The Swallow Doretti

By Albert Escalante

The Swallow Doretti is an aluminum-bodied two-seater sports car that was produced in England in limited quantity between late 1953 and early 1956. These cars were literally hand-built by the Swallow Coachbuilding Company working in conjunction with its parent company, Tube Investments. Fundamentally involved in this project were two southern Californians, Dorothy Anderson Deen and her father Arthur Anderson. Arthur owned a business called Cal-Sales, which marketed sports car accessories, which may be similar to those great high-tech car gadgets, and apparel.

Dorothy and her father had been negotiating with both Swallow and Tube Investments to develop a sports car based on the then-new Triumph TR2 drivetrain. She had envisioned a car for enthusiasts who wanted something a little more substantial than just a stock TR2, yet with all of the TR2’s inherent dependability and toughness.

Since the car would be using TR2 parts, they would be easy to service and maintain. In those days, having a custom car built usually meant having to suffer long waits for replacement parts or repairs—even to the extent of sometimes having the parts handmade.

Dorothy’s plan was to build a car that was strong, dependable, and fast, with the classic lines and plush interior of a beautiful, custom-bodied sports car. In tribute, the car derived its name from her. Although “Doretti” sounds exotic, it was really just a play on her name: “Dor-etti” actually meant “Dor-othy”!

doretti 2

By 1953, Frank Rainbow, a designer from Swallow, had built a prototype based on an earlier (1952) concept by Eric Saunders of Tube Investments. The car had a gracefully proportioned aluminum body draped over an inner structure of steel and a very strong ladder-type chrome-moly tubed frame. Power was supplied by a Triumph TR2 drivetrain, the engine being a stock 90hp 4-cylinder overhead valve model with twin SU sidedraft carburetors.

A Triumph four-speed transmission and rear end were standard and an overdrive transmission was available as an option. With a top speed of just over 100mph, the Doretti wasn’t quite as fast as a TR2, but nobody seemed to mind. (The Doretti incidentally was heavier than the TR2, which might account for the lower speed at the top end). However, whatever the Doretti lacked in speed, it more than made up for with its nicely appointed, comfortable interior and the expensive-looking custom design. Overall, the car handled very much like the TR2 due to so many components, including the running gear, coming from the Standard Triumph group.

Consequently, it was only a matter of time before Dorothy and her father were introduced to Sir John Black, the president of the Standard Triumph Car Company. Sir John was obviously taken by their enterprising flair for promotion and salesmanship. Before very long, he had made a commitment for them to handle not just the American distribution of the Swallow Doretti, but set them up for distribution for the entire Standard Triumph marque as well.

As soon as Dorothy and her father returned to the States, they began setting up a sales and distribution network out of Cal-Sales with offices in Gardena, California. By early 1953, a Doretti prototype had been shipped from England and was available to be shown to potential dealers.

In January of 1954, Dorothy and her father arranged for the grand debut of the Doretti at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. On display were two complete Dorettis, a Doretti chassis, and four early model TR2s. Dorothv was convinced that a single dealership for both marques made sense, both in terms of convenience and variety. She would also later say, “It gave dealers another item to sell.” At the time, a new Doretti sold for $3,200, while the TR2 went for $2,600.

dorothy deen

Initial sales response was good, and by all indications the car had considerable appeal and sales potential, and with its good looks it practically sold itself. However, for some reason, production of the Doretti ceased after less than two years. Swallow cited poor sales and limited demand as the prime factors in this closure, and they quickly shut down production after just 273 roadsters had been manufactured. Three special coupes known as the Doretti Sabre were developed, but never entered production, making a total of only 276 Dorettis ever made by the Standard Triumph factory. Later, an additional 12 cars were built outside the factory in kit form, and these were sold from Monks Garage in Solihull, England, making a grand total of 288 Dorettis in all.

Our Featured Doretti

My research for this fascinating story led me to Dr. Alan Simon of Oxnard, California, who owns the Doretti featured in the photographs. This car is in fact the seventh (#1007) ever made, and Alan first saw the car advertised in Hemmings about 23 years ago being offered for sale in Oregon as is. Like many Doretti aficionados, he’d been bitten by the bug long before and was still under its spell. So, he rented a trailer, went out, and bought the car. However, due to various reasons, it sat for many years, nearly forgotten. Eventually, Alan decided to have the car restored, a process which lasted some 14 months. This restoration was a long and careful procedure, the main reason being that it was done with meticulous old-world craftsmanship without cutting corners or sacrificing quality.

Clark Motors of Santa Barbara were chosen as the prime restorer because they are renowned for their excellent work. Many parts were supplied by Moss Motors, guaranteeing that the parts were of the highest quality and matched the originals.

The coachwork was in very good condition, and just a bare minimum of body preparation was necessary before the car was painted a light cream color. The wire wheels were painted to match the tan interior. Everyone who sees the car is amazed at its beautiful condition despite being over 45 years old, and the chromework really has to be seen to be appreciated. Alan describes it as show quality, and I would have to agree. It appears very substantial, and you can tell the many hours which went into the preparation of raw parts before they received the bright triple nickel plating.

Today, the car is back in Alan Simon’s garage awaiting its next adventure, and what happens next is anybody’s guess, although Dr. Simon has hinted that he wished the car could be enjoyed by someone who really had the time to show this rare beauty off. How about you—maybe driving down by the ocean with the wind in your hair and the little TR2 engine never missing a beat as you rekindle all those memories of a time when cars were built for sheer driver enjoyment?

Tagged: ,

'The Swallow Doretti' has no comments

Be the first to comment this post!

Would you like to share your thoughts?

Please note: technical questions about the above article may go unanswered. Questions related to Moss parts should be emailed to

Your email address will not be published.

© Copyright 2022 Moss Motors, Ltd. All Rights Reserved.