Rare 1955 Swallow Doretti Project

A what? That was my first reaction as I happened upon this 1955 Swallow Doretti. Every day is a good day when you learn something new and this is another unknown automotive discovery for me. Join me please, as we review this curious two-seater. It is located in Portland, Oregon and is available, here on Bring a Trailer for a current bid of $4,200. Thanks to Larry D for this rare find!

The short-lived Swallow Doretti was the product of a  combination of the Swallow Coachbuilding Company and Tube Investments. According to Moss Motoring, the Doretti, “… had a gracefully proportioned aluminum body draped over an inner structure of steel and a very strong ladder-type chrome-moly tubed frame”. The running gear was that of a Triumph TR2. Designed for the U.S. market, the Doretti was assembled by the Standard Motor Company at their Walsall, Staffordshire England production plant. A total of 276 copies were built in 1954 and 1955 with another twelve examples being constructed later, via kit form.

Interestingly, this Swallow has its body panels “loosely reassembled” for auction pictorial purposes. That said, the removed body panels are in pretty fair shape. Obviously, the paint is shot but the panels, and the frame, are not showing signs of significant corrosion. Supposedly, a restoration project was started by a previous owner and then abandoned, but other than removing body panels, it looks untouched. Trim is at a minimum but all of it looks present except for the hood emblem and the trunk latch. A folding soft top and side curtains are included in the sale.

Under the bonnet is a 2.0 liter, in-line, four-cylinder Triumph TR2 engine good for 90 HP. It’s a safe bet that it has been non-operational for a while; the images pretty well give it away. There is no mention of its overall condition as to whether or not it’s salvageable. The odometer recording is 56K miles but there is no guarantee that figure is a true reading of what this engine has experienced. A four-speed manual transmission is in place behind the partially disassembled engine.

Inside, there is, among other problems, a rot situation with the driver’s side floor. The seats are in pretty shaky condition, the wiring harness is hacked, hard to say what’s up with the dash, a removed applique perhaps? But, the instrument pod and its gauges show pretty well, the gauges are clear and all of the switchgear is in place so that’s a help. The listing pictorial is extensive and is thorough in revealing this Doretti in detail, warts and all.

The seller mentions that there are extra parts included in the sale, such as the removed SU carburetors, a resealed fuel tank, and another rear axle. It’s hard to dimension everything that will be necessary to bring this Swallow Doretti back to life, hopefully, it can be accomplished, this two-seater has great lines and would be fabulous looking when fully restored. It would likely be a fun runner too. Question time, does anyone have familiarity with this obscure British Marque?

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Comments

  1. A.G.

    Last year Race Car Network published an article about the Swallow Doretti
    https://www.rcnmag.com/fresh-finds/1955-swallow-doretti

    Like 4
  2. RayT Member

    I’ll hold out for one of the handful of Dorettis that went through Max Balchowski’s shop in Hollywood, California. Max yanked the S-T engine and replaced it with a Nailhead Buick. I have heard that Dorothy Deen approved….

    One can only guess what effect that had on weight and handling, though it must have been wicked fast in a straight line. On the other hand, Max did build a few better-than-decent Buick-powered road racers, so I suspect the swap wasn’t quite as crude as it sounds.

    Either way, the cost of purchase and restoration put it out of my reach….

    Like 5
  3. luke arnott Member

    These were produced By Tube Industries,nothing to do with Standard whose factory was in Coventry.Production was 292 units.

    Like 3
    • Jim ODonnell Staff

      How come the sill plate on the attached image reads, “A Swallow Product – The Airport – Walsall England”?

      JO

      Like 6
  4. CJinSD

    Swallow Coachbuilding used to be known as Swallow Sidecars and Coachbuilding, and they used to make cars with the SS badge; for Swallow Sidecars. World War II gave the SS name a bad aftertaste, and so Swallow Sidecars’ products got a revision and became known as Jaguars. I’m curious how they came to be building cars positioned so closely to post-war Jaguars.

    Like 2
    • Martin Horrocks

      I don’t think there is any connection, but the link to Standard factory was quite close.

      Doretti derives from Dorothy, the daughter of one of the project directors. It was Italianised to make the car sound exotic. If you’ve been to
      Walsall you will know how necessary that would be….

      Like 2
      • luke arnott Member

        Walsall is in the Black Country (Saddling town!) nowhere near Coventry and the Airport (long gone) was at Aldridge,where there is/was a pub called the “Struggling Monkey” or similar.

        Like 1
    • Andy Parrish Andy Parrish Staff

      In fact, they didn’t. The two companies split earlier, with William Lyons deciding that sports cars were the thing. When the Doretti came out, he placed a phone call to Tube Investments (the parent company) and had production shut down.

      https://jalopnik.com/that-time-jaguar-founder-sir-william-lyons-pressured-a-1834994819

      Like 6
      • Ross W. Lovell

        Greetings All,

        Sort of ironic amnd tragic.

        Sir John Black, owner of Standard Motor Car and supplier of SS Cars with the chassis and engines that SS would then build their bodies upon and sell, was no longer a fan of William Lyons.

        Black had stated he was planning on discontinuing the six cylinder they made and had rebuffed William Lyon’s attempts of making an overhead valve engine on the grounds that “nobody needs a six”.

        Lyons sensed an opportunity and made an offer on Standard’s tooling, which Sir John Black Sold and then immediately regretted.

        Lyons and crew used that tooling to make the OHV engine that eventually evolved into the SS100.

        Sir John Black, never happy that Lyons would not even partner with him on the engine that SS designed around Standard tooling threatened to make a sports car.

        This car was supposedly the threat, though Standard had no chance against the rest of the existing market nor was his customer base that interested.

        Sir John Black was involved in an accident while in one of these and eventually succumbed from his injuries.

        Not sure that Swallow needed prompting to discontue an automobile that killed one of Coventry’s own.

        Standard went on to become/purchase Triumph and were known as Standard Triumph for years.

        Like 1
  5. Bryan Cohn

    The center dash “pod” of gauges and switches is straight from a TR2-TR3 as are the speedo and tach. The center piece is flat sheet steel with a thin wood veneer over the top. Oddly thin and delicate but beautiful when finished/refinished properly.

    Like 1
  6. Euromoto Member

    Reading through the BAT comments reminds me of how it used to be before the site went corporate. Real enthusiasts making relevant comments on an obscure marque. Kind of like…Barnfinds. Keep it up, fellas.

    Like 4
  7. luke arnott Member

    Lyons told Tube Industries to stop or he would buy no more parts from them for the XK120!

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