A second automotive stopover in that London, courtesy of our North Western-correspondent.
A good Yorkshire name. Strong, instinctive, different; as was the car company company of old. Having the wherewithal to open a showroom in the forever fashionable London West One district was something of a masterstroke. Shame that Jowett failed in giving their ever-enthusiastic salesman, John Baldwin much to sell; the windows showing for far too long nothing but a Bradford van and small scale model of a Javelin.
Never troubling the big makes due to insignificant export sales and therefore restricted access to all-important steel supplies, Jowett cars of Bradford in the former West Riding of Yorkshire shone so very brightly – if for a brief time.
Neither under-championed designer Gerald Marley Palmer nor indeed the company of Jowett themselves seemed to realise the sporting or sales potential of either car until they were quite literally shown the way. Palmer was staggered to see his creations being driven far beyond what he thought reasonable.
Cajoled into the highly unusual position of second co-driver for the 1949 Monte-Carlo rally, the first to be held after the war, along with owner-driver Tommy Wise and Sheffield car dealer, T.C. Harrison, Palmer was employed for insider information concerning the Javelin. Spending the majority of the journey from the original start of Glasgow to the Riviera in the foetal position on the back seat, the 1500cc class victory (and 14th overall out of 200) was theirs, in the process beating a rally favourite in the shape of one Maurice Gatsonides of speed camera fame.
Their prize money of £75 however, was almost out of grasp. A timing mix up gave the Riviera cup and beer money to Gatso. Palmer’s diligence came through however, but while the cup was grudgingly given up, the filthy lucre had already been spent, embarrassing the organisers into finding more folding.
Forays also victorious to Le Mans and Spa Francorchamps were had. The 1949 Ardennes event witnessed another class victory, which began with a class winning start. In true Le Mans diagonal fashion, Javelin driver Tom Wisdom noticed the car to his right was a left-hand drive BMW coupé, driven by Marcel Masuy. Concerned that their opposing doors would clash upon entering their charges, Wisdom offered the Frenchman the chance to depart first being obviously faster. Gallantly, Masuy would have none of it, insisting the Javelin driven by Monsieur Weesdom drive off first: the BMW was never seen in the race again.
For the trip to La Sarthe in 1950, some wag had christened the Jupiter driven by Tom Wisdom and Tommy Wise as Sagacious II. Six hour stints behind the wheel, 80-mph average laps and 100-mph along the Mulsanne straight was more than enough for yet another 1500cc class win. Yet even with such significant victories under their Bradford belts, sales remained sluggish. From their 1947 launch to the 1952 demise (with an ACME the year before) 22,419 Javelin bodies were produced. Wolfsburg’s comparable Beetle shifted nigh-on 400,000.
With Joe Public fixated upon the trappings of economy, the Bradfordian car appealed to those of a stance more left-field than the Austin/MG/Ford norm. The racing and rallying fraternity however took Jowett to heart, delivering some exceptional variations on a theme. These rare beasts could also be driven to the start line, raced then driven home. The Javelin remained pretty much stock; suspension and springs changes alone underlying just how well developed Palmer’s ideas were. One exception being the Swiss coach builder Worblaufen’s drophead, to these eyes a beautiful rendition.
The Jupiter offered scope aplenty for the enthusiastic helmsman or woman. The factory race team initially using stock chassis with maybe a smaller windscreen and minuscule detail alteration. Coachbuilt fixed or drophead coupés were flung around the tracks and stages with ease. Some weathered farrago body-working. Others, again proving not only rapid but stylish and concurrent with the day’s scene.
Blissfully unaware of what Carrozzeria’s were, the proud Northerners not being interested in any of that foreign muck suddenly found a Belgian driver belting around in a car more akin to a Lancia than a Jupiter. Marcel Becquart, involved Stablimenti Farina, the Turin based craftsmen taking but sixty days to produce this handsome devil.
His plan to tame the 1952 RAC Rally of Great Britain in the Farina Jupiter was scuppered by regulation inconsistencies leaving Becquart to try his hand in a Javelin instead. Commended for his class win and driving style, a rival co-driver shouted loud how the Belgian was going like shit off a shovel! His response was an apparent fake broken English accent questioning what exactly a shovel is?
The States also bore witness to Bradford’s finest, or as Motor Trend opined “this minor projectile with bug-like outline” eluding to the Jupiter. The porous tea bag giant, Dexter Coffin along with compadre George Lawrence racked up wins in both types of Jowett in the early 1950’s. Sadly, even with impresario Max Hoffman conducting imports, Jowett faded to MG’s prosperity.
Today, home to Ryman, a popular UK chain of stationers, seventy and more years have passed since this central London street sold any kind of Jowett. But the irrepressible nature of this Northern not-so powerhouse and their sporting cousins lives on – a welcome memorial to all those names passed.
18 thoughts on “Londinium Trio 2 : The Empty Windows of 48 Albermarle Street”
Thank you Andrew for brightening a wet Saturday morning. But having a reputation for pedantry to maintain, I must point out one minor factual error: Jowett production did not end in 1952. My own Javelin was built in mid-1953 and the last Jowett of all, a Jupiter, left the factory on 4th November 1954.
The London showroom and sales office could be seen as a typical example of Yorkshire bravado when it opened in 1946 and John Baldwin’s frustration can be imagined. As can the language (he being fresh from the RAF) as he drove southwards down the Great North Road into a snowstorm. Having been offered a Bradford for his showroom, he had travelled to Idle to collect it personally; somewhere near Newark he discovered that the single wiper blade had not been fitted with a motor (at the time the motor industry as a whole was suffering from a shortage of electrical components). He apparently improvised with pieces of elastic and string and battled on, discovering that the Bradford was in fact a highly capable vehicle, especially on long slippery hills.
