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Featured in the UK Motoring Directory
Swallow Gadabout
by Bob Cordon-Champ

The Swallow Gadabout motor scooter was made and sold by the Swallow Coachbuilding Company (1935) Ltd of Walsall, Staffordshire, from November 1946 until September 1951.

Gadabout Scooter advertisment

In December 1945, the Helliwell Group, an aircraft servicing and repair firm, bought the name and goodwill of the Swallow side car manufacturer the Swallow Coachbuilding Company (1935) Ltd from SS Cars Limited. The subsequent sidecar production at Helliwells' Walsall Airport works used the same manufacturing techniques and patented trademark as had been utilised at Swallow's Foleshill factory in Coventry. Eric Sanders, the managing director of Helliwells', came together at this point with Frank Rainbow a gifted aero engineer and industrial designer. Both had seen the use of light scooters, such as the Welbike, on airfields and elsewhere during the war and both thought a similar machine would sell if made by Swallow.

Frank Rainbow, keenly interested in two-wheelers, was given the brief to produce a Villiers powered machine which could be built using a minimum of tooling and equipment. The very strong ladder chassis was to be bent in Wales by Tube Investments, who produced the Swallow sidecar chassis. The prototype and the first series machines relied upon a rather modern-looking to our eyes "air dam" under the steel floor to duct air to the Villiers 9D 122cc engine. The bodywork was all steel, access to the tank, tap and tools being under the seat and Villiers direct lighting was used. The Gadabout was announced to the motor cycle press and featured in "The Motor Cycle" on November 28th 1946, billed as the "British Two-wheeler for Mr & Mrs Everyman". The Gadabout was a successful machine, being adopted by public bodies including the Staffordshire Constabulary, as a lightweight runabout. Slow traffic could cause overheating though, and Frank Rainbow engineered a version modified to fan cooling. Some 2000 were sold.

In 1949 the Mark II model was introduced, it had rubber in torsion front suspension and the foot-change Villiers 10D engine with fan-cooling. Both Gadabout models had been available with a Swallow box sidecar, named the Gadabout Commercial and some later Mark II models were given the Villiers 6E 197cc engine becoming the Gadabout Commercial Major Mark III.

Available information is scarce. Like Swallow's sidecar manuals the Gadabout material was typed and duplicated - save for a beautiful full colour catalogue for the Mark I - and is difficult to find. Surviving Gadabout machines are not easy to find either, but author Bob Cordon-Champ has restored a pair and can supply dating and other information.

As a postscript, it seems that Eric Sanders was happy enough to commission Frank Rainbow to design a successor. Frank did so; an elegant lightweight scooter powered by a Villiers 1F engine. Sadly it was never produced, although the prototype Joyrider survives. Frank also went on to design Swallow's entry into the sports car market, the excellent Swallow Doretti.

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