Devon Doretti sold for £4,700
This previously uknown Swallow Doretti with the 1965 UK registration of GBL 875C, was discovered in a Hennock, Devonshire barn and the Doretti grapevine has been buzzing for the past month about the impending Devon auction at which it was to be sold. The vehicle has been assigned the number UID No.2068 (unidentified doretti) until further details of its background and history can be verified. Nigel Wilcox, owner of 829 DRF (Chassis No.1157) made the trip down to Ashburton for the auction of the vehicle by Rendells on February 21st 2014 and reports as follows:
The hype was extensive and news of the significant discovery had been broadcast literally around the world. I first heard about it via a friend who lives in Sardinia! He had seen it in the Daily Mail Online, it was even on the BBC news website and transatlantic exchanges of photos and information took place between a core of UK, European and US Doretti enthusiasts.
The press predicted a bidding frenzy with pre-auction estimates ranging from $5,000 to $50,000 and finished car values quoted at 150,000 dollars, (sounds good to me). Those who know and understood Dorettis recognised the hype, saw through the media misinformation and were more reserved in their expectations.
The pre-auction consensus of those in the know was that the car was built up from parts emanating from Monkspath Garage who had acquired the factory stock when production ceased in 1955. Some suggested that it had been built on a TR chassis while others speculated that it was a proper Doretti chassis.
As some may know I've been looking for another Doretti project for a few years now. I'm really far too busy at this moment to get involved but Dorettis do not come up that often so I felt obliged to attend the auction and buy it if the specification and price was right. I hitched up the trailer just in case I found myself to be the car's new owner
It was all something of a rush as I had a prior engagement that day which meant that I could not leave the house until 11:20. The Doretti was the first lot in the afternoon auction which started at 13:30 prompt. I had a 120 mile journey in front of me and according to my Tom-Tom I would get there with eight minutes to spare. No allowance for stops or traffic hold ups or for the 18 foot trailer behind me. Eight minutes to park Land Rover and trailer in a congested auction venue, inspect the car, register to bid and get to the auction room - shouldn't be a problem!
Luck and traffic was with me and I arrived two minutes early. The access was as narrow as I had feared but I squeezed my way in and found myself parked next to a sad and dejected looking Doretti parked on a trailer with additional loose parts in front. It was pouring with rain which hampered a full examination. What I saw could best be described as "A Challenge". It was clear from the published photographs that there were going to be issues but even the photographs failed to prepare you for what was before you - or more to the point what was not before you. On the plus side the grille is one of the best I have ever seen. Most of the alloy panels showed great promise. It is a great shame that the front wings had been chopped off below the windscreen in a botched attempt to fit a pair of MGB doors to match the MGB windscreen. The hood frame was not a Doretti item, presumably it came from the same source as the windscreen. The same can be said for the seats. The dashboard was from an unknown source but some of the instruments were probably correct.
The front bulkhead appeared to be correct albeit missing most of the normal attachments and importantly there was no chassis plate. The chassis number reported by the auctioneers did not match any known Doretti chassis number sequence. The steering was rack and pinion (not a bad thing in my view) and the column came complete with steering lock from a BL parts bin. The chassis appeared to be of round tube variety within the engine bay suggesting that it was correct. The chassis at the rear appeared unfamiliar to me. Rather than a "squashed round tube" towards the rear it was square, this might have been an exaggerated deep channel welded top and bottom but time constraints, driving rain and wet glasses prevented me from investigating further.
None of these items in themselves would have dissuaded me from bidding keenly for the car. My bidding ceiling was dictated by the lack of underpinnings. Apart from the bulkhead there was no factory produced steel substructure to support the aluminium body panels. The rear wings were supported by steel tubes at the B posts falling somewhat short of superlegerra quality - and further support at the rear was improvised. There were inner wings but not as we know them Jim. The front end was supported by vertical plain sheet panels connected to the edge of the bonnet surround. I'm not sure if they were plywood or metal. The rear of the bulkhead was supported by industrial gauge angle iron consistent with the previous owners farming background.
I rebuilt my car from a wreck and can report that it took me 18 months to re-fabricate the under bodywork. I had the advantage of admittedly disintegrated inner panels to use as patterns. To start from scratch will be a major challenge. The most expensive component of my own restoration was the outer aluminium bodywork which alone cost in excess of £20,000. The good news for the Devon car is that the aluminium should hopefully only cost a fraction of that - and that grille is superb. Another nice touch was the collection of Baby Tenax fasteners still connected o presumably original but now sadly spoilt hood and/or tonneau cover - I could not tell which as it was covered by sundry parts.
The bidding started at £2000 after bidders initially sat on their hands. Bid increments were £100. I kept bidding up to £4700 (£4982 with buyer's premium) but called it a day at that and the next bid took it.
The new owner was a local gent and he was quite rightly very pleased to join that small but elite group of Doretti owners. At close of bidding we had a three way exchange of Doretti owners contact details as Paul Delderfield was also there interested to see the result of the auction or perhaps to extend his Doretti fleet.
The car's new owner is a former XK150 owner which gives him something else in common with some of our
group. We welcome him to the clan and wish him good luck and offer him enthusiastic support in the task that lies
ahead of him. I am sure that fellow Doretti owners will make him most welcome and the invitation is open to get in
touch for advice or detailed information to assist him in his restoration.
. . . Nigel Wilcox
More information is sought about this car and its history. If you can help, contact Ken Yankey at email@example.com
Index of Cars and Owners on the Swallow Doretti Page.