Backyard Find: 1951 Jowett Jupiter

One of the great joys of this hobby is the thrill that comes on first sighting a tarp-covered lump hidden behind someone’s garage. It’s a moment of nearly infinite possibilities. Hidden away behind a garage in Colorado is a 1951 Jowett Jupiter. This exceedingly rare British sports car is listed for $10,000 here on the AutoShrine.

The Jowett Jupiter was the first, and only, postwar sports car offering from the firm of Jowett Cars, Ltd., of Idle, West Yorkshire. Conceived as a product for export, Jowett’s entry into the world of sports cars was an attempt to increase its allocation of steel in resource-strapped Britain. The car wore a hand-formed aluminum body stretched over a tubular steel chassis originally designed by famed racing engineer Robert Eberan-Eberhorst, had an engine that produced 62.5 bhp, and a four-speed manual gearbox with column-mounted shift. This gave the roadster a top speed in the neighborhood of 85 mph, which turned out to be enough for tuned versions to secure class wins at Le Mans in both 1950 and 1951.

The example we see here is no longer equipped with its original 1.5L flat-four, instead housing the engine and transmission from a Volvo P1800. The seller reports that these additions were made due to the lack of an available replacement for the original engine, and that he has a 1953 Jowett engine to go with the car should the new owner desire to return it to original condition. There is little news on the transmission; though rumor has it that the original gearboxes were fairly unreliable, so this might be less of an issue. Jupiters have a lot of interesting quirks: in the original configuration, the radiator was mounted between the engine and the firewall, and there is no way to access the boot from outside the car– instead, one must fold down the back of the bench seat.

Given the apparently straight aluminum body and the tube steel chassis, the car should be a good candidate for restoration; in fact, the seller has communicated that the engine is running and that he is working on getting the car road-worthy. With fewer than 900 made between 1950 and 1954, production cars don’t get much more rare, nor do many production cars come with a similar racing pedigree won over the span of just a few years. The striking looks of this automobile would likely mitigate the frustration born of trying to source parts from locations around the globe, which will remain problematic despite the efforts of several active Jowett clubs. With time, dedication, and 3D printing, the new owner will be able to proudly display a beautiful British sports car ten times as rare as a Jaguar of the same vintage, at a small fraction of the price.


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  1. alphasud Member

    As an avid car guy who stays immersed in all things automotive it’s always fun to discover a car you know nothing about. With the replacement Volvo engine the performance should be lively given the aluminum body steel chassis construction. You mention the gearbox being somewhat unreliable. I bet it has a Volvo box behind the engine as well. Once completed you would be a member of a very exclusive club. Heck you might be the only member of the club!

    Like 7
    • Tim

      Yes there is an M40/overdrive gearbox behind the skookum Volvo B18. The engine runs beautifully and I expect the gearbox is fine, too.
      There are 2 original Jupiter gearboxes that go with the car, too.
      I mounted up a set of new Continental radials on some custom 15″ wheels. A perfect set of 5 original 16″ wheels come with the car.

  2. RoughDiamond RoughDiamond Member

    Fascinating car with column mounted four-speed manual transmission. So on these was 1st gear in terms of gearshift lever positioning where 1st gear was on most “three on the tree” American vehicles? If so, then would 4th gear on this model for the gearshift lever positioning have been in the same orientation as 2nd gear was?

    • Bill McCoskey

      Rough Diamond,

      I had one of these 45+ years ago in bright red, so my memory is a bit vague at times. I didn’t drive my Jupiter more than a couple of times because back in the early 1970s it was damn near impossible to source spare parts.

      As I remember, 1st gear was pull forward and then upward. Second hit my right knee. Third and I almost hit the dashboard. Fourth was all the way down in front of my knee. Reverse was push down in neutral, then up until I DID hit the dashboard with my knuckles!

      All that said, when it did run and stop, that little car was fast for a 1.5 liter motor!

      Like 2
  3. Terrry

    Now here is a perfect candidate for a body restoration and a complete GM power train conversion. LS maybe? You’d have a very rare car that everyone will ask, “what is that?” and it will also be fast!

