Dorothy Deen

Dorothy Deen

In the late 1940's, American West Coast interest in imported sports cars provided an ideal opportunity for the Cal Specialities Company to manufacture and sell a line of accessories with the Italian sounding "Doretti" brand name. The company, operated by Dorothy Deen and Paul Bernhart, sold products such as luggage racks, aluminium valve covers, wind wings and sun visors to local dealers who retailed these popular items to sports car enthusiasts.

Born on March 28, 1922 in Hollywood, California, to engineer and businessman Arthur Andersen and Martha Schultz Andersen, Dorothy grew up in a time when most women either stayed home with their children or worked as secretaries or telephone operators. However, at an early age the vivacious Dorothy had other ideas.

The involvement of Dorothy Deen with the Swallow Coachbuilding Company began in 1952 when Dorothy's father (Arthur Andersen) and Eric Sanders of Tube Investments (Swallow's parent company) met to discuss common business interests. During the talks Andersen mentioned that he liked sports cars and wanted to sell them. Sanders said that he watch out for any opportunities and would even consider manufacturing a car.

Early in December 1952 Andersen went to England for detailed discussions with Sanders and designer Frank Rainbow about a proposed new sports car and also to meet with Sir John Black of Standard-Triumph. Shortly afterwards Frank Rainbow received approval from Eric Sanders to design the new car which had to utilise the Triumph TR2 engine, transmission and running gear because of their availability. The Doretti name and the bonnet-badge design were bought by Sanders from Andersen for a nominal $1.00

Design work on the car started in January 1953 and proceeded rapidly. Each month progress reports and photographs were sent to Andersen for comment, but no modifications were ever requested.

In March 1953 Dorothy accompanied her father on a second visit to England to inspect the two partially completed Doretti prototype cars and to negotiate a distribution agreement for Standard-Triumph vehicles with Sir John Black. According to Dorothy, when they visited the Standard factory Ken Richardson offered her a test ride in the new TR2. She still remembers him driving at about 100mph along narrow roads which absolutely petrified Dorothy who had visions of a farmer pulling out in front of them.

By September Frank Rainbow and a Doretti were aboard the Queen Mary en route to New York and then onward to Los Angeles by air. Their destination was Cal Sales in Gardena, California which had been established by Andersen and Deen as the basis of a dealer network set up to handle the distribution of Standard-Triumph and Doretti cars in the American states west of the Mississippi.

The first private showing of the Doretti in the USA took place at Balboa Island in October 1953 and the general reception was very favourable except for some reservations involving certain styling details.

In January 1954 Dorothy organised the premiere American showing of the Triumph TR2 and the Swallow Doretti in the Embassy Room at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. The six day show was a tremendous success and the new dealership was off to a flying start.

Dorothy Deen, November 1989

Because of Dorothy's hard work Cal Sales grew rapidly with a large number of Swallow Doretti cars being sold in the first year. Unfortunately production of the Doretti ended in 1955 after British motor industry pressure on Tube Investments to end sports car production.

Dorothy was instrumental in getting the Triumph colour options changed from what she thought were rather insipid choices to more positive colours. It was also because of Dorothy's determination that Triumph sports cars eventually became one of the best selling British marques on the West Coast, despite strong competition from their major rivals MG and Jaguar.

According to Johnathan Stein the stories about Dorothy Deen's connection with the design of the Doretti were primarily due to the over-enthusiastic promotion efforts of advertising agencies. Set in the context of the mid-1950's it's not difficult to "imagine the marketing value of an extremely pretty single blonde who could single-handedly design and distribute a sports car before going home and preparing a dinner party".

In addition to the Triumph and the Doretti marques, Cal Sales also handled Peerless cars for a brief time after John Gordon went to California to sign them up as the western states distributor. However, Dorothy was less than satisfied with the quality and the connection was severed after only a few cars had been delivered. She recalls that "the design wasn't bad, but the quality standard didn't meet the price".

By 1960 Arthur Andersen had retired completly from Cal Sales and Dorothy was thinking it was time to move on in a new direction. Standard-Triumph had also changed its views on its car distribution and marketing policy. In common with other sports car manufacturers they decided to establish their own car dealer network and eventually bought up Cal Sales.

Dorothy Deen Sitz died October 23, 2007 in hospital after a long illness. She is survived by her husband of sixteen years, Jim Sitz, who has an expert knowledge of international motor racing history and is the historical consultant for Vintage Motorsport and Road & Track magazines.

An excellent detailed biography of Dorothy Deen by Karla A. Rosenbusch can be found in Automobile Quarterly, Vol.34, No.2, pp.49-61.

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