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From Scorpion to Swallow

The story of a post-production Swallow Doretti

Jim Williams tells how he built his car at Home

Car in 1956

Early in 1956 while looking for a chassis for a special I wanted to build, I saw an advertisment placed by the Swallow Coachbuilding Company in Motor Sport magazine, announcing that all remaining Swallow Doretti parts were for sale, including chassis. I went down from Manchester to the Swallow factory in Walsall and walked straight into the spares department - the company had of course closed down by this time - and managed to buy the very last chassis.

And not just the chassis: the liquidators wanted to sell me enough parts to build a complete car. For £88 I got a chassis and body panels minus doors, floor and a few other bits and pieces.

The following week the whole thing was delivered to my home in Flixton, Manchester, in packing cases. There were some bits missing - the door pillars on one side for instance - but being a draughtsman, as long as I had one I could make a copy from it. A new Triumph engine was too expensive, so I eventually bought a second-hand TR3 engine, which is still in the car today.

Swallow Coachbuilding didn't want me to call the car a Swallow Doretti because I had built it, not them. Maybe they thought I might make a mess of it. So I called it a Scorpion, purely because I was born in November, under the sign of Scorpio. It's registered as a Scorpion too, but I got fed up of explaining what it really is at shows, so I decided to make a Swallow badge myself out of copper.

Car from 1962 to 1975

When my children were growing up in the early sixties I decided I had to sell the Doretti and get something bigger but nobody wanted it. So, I got my pencil out and drew a new body for the car from the rear wheels back, with a hardtop, using the roof off a Triumph Mayflower, which gave tremendous headroom, extra seating and a big rear window. I then built a body at the back to suit those bits, with an Austin A40 bumper and Vauxhall lights. The car remained like that from 1962 until 1975. In between it was stolen by a couple of drug addicts who drove it to Torquay. It made the local papers, but I got it back after a week.

Car in 1999

When I came to restore the car back to its original two-seater configuration in 1973, I found I had saved the boot-lid and rear shroud but thrown the side panels away. Luckily I got hold of a complete bodyshell for £75 which turned out to be the car that won a Welsh rally.

Once the Doretti was our only car but now it's used only in the summer. I still have plans for it - the next modification is a Panhard rod to improve the handling - so I'm gilding the lily. But I shall never sell it.
.... Jim Williams


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