An early consignment for the Theodore Bruce Classic Car Auction, which is scheduled to take place on March 30, the Doretti is described as being only one of 8 examples registered in Australia.
The Doretti was built between 1954 and 1955 by The Swallow Coachbuilding Co., a company owned by aircraft specialist, Helliwells, which itself was a subsidiary of Tube Investments, who provided the car's tubular frame chassis.
Enthusiast may know that the Swallow Coachbuilding Co. was formerly Swallow Sidecars, which led to the 'SS' automobiles that then evolved into Jaguar. After World War II, Jaguar's William Lyons sold off The Swallow Coachbuilding Co. to Helliwells as Jaguar forged ahead with its own new destiny.
What evolved into the Doretti had its roots in Swallow and Tube Investment's efforts to diversify the business as sidecar sales began to drop off in the post-War years. English sportscars were also enormously popular in the USA during the early 1950s, so a small, sporty roadster could bring in valuable export orders for the firm, too.
Arthur Andersen, a Californian who was also in the tube milling business, had an association with Standard-Triumph's Sir John Black, and envisaged selling British sports cars throughout the US, but concentrated on the West Coast.
The association with Standard-Triumph meant Triumph TR2 running gear could be used, thus reducing Swallow's engineering and development costs. This meant the TR2's 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine, transmission and rear axle were used, virtually unaltered, but the engine sat further back in the Doretti's chassis, improving front/rear balance compared to the TR2.
Outwardly, the attractively-styled Doretti looked like an Austin-Healey or Ferrari 166 Barchetta, and featured a more luxuriously-appointed interior than the Triumph TR2. The front track was a little wider than the TR2, and the wheelbase longer, too, providing more interior space and improving the ride and comfort. The front suspension was also bespoke to the Doretti, and an improvement on that used in the TR2.
On paper, the Doretti - the name came from the Italian-isation of the name of Arthur Andersen's daughter, Dorothy - had all the ingredients of success, but the car struggled to find buyers from the outset.
Part of this was attributed to the Swallow brand having no real heritage in automobiles, especially in the USA, but more damning was the car's price. At _1,102 new, a Doretti was around 20-percent dearer than a TR2, but offered no better performance, and was actually a little slower than the TR2 over the usual measures.
As a more-or-less direct competitor to the TR2, it's been rumoured that Standard-Triumph were instrumental in ending production of the Doretti after only 10 months, but another, more widely circulated story is that Tube Investments were pressured by Jaguar, who they also supplied components to at the time.
Thanks to the runaway success of the XK120, Jaguar was now a major client of Tube Investments, so when Jaguar allegedly requested the company stop building the Doretti (which they saw as a rival to the XK120) or they'd shop elsewhere for supplies, it made for an easy decision.
Whatever the facts, the Doretti came to an end in 1955, probably a lot sooner than it deserved.
Figures on production numbers vary, anywhere from 200 to just under 300, depending on the source. Around half of production went to the US, but a small number came here, too. All were two-door convertibles, but at the time manufacture ended in 1955, a MkII Doretti was in development, which included a prototype fixed-roof version. A small number of aftermarket coupe conversions were also made.
The Doretti consigned with Theodore Bruce is listed as a 1954 model, chassis no 1014 (the 15th car made.). The car has a genuine 56,000 miles on it and full history is provided. Described as being in as-new condition, the car has benefitted from a full restoration following 49 years of storage, hence the low mileage.
The Theodore Bruce Classic Car Auction takes place in Sydney on Sunday, March 30, 2014. Details on these and other consignments will be posted on www.theodorebruceauctions.com.au as they are listed.
Images: courtesy Theodore Bruce Auctions.