When William Lyons launched SS Cars (later Jaguar), he kept Swallow Coach-building, which produced motorcycle sidecars. He sold this company in 1945, and when there was later a drop in demand for sidecars, Swallow turned to car production, including the 1954 Doretti using TR2 running gear; it was very popular, especially in the USA. Production was up to 10 cars a week when it suddenly ceased in 1955 due to reported ‘changes in company policy’. One car was sent to Ghia in Italy for a coupé body to be fitted – when it returned to the UK after the firm ceased trading, Swallow designer Frank Rainbow ordered it to be scrapped.
‘SCRAPPED’ SWALLOW TO FLY AGAIN?
Enthusiast Richard Larter has previously restored a Doretti, and in 2004 bought the remains of another Swallow that he believes to be the Ghia car. It is almost certain that it was not scrapped: it was advertised for sale in 1961 by both Performance Cars of Brentford and Mayfair dealer Simmons.
“When I got the car it had been badly stored in an open shed on a mushroom farm in Wokingham,” said Larter. “The car was totally stripped, the chassis bare and the engine in pieces. The owner had found it in a scrapyard in Reading in the ’70s, thought it was restorable so began stripping it. He ran out of steam and there it remained until I bought it from his estate.
“In the late 1970s he had shown pictures of it to Frank Rainbow, who said it looked like the Ghia car but insisted he had given instructions for it to be scrapped. The front end is pure Swallow, but someone has crudely grafted on a grille surround from another car. The roof, windscreen surround and rear are in steel, with compound curves and a complex structure so it was not an amateur job – and Ghia made its prototypes in steel.” Larter has restored the chassis and running gear, but until he has proof of its origins he is undecided about what to do with the body, which requires considerable work.
The provenance of the apparently Ghia-styled Swallow Doretti’s sleek lines needs to be proved before a full restoration commences.
“The complex structure was not an amateur job – and Ghia made its prototypes in steel”