Hi there JTC
Thanks for correcting me on my dates. I must have slipped up on my cross referencing; for my penance I shall call myself a wazzock of the highest order sixteen times.
I do like your John Baldwin anecdote; showing true Yorkshire grit in some terrible conditions.
Jowett’s we’re ahead of their time back in the day, with their boxer engines and aero dynamic bodies. Pretty impressive in the rally circuits too. I’ve been in that Ryman’s too. I’ll linger longer in there next time I’m in London.
A great story, well told. Thank you Andrew. Jowett is easily forgotten these days but the company really was innovative in its thinking. It’s a shame it never really had the financial resources to sustain this.
The white Danish built Sommer Jupiter is a beauty, as is the Farina car, but even the post-war factory built Javelin is notably handsome to my eyes:
Interesting read and an interesting car. Been ages since I’ve seen one.
Thank you for your kind comments, gents.
Here’s a couple of my own pictures from the Jowett Club gathering last year. The top picture shows a handsome grouping of their standard wares. Not quite so with the pick up but the owner was a particularly friendly chap who informed me of just how well it ran. Condition of bodywork not being a priority…
The little red flags are a marker for when the vehicle was judged in its category, eg, model, year, condition, etc.
Hi Andrew. I took the liberty of amending your Imgur links so both photos displayed full-size and together, without the Imgur ‘frame’ around them. Hope this is ok with you.
Thanks for that, Daniel. I’ve just about got to grips with getting pictures up here so that’s a bonus!
It was a damn shame that the Jupiter never ‘broke’ America. Only 232 were sold in the USA. It was seen as a potential saviour for the company, a bit upmarket of the MG Midget, but far more affordable than the Jaguar XK, which must have inspired the standard-bodied DHC’s style.
It would be interesting to know how Max Hoffman priced the Jupiter. In Britain, September 1951 pricing was:
Jowettt Jupiter: £1394
MG Midget TD: £783
Morgan Plus 4: £880
Jaguar XK120 : £1678
The Jaguar price was probably academic. In Britain you would have to be very well connected indeed to be able to buy one at any price.
As for the Morgan and MG, the price disparity goes some way to explaining why Jupiter production never quite made it to four figures.
With my predilection for curious connections, I found two between today’s subject and yesterday’s:
Both the Chevrolet Vega and the Jowett Javelin and Jupiter had the unusual combination of an alloy cylinder block and an iron cylinder head.
At the times of the launch of the Javelin and Vega, their manufacturers employed Gerald Palmer. He left Jowett in July 1949 to return to Morris Motors, and retired from Vauxhall in 1972. He almost certainly had nothing to do with the Vega, and – JTC can keep me right on this – nothing much to do with the Jupiter beyond providing the ‘raw material’ of the Javelin powertrain and chassis components.
Robert, you are entirely correct. Mr Palmer was not at all keen on the Jupiter project; he wanted the Javelin’s inevitable teething problems to be fully sorted first and as Andrew has already told us, he had not set out to design a car with motor sport in mind.
Putting that 1951 price into context, that £1394 includes £499 purchase tax (PT). What the customer paid was very different to the sum realised by the manufacturer. A Jupiter chassis cost £540 (+ PT = £690); with factory body the complete car was £895 (+ PT = £1394).
Nice photos Andrew – I’m glad you liked our artfully contrived group on that grassy knoll at Ancaster, reminiscent of Jowett period advertising. As for the less than pristine Bradford lorry, it is known as “The Tramp” (it lives with a pre-war Jowett known as “The Lady”) and had made its way there, entirely without incident, from Chard in Somerset. The little red flags are indications that it won the “Most popular non-Concours car – People’s Vote” award (a boomerang).
I must confess and apologize for the thought crime of thinking the Jupiter was Noddy’s car. Thanks for helping me to overcome this horrible prejudice.
The Jupiter was popular with racing drivers as everyday transport. One of my cousins owned a cream one in the early 50’s, which my sister rode in once but I sadly didn’t. Somebody in my street in 60’s London owned a red one. I can’t recall seeing any others.
Hi there JTC. With this wild stab in the dark my guess is that you’re not only an owner but a club member? I have to admit I spent a glorious couple of hours at the do in Ancaster. Even if the weather was challenging… so thank you for fully explaining the flags and state of the truck. From the memorabilia stand I took home a rather nice tea towel for wife as well as, he hastens to add, the delightful story of Jowett’s crossing of the Africa in Wait and See; a possible future article, here.
I had attempted to make this a Gerald Palmer Sunday out; Jowett’s for the morning followed by a trip to wards Lincoln to see a Pathfinder in the afternoon. Sadly, the Riley owner was poorly that day and am still attempting to re-schedule a visit; Once this bloomin’ virus abates
Good morning Andrew – I see I’ve been caught out; I edit the club magazine, hence the OCD tendencies, for which I apologise! Good to hear that you enjoyed Ancaster and I hope the tea towel was appreciated…. As for Wait and See, I shall do just that. Did you know that a group of Australian Jowett owners did a Perth to Sydney expedition in three Bradfords (named Wait, And & See) a few years ago? Completely mad, of course, but a lot of fun.
But an article on the much maligned and mis-represented Pathfinder is long overdue; DTW is surely the place to put that right?
I found this – oddly labelled:
At the risk of inserting trivia into this interesting thread, the red Jupiter featured above was my first of two Jupiters, and became our wedding car in 1967, much to the chagrin of my in-laws, who had hired a more conventional wedding ‘chariot’- now redundant…
Jowettgeoff; isn’t that the way with classic cars? They contain stories, characters and ooze charm, which plays a huge attraction for myself. We are but custodians, playing a part and it would appear, making you smile whilst riling others. Your “trivia” certainly made me smile, thanks