an extremely good buy.

In Robert's opinion the Doretti had a much higher standard of finish and with its track being wider at the front than at the rear, had better road holding qualities and of course it was a much better looking car. On one occasion he recalls, his mother for some reason borrowed the Doretti to go into Bath to do some shopping. "She was a very unadventurous, staid driver. Coming up Box Hill on the A4, as she approached the top at Rudloe where there was quite a sharp corner, she found she was doing about 90mph, and was immediately terrified. She survived the experience."

Robert had a great time with his Doretti, traveling extensively in the UK and also taking the car to Sweden on a tour. During the time he owned RLL 273 he thinks he did about 65000 miles and eventually sold the car in the spring of 1958.
 ... Ken Yankey



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