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A Doretti Reborn - NBC 742 Chassis No.1200
by Peter Lockley
A Standard 8 is not really the car to take to Coys Historic Festival at Silverstone, but I exhibited mine on the stand of my local car club, the Midland Vehicle Preservation Society, in 1998, and thus came across the Swallow Doretti Register display, where there was a rather bent, incomplete example of a Doretti for sale. This was NBC 742, Chassis No.1200.
The vendor's son will make a good car salesman one day. I was taken in, but I took more notice of my friend, Maurice Ford, who was with me. With a pedigree comprising Raymond Mays (ERA and BRM), Rootes experimental, Leyland etc., I decided Maurice knew what he was talking about and he'd have to restore it.
Little did I realise that the vendor had probably given up after taking on what was described at the Rabagliati auction as "a straightforward restoration" and that Maurice's ulterior motive was a dry run for a later project. A week later I phoned the vendor, reduced the price and did the deal - to include a donor car, RLL 280 (Chassis No.1160). The car was duly delivered at my home on a trailer behind a Transit van but there was no sign of the donor car until a heap of scrap steel and aluminium was unloaded from the back of the van.
For a few weeks my garage took on the appearance of an autojumbler's store until Maurice took NBC 742 to his workshop in Leamington Spa.
The car was soon reduced to a bare chassis, which was surprisingly sound with the exception of the outriggers and far superior to the chassis of the donor car, which was broken and rusty.
By this time I'd started to research the car's history. The DVLA were not a great deal of help; they revealed only one previous owner, Shirley Packard, who I decided was possibly the only owner of the car until it entered the Rabagliati collection. I decided she was probably an attractive young woman in her sports car in the 50's. "She" was in fact a retired octogenarian male car dealer from Sheffield, now living in Norfolk.
More successful were my enquiries at Leicester County Records Office as "BC" is a Leicester registration. They sent me a copy of their registration records, I rang directory enquiries and within a few minutes I was talking to the first owner, still working as a builder in Leicester. He's now been over to see the car and provided me with some priceless original photos which show that the car had changed from white to red in colour, from steel to wire wheels and had lost its interior.
A press cutting explained everything. Soon after the builder had sold the car in the early 60's to a friend of his it had been involved in a serious smash when a Mark 10 Jaguar jumped the lights at Gibbet Mill cross-roads, near Warwick University, only six or seven miles from my home. It was towed to a garage in Coventry where there was a petrol tank fire, which explains the patch on the tank, the lack of an interior and the fibreglass rear wings. The builder last saw the car some years later being driven around Leicester by some students.
The engine was well worn on NBC 742 and this leads me on to the donor car, RLL 280, the front half of the only Mk I Doretti coupe. I did not acquire the rear half of the body, which is safely preserved in Scotland. Whoever had attempted to restore RLL 280 had started on the engine, number TS 315 FR, which has on it a lovely Standard Triumph plate showing that it was reconditioned in 1959. The engine had new bearings, reground crank, new pistons and liners and a head so skimmed as to be scrap. The engine now has the head from the engine of NBC 742 (which was not the original engine from that car) and a rocker cover and timing chain cover from a Phase 3 Standard Vanguard which I had at home (they were less rusty than the original items).
The front plate of the engine of RLL 280 was cracked (a relic of a smash at Brands Hatch many years ago, which wrote the car off) and so that from NBC 742's engine was used. The whole was painted in metallic blue engine paint, the usual Standard Triumph colour for reconditioned engines, with a black rocker cover and ancillaries. The rear axle of RLL 280 was used as it had steel wheel hubs and it was my intention to restore NBC 742 to original condition with steel wheels.
The front nearside hub was a big problem as the nearside front suspension was missing in its entirety from the donor car as a result of the Brands Hatch crash. I acquired an identical Triumph Mayflower front hub from Standard Motor Club member.
The steering wheel, horn push and steering box of NBC 742 were all in good order save for a missing stator tube which was intact on RLL 280.
Both gearboxes were in good order but neither had an overdrive. A TR2 owner provided one with a Triumph 2000 A-type and with a Vanguard rear casing and new mainshaft supplied by a person recommended by Manvers Triumph, I had an overdrive conversion.
The remaining mechanical parts, which required renewal, came largely from Moss, TRGB, the TR Shop and various autojumbles.
It only remained to bend two new outriggers to original specification and the chassis was then shot-blasted and powder-coated and was ready for reassembly.
NBC 742 now had four replacement steel wheels in body colour and was a complete rolling chassis. All I needed now was a decent body. I had acquired two front body tubs. That on NBC 742 was badly bent at the front and totally bodged up and patched. That which came with RLL 280 was straight and so cannot have belonged to the car, but was un-patched and Maurice's preferred option for repair. NBC 742's rear body tub was equally badly bodged but would have to do as RLL 280 came without a rear end.
I acquired one good straight aluminium front offside wing with RLL 280 along with a bent nearside one. The front wings of NBC were badly bent, riveted and full of filler. The front of the front shroud of RLL was very bent but the back will have to be welded to the rear of the front shroud of NBC 742 as the rear of that shroud had been cut back at sometime to take a plywood dashboard. RLL 280 had a correct aluminium dash, albeit a little battered.
I found an autojumbler at Yeovil Festival of Transport who had two aluminium rear wings to replace NBC's fibreglass ones. In an exchange deal with Ken Yankey I subsequently acquired a better pair by trading RLL 280's chassis and some other parts for a straight bonnet to replace my bent example, a windscreen top bar and a number plate plinth.
I had one decent boot lid and rear shroud. All I needed now was a hood, hood frame and some decent Doretti seats, which are unlike any others, along with a lot of patience as the body went together.
With thanks to my fellow Doretti owners in the TR Register, particularly Cyril Harvey, Ken Yankey, Alan Gibb and anyone else I've forgotten.
Part Two of the restoration of NBC 742.
Further information about RLL 280 (Chassis No. 1160) can be found in The Story of a Rare Doretti Coupé.
Thanks to Peter Lockley for the information.
Ken Yankey © 2002