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Alec Pringle

Chassis No.1252

 

The passing of Alec Pringle is a great loss to the Triumph community but most people are probably unaware of his particular affinity with the Swallow Doretti. In 1994 when Alec was the Technical Editor of TRaction magazine he penned a short item about UHU 134 which he had owned for a few years in the late 1970s.
According to Alec, "as a small boy in the Fifties I lusted after a Doretti. The one car in the I Spy Book of Cars which I had failed to spot. A decade later, cruising across the Cambridgeshire Fens in my Allard, I was overtaken by a Doretti. Despite the V-12 Lincoln engine, with a supercharger to each bank of cylinders, I was hard-pressed to keep up. The TR3A which I rallied and hill-climbed at the time was no match for the Allard - the Doretti impressed."

In 1975, Alec saw a Swallow Doretti advertised for sale in Sussex, which was a UHU 134, (Chassis No.1252), first registered in Bristol in 1955. The car which had some competition history was in fairly good condition so it was bought immediately.
Four years later Alec sold the car and said, "it was the only car I've ever really regretted losing."

In his typical forthright manner, Alec Pringle's personal retrospective look at the Doretti does not pull any punches. "Forget all the twaddle about the Doretti being slower than Triumph TR2s. The road test cars may have been five mph slower at the top end, and a second slower from rest to 60 - but the road-test Doretti sports cars were bog standard production cars. Few other 1950's manufacturers were so naive as to submit perfectly standard cars for motoring magazine road test. Blue printed engines at the very least! In any case, the extra wheelbase and front track of the Doretti improved the road-holding considerably, and the additional rear axle location cured the TR2's suicidal tendencies "on the limit". Ride comfort was a great deal better, of course.

In other words, any marginal deficiencies in a bog standard Doretti straight line speed were more than outweighed by superior road-holding. Not to mention that you could drive the Doretti with the hood down at any speed over 40mph and remain dry in the rain, and drive 400 miles without feeling numbed! Frank Rainbow's grasp of aerodynamics extended beyond passenger comfort - adequate air flow to the drum brakes almost eliminated brake fade, even at racing speeds. A distinct contrast to drum braked TRs.

As I discovered in the mid-1970s, keeping up a 60+ mph cross country average in the Doretti wasn't difficult. The average driver in his Cortina saw my TR6 in his mirror and regarded it as a challenge to keep the 6 behind. But seeing the Doretti, Cortina-man invariably moved over in order to let the beast past, simply to see what it was. In rather more objective terms, I could put the Doretti round a standing lap of Goodwood in 1 min 57 secs without difficulty. To beat two minutes in a drum braked TR2 or 3 in reasonably standard form takes a great deal more bottle.

So there you have it. The TR2 was, without question, a great sports car of its time, and still is. The Swallow Doretti was, in its own way, every bit as good as - and the Mk II Sabre had the potential to be a very much better car than the TR3/3A/3B ever was."

... TRaction No.113, March/April 1994. pp.35



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