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Martijn Kuipers story of the restoration of Chassis No.1068

In 1994 when my father and I bought Swallow Doretti No.1068 as a restoration project we did not think it would take us almost four years to get her back on the road again. Then she was almost in original state, although we made a few alterations. This story tells how Doretti 1068 looked as we found her, how she must have looked originally and what we eventually made of her.

Front 3/4 view of No.1068 in 1999

The California car which had been off the road since 1965 came to the Netherlands via Belgium, and was probably sold new by Cal Sales the Los Angeles-based Swallow Doretti distributor for the western United States.

Except for an incorrect front bumper the car was mostly original and apart from some small parts the car had never been completely dismantled. However, there was no engine in the vehicle and the transmission was from an American car

From pictures, seen in a Hot Rot Magazine of the Fifties, we concluded that this Doretti must have been one of seven cars which were converted with a V8 engine by V8-specialist Max Balchowsky.

The modifications to the bulkhead, inner wing and chassis are nearly the same as on Max’ own car, fitted with a Buick V8 ‘The Buretti’. So we think our car must also have been fitted with a Buick engine.

The bell housing and the gearbox were from different cars and matched together. The exhaust pipe takes the whole length of the car, so there were no side pipes, as on Max’ own car. On the dashboard was an electric tacho to match the Buick engine.

The bonnet was modified with an aero-scoop and many louvres because of the heat of the much larger engine.

We decided to rebuild the car with TR4 parts.

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Original specifications:

  • Black, with hand painted inside and red interior with black piping;
  • Dashboard, door tops and seats are leather covered with vinyde backsides.
  • Door trimming is vinyde with red carped ad the undersides;
  • Groove with the side screen screws is black vinyde;
  • Panel with small clocks is painted black
  • Hood and long and short tonneau are tan trimmed with black piping; the side screens are tan too, but without piping.
  • Hood sticks are tan sprayed
  • In the boot was a rubber mat.

Technical specifications:

The car was probably from the beginning fitted with 48 spokes painted wire wheels and red painted brake drums. The car had no overdrive and the hole for the o/d switch in the dash was plugged with a small round cap.


The floors were fitted with U-channels except one front floor, which was from the later indented type. Change over model or replacement floor fitted? The car had no heater and thus no demister air-vents behind the front screen. The early license plate holder on the boot lid had a small ring round the plate. This looks nicer than the flat ones one sees usually.

Rear 3/4 view of No.1068 in 1999


The car was completely dismantled, the bulkhead rebuilt and a new gear box tunnel and floors made and fitted. All floors have now U-channels for re-inforcement. At the rear of the car, the removable floor in the boot is now flat, which gives more space.

Max Balchowsky had moved the steering column to the left and welded it to the chassis. This is now converted back to original specifications with a new LHD steering column bought from Jim Williams in England. Behind the choke a strong stay has been fitted, which makes the dashboard feel a lot stronger!

The whole body was rebuilt on the chassis which resulted in extremely good door and wing gaps. Doorsills and sills are now made of aluminium, and a bonnet that came from Ken Yankey is matched to the car. The gaps between inner and outer wings are now closed. A ‘Doretti’ emblem was fitted on the bootlid and could be original on a Cal Sales Doretti.

The original steel petrol tank has been replaced with one made of copper.

The engine is a fast road 2187 cc TR4 with cold air box at the front, and is fitted with a rare Cal Sales Doretti rocker cover.

The gearbox is now from a TR4 with overdrive. The front brakes are discs with wide hubs this gives the car a wider front track and looks much nicer! The rear axle from a TR4 is wider and looks also better than the original narrow TR2 axle. There are alloy brake drums fitted. At the front a stabiliser is fitted and the springs have been lowered.

The suspension bushes are made from very strong nylon, this gives a very firm ride. The wire wheels are now 60 spoke chrome rims with stainless steel spokes. The pedals have been relocated to create more leg space.

The interior is now completely red leather and only the seats and the dash and door tops are fitted with black piping. The other parts are made in red piping, which looks much better.

The hood, long and short tonneau and side screens are as near as original, made in tan vinyde. No contrasting piping is used.

Doretti 1068 was ready for the road in 1998 and drives very nicely. In 1999 she made a trip back to her home country, England.

Andries Kuipers and No.1068 in 1999
Chassis No.1068, Body No.5068, Engine No.TS 491E
Previous registration number, QEF 367 (California)
Current registration number, AE-02-99 (Netherlands)
Former owner: Martin Tavenier (USA)

We are interested in any information about the ‘life’ of this Swallow Doretti before July 15th 1988.

Martijn and Andries Kuipers

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