Huge Stash of Rare Dorettis and Triumphs Found!

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In the annals of orphan British cars, Tom Householder stands out as a champion for one of the more obscure makes, the Swallow Doretti. Householder was involved in the founding of the Triumph Register and still owns a large collection of Dorettis and Triumphs. As a result of his failing health, twenty of his cars along with innumerable parts are coming up for auction. The live auction will be conducted by Burns Auction & Appraisal, LLC, in Lancaster, Ohio; for a full catalog, consult Proxibid here, where cars are already receiving online bids. I owe thanks to my friend Stu for this tip! The belles of the ball are three semi-complete Dorettis, all rather neglected. About 276 Swallow Dorettis were ostensibly manufactured by Swallow Coachbuilding Co., a division of Tube Investments which made Jaguar sidecars for its motorcycle division. I say “ostensibly” because Swallow was unable to complete entire cars; consequently, Panelcraft was responsible for the bodies. The panels were aluminum around structural steel; most of the running gear and other parts were from the Triumph TR2. Production lasted just about one year from 1954 to 1955, ceasing when Jaguar objected to the competition against its XK120. The sad little red car above has no title and – according to the sellers – a non-original engine.

The green 1954 Doretti shows off Healey-esque lines, but don’t dismiss it as similar: the Doretti solved some problems that plagued other British cars. Its track was as wide as a 100-4 and wider than a TR2, and it was over five inches longer than either one. The car’s suspension geometry prevented the “hop” that the TR2 could dish out. This example has a clean title and though the engine is not installed, it is with the car. Speaking of motors, the 90 hp 1991 cc Triumph motor could usher the Doretti to 100 mph, but thanks to its heavier curb weight, overall it was slower than a TR2.

This special car is a 1955 Triumph “Francorchamps” coupe, one of about twenty-two made. These cars were made in Belgium at Impéria Automobiles, founded in 1906. Impéria made a variety of cars for the Belgian market, including this one derived from a TR2 and designed by its in-house engineer, Franz Pardon. (Bonus points, what amenity did the Impéria factory have? Ok, that’s too hard – a rooftop track! Remnants remain if you are ever in Belgium.) Meant to be a luxury interpretation of the stout TR2, these cars have roll-up windows, a fixed hard top, and a clear sunroof. Here is a tour of this example. Please, someone restore this!

Lest you think Mr. Householder was one-dimensionally fond of Triumphs and Dorettis, here’s a 1972 TVR 2500M, formerly living under the barn. Miraculously, the back glass is unscathed, separated from the car but coming with the sale. Again, there is no title for this derelict, but it’s fairly complete. The engine – originally Triumph, this time a 2.5 liter – is in situ, the Webasto sunroof has its parts, and the sellers indicate that they located the car’s original five wheels. Scan the catalog and let us know below – what’s your favorite?

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. HadTwo

    And all these years I’ve been calling them Swallow Dorito’s.
    Well, now I know, Nacho average Brit car.

    Like 21
    • Mitchell G.Member

      Oh you old salt you

      Like 0
  2. Martin Horrocks

    Good write up as usual, Michelle. I think there was a lot of cooperation between Standard -Triumph and Swallow on this car, which wasn’t seen as too much of a competitor to the TR2. Doretti was more upmarket and intended for the US market.

    Doretti is an Italianisation of “Dorothy”, the daughter of one of the protagonists of the project.

    The TR2 Francorchamps is much more interesting and rare. Small European markets sometimes had their own coachbuilds, the best resolved Triumph derivative being the gorgeous Italia built by Vignale and styled by Michelotti for the Italian market in the late 50s. It was a gorgeous fhc styled after Maserati, but better proportioned.

    Like 3
  3. Scott Marquis

    Not sure “Found” is the right characterization. Quite a few folks knew about this collection, so not really lost.

    Like 2
    • Michelle RandAuthor

      The title was changed, I had a different one!

      Like 1
  4. Lawrence Smith

    Its a pity these old rare cars were allowed to rust away like they have ,theres some good parts there for people restoring,

    Like 0
  5. James_HGF

    Nicely done Michelle!

    I’ve taken time to view every item of the Proxbid catalog and found plenty of interest including book stashes. Time spent, but not wasted.

    I’ve been fortunate over the years (decades) to view a plethora of nice Swallow Dorettis. However one small print advert in the Phoenix paper one “auction January” circa 1985 I remember well. Took time to look at “needs restoration” to find they left out the part that something with the weight of a circus elephant had sat on it. Some of its bits and pieces may have resided in Ohio for years.

    I share your concern that the Francorchamps TR2 coupé needs to be properly restored – have seen one.

    Found an article with great photos that complements your write up with detailed specs on the myriad small modifications that make the Imperia Francorchamps coupé so gloriously spectacular. Hope you’ll agree to posting and sharing the Classic Motorsports article:

    Like 3
    • Mike

      Google image Francorchamps TR2 for more pictures. This car is amazing as a hardtop.

      Like 1
  6. gippy

    From the description as being the founder of the Triumph register, one would have thought he was a collector, but looking over the auction catalogue it appears he was just a hoarder with few running cars and most of the stuff left out to rot.

    Like 1
  7. V12MECH

    Crossed paths with Tom several times in last 30 years, must be almost 90, in nursing home now, collected a bunch of neat British cars and parts, time and health overcame his ability to get to all the projects, good egg. I’m sure some of the commenters have completed all their projects, with nothing left to sit around before the clock says times up.

    Like 4
  8. Troy

    Wish it was closer I would be working to buy some of the utility trailers listed

    Like 0

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