    Like 2
  4. Roger Hackney

    Interesting car.
    It’s not going to be original anyway so
    why not an LS.

    Like 4
    • Steve R

      If an LS won’t fit, Ford and Chevy both make Turbo 4 cylinder engines that propel the Mustang and Camaro into the 13’s in showroom trim, either should work well in this application.

      Steve R

      Like 8
  5. Gerard Frederick

    Great find! I agree, don´t fiddle with the Volvo drive train but rather go American. To restore this wonderful example of a sports car makes all the sense in the world, as long as one has comparatively deep pockets. Question, how was it that a German (?) engineer designed this British car?

    Like 1
  6. chrlsful

    wish we hada better pic. Seems t have the nice lines of the mid 30s’ + (even ’50s/60s if Italian). None of the auction site either. Time for the net search…
    (can’t come back, even as member, to post. Shoulda done after my search – for sharing)…

    Like 1
  7. Cliff Greenberg Member

    I had a Saab 96 in the 1970’s with a column mounted 4 speed. The H shift pattern was about the same as a floor mounted shift. When we walke3d out to test drive it at Gallen Chevrolet in Littleton, NH we couldn’t find reverse and the sales people weren’t interested in helping us. (Pull the shift lever out toward the passenger, then toward you and down.) It was a great choice compared to the VW’s of the day…except for transmission bearing issues.

    Like 1
  8. HalLucy

    I have always loved these cars. Not only are they cool looking, but they have a crazy horizontally opposed four cylinder engine and, as the article says, the radiator was behind the engine. It could only be British.

    • Chinga-Trailer

      Subaru has used an opposed water-cooled engine for years, Fiat and Simca placed the radiator behind the engine on the Topolinos so we can include the Brits and French among the weird car builders.

      These cars may be rare but they show up in the darndest places – when I was a kid, there was one off of Laurel Canyon under a carport, I saw a beautiful one in Stevenson, Washington once and about 30 years ago at a swap meet in Corvallis, Oregon the inimitable purveyor of Rolls-Royce parts, Mr. Tony Handler had a front end for one in his pile of junk . . . er, merchandise. He said I had been the only one to know what it was.

  9. Ian Grant

    Other than Bill McCoskey I may be your only correspondent that has seen a live one. Jowett made both the Javelin and the Jupiter. A fellow student at the Ardmore engineering school in New Zealand raced one around the labs and it did very well.

    Like 1
  10. Frenchlick Member

    Jowett only built 900 of these cars – used leftover alum. from WWII aircraft as after the war, steel was scarce and used for remakin_ industrial toolin_.
    I have 5 of these – and boxes of spares. So if whoever buys this needs parts, I may be able to help out. They won their class at Lemans in the early ’50s, and our erstwhile “club” Pres, is Scott Renner in LA area. He races his at La_una Seca and Sonoma occasionally. Last saw him run about 6 yrs back at Sonoma.
    Weird detail: The motors tended to break their cranks – bad metallur_y or whatever, and they only fixed that problem shortly after they ceased production around ’53. Their transmissions also had problems, and I found way to fix one of them re their shiftin slop. Desined a new lower bearin for the vertical shaft.
    There is a UK club – look them up on the web. Our US bunch never did work out – we’re too scattered and too few –

    • Tim

      Hi Frenchlick, I have been sourcing parts with Scott’s help and hours of cross-referencing. It is good to know of a new source. I am looking for a left hand door. Mine can be restored, but I like the idea of swapping it out! I also need some other small trim parts.
      Let me know the best way to get in touch.
      Thank you.

      • Frenchlick Member

        Tim, all of mine are complete cars that can be restored so I don’t have any spare doors. As for trim parts, if you can tell me specifically what you need, I can look for it in some of the small parts I’ve collected and let you know what I have. You could try askin_ Barnfinds to put you in touch with me via email, as they have my ocntact info. If that doesn’t work, let me know.

  11. t-bone BOB

    Located somewhere in the USA

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