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.