|The Swallow Doretti Page|
RLL 273 - The Early Years
by Robert Methuen
The initial history of Swallow Doretti - Chassis N° 1172
I bought the car in the summer of 1955 new from Welbeck Motors in Marylebone, London. It is my belief that Welbeck bought the remaining ten or eleven Dorettis after the Swallow Coachbuilding Company ceased trading at that time. These cars all had numbers in the RLL 270 to 280 range. I and my flat mate Clive Crossley had been interested in the Doretti, and had gone to see one in the showroom of a Trowbridge Wiltshire) garage at an earlier date. The Doretti at that time was priced at about £1100, compared to the Triumph TR2 which was, I think, on the market at about £650. The Doretti, though a better car in all ways, was probably overpriced at that figure, and that was, I assume, a contributory cause to Swallow's demise. However, the Welbeck Dorettis were priced at about £750, and at that price were an extremely good buy.
The Doretti had a much higher standard of finish, and with its track being wider at the rear than at the front, had better road holding qualities, and of course it was a much better looking car.
RLL 273 was a red car, with pale leather inside. I traded in a rather grotty Morris Minor with an Alexander twin carb conversion, which went like a hellcat, and could never keep its big ends intact. I took the Doretti home, and my father stalked round the corner of the yard where we kept our cars and said, "Whose is that?" I replied "Mine", and escaped rapidly into the house! Mother was not keen on sports cars as two family friends had been killed when an old Bentley tourer turned over into a ditch one night near us.
I eventually sold the car in Spring 1958, prior to getting married. During that time I think I did about 65000 miles. I had a great time with her, and travelled extensively in the UK, and also took her to Sweden on a tour. We went by boat to Gothenburg, and my brother and I drove back overland via Denmark and Germany. Unfortunately the car was stolen in Stockholm, and it was very difficult to describe to the Swedish police what this rare car looked like! However, the party I was with was travelling to our next visit and saw her parked by the side of the street, and I was able to get her back. The only damage was that the ignition keylock had been forced.
My brother and I had great fun with her. On one occasion we were driving on Salisbury plain, where there are many long straight roads, and we decided to see what she would do. We got up to about 95mph, and an old guy on a bike saw us coming and got off his bike and hid in the ditch! (It was actually quite safe!) On another occasion, my mother for some reason borrowed her 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!
My fiancée was learning to drive in 1957, and she did not appreciate Doretti's acceleration as she had been learning on a driving school's Morris Minor. That lead to some interesting moments.
Eventually RLL 273 had to go as my fiancée and I needed something with more room for dogs and luggage. So my beloved Doretti was swapped for a Renault Dauphine which was quite a change, but fun. Later cars included the first MGB in Wiltshire, ordered prior to announcement - I had it within 14 days of it being announced which was quite exciting. There was also a Mk1 Cortina GT estate which was a non-standard build from the factory, and a whole series of Renaults of various sorts. Currently I drive a Subaru Forester.
John Kirkland another owner of RLL 273 recalls his memories of the car in 1971 to 1973
The story of the current owner's rebuild of RLL 273, Chassis No.1172 is documented in Bikes'n Cars Graham West's personal website.
Ken Yankey © 2004