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Featured in the UK Motoring Directory
  February 2007    No.30 Equipo Doretti
 

 

A recent column in the Daily Mail provided the impetus for a number of former owners to contact me with their recollections about their past life with a Doretti.

Derek Pugh, a past owner of Chassis No.1152, provided me with the answer to a minor Doretti mystery. This right-hand drive vehicle originally had the UK registration number WTB 338 but was subsequently exported to Austria. After being displayed at the Initiative Motor Museum in Gmunden for a period of time the car was bought by Christian Hartmann and taken to Switzerland. For a number of years the background of Chassis No.1152 with its unique tilt-forward front body-shell had somewhat been embellished with tales of it being a factory prototype or racecar. However the truth is that Derek bought WTB 338 for 75 from a breaker's yard in 1963 with an accident damaged front end. Rather than having the original bodywork repaired he opted to have a completely new front body-shell fabricated by Shapecraft of Surbiton.

Don Eckford is another past owner who contacted me to say that he bought a Doretti with the registration number MSG 465 in May 1955 and sold the car in June 1957. He also sent me a picture of the car and recalls that the previous owner was Polish and lived in Edinburgh. Don says that there was another Doretti, in BRG, in the same avenue owned by a young chap, named McEwan, but he couldn't recall the car's number plate. According to Don, "there were a total of three Dorettis in Edinburgh at the time so they were fairly rare and so much prettier than the TR2, sorry chaps!! I never MSG 465 again, but heard it was damaged in an accident later in 1957."

Another early owner who was stimulated by the Daily Mail was John Drew, a former director of Drews (Woodgrange) Ltd., a garage in East London. In his email John said, "we went to Walsall to see the first Dorettis being built in the factory and we were very impressed. After some discussion, we were appointed East London distributors". The first Doretti delivered to Drews was a red car that was registered JHM 1 and John used it for his personal transport as well as for business. He went to many American service bases in Suffolk to sell to US service men and had a stand at some airfields. When he got married the Doretti carried him and his wife on their honeymoon to Devon and Cornwall. A chrome luggage rack had to be fitted to the boot lid to take cases, as the boot was extremely small. The Doretti always brought out the crowds who thought it was an Italian built sports car with hand stitched leather upholstery. At the age of 77, John has many happy memories of his Doretti and although they were Standard and Triumph dealers, he says "my heart was always with my Swallow Doretti".

After twenty-five years or so of trouble free running UVT 429 (No.1153) has recently been experiencing some engine troubles. David Bartlett, the owner, says that the car is presently off the road and Alistair Conners is working on it. The gearbox is also being rebuilt, but the main concern is the engine. It seems the head is cracked and they are trying to locate a replacement.

I am currently doing some work on a bonnet off a 5 litre V-8 Buick-Doretti built by the legendary Max Balchowsky. Hopefully the heavily louvred bonnet with a huge air scoop will be fitted on a car in time for the International Weekend. In his later years, Max designed some very innovative automobile setups for action shots for films and was kept busy with movie stunt car preparation work. He became good friends with Buddy Hackett as a result of doing the set ups for Herbie the Volkswagen Beetle in the movie Love Bug. However he is perhaps best known for his work with the cars for the film Bullit with Steve McQueen. Balchowsky set up Steve's Baja race pickup truck for for the Baja Races and he also worked with Elvis Prestley on several movies including Viva Las Vegas.

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.
 ... Ken Yankey



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