1931 Swift Ten Swallow Saloon GT 6133
One of Two Survivors
This car is a 1931 version, distinguished by the central rib to the radiator. Swifts of any kind are very rare today, and this car is one of only two known survivors of the Swallow version. For many years it was owned by the late Bill Duff of Forfar, Scotland until acquired by the Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust in 2001 and fully restored between 2004 and 2005.
Like so many other Coventry motor manufacturers, Swift had its roots in the cycle industry, and had built its first car in 1900. Throughout the 1920s, their staple models were 10hp cars with four-cylinder engines of 1,100 – 1,200 cc, but they found it increasingly difficult to compete with the best-selling Austin and Morris, and production was only a few thousand cars per year. The last throw of the dice was the 8hp Cadet model introduced in 1930, but the company had to go into liquidation in April 1931.
The 10hp P-type with an 1,190cc engine and a four-speed gearbox with right-hand change was introduced in 1926. It was rugged, but uninspired in appearance. With a tourer costing £220 in 1929, Swift was not able to compete on price, and there was nothing much to distinguish a Swift from many other competing cars. Perhaps for this reason, in 1929 Henlys, the Swift and Swallow agent in London, asked William Lyons’ Swallow Coachbuilding Company to fit a body on the Swift Ten chassis.
The resulting Swift Swallow was introduced at the 1929 Motor Show, Swallow’s first Motor Show appearance, together with Swallow bodies on Fiat and Standard chassis. All these cars had saloon bodies, scaled up from the basic design offered on the Austin Seven chassis. The Swallow-bodied Fiat 509A and Standard Nine then cost £250, but the Swift was their most expensive model at £275. It was built on the Swift Ten ‘sports’ chassis with wire wheels, and was said to be capable of 65 mph (105 km/h).
The Swift Swallow was offered in the 1930 and 1931 model years, and it is estimated that some 150 cars of this type were built, until Swift went bankrupt in 1931.
Having been largely unused since its restoration we pulled it out of storage towards the end of 2022 to undertake some light re-commissioning and make sure it runs and drives. The main problems we have with cars that have been in long term storage fall into two categories – fuel and brakes.
For safety reasons we store our cars with minimal fuel in them and over time this goes off. The volatiles evaporate leaving behind sticky residues throughout the whole fuel system causing problems with carburettors, petrol pumps and gauges. Installing a new battery showed that all the electrics worked fine except for the number plate light which was traced to a bad earth. The car turned over but would not fire. It has an Autovac petrol pump which relies on engine vacuum to draw petrol from the tank so takes a few turns before any fuel reaches the carburettor – but no joy. Fortunately priming this is a matter of removing the top and pouring in some petrol. The engine still wouldn’t start so we cleaned the Solex carb and tried again. Success.
The car idled smoothly and ran ok so we drove it round the site car park only for it to die going up the slope of the Spine Road. Although the Autovac was drawing petrol it wasn’t pulling through sufficient when running under load. Just in case there was some muck in the fuel tank we blew back through the petrol feed and then installed an inline filter and tried again. Same problem and the filter quickly filled with muck. We drained the remaining petrol from the tank, removed it and flushed it out and this time it ran properly.
We didn’t encounter our usual problem with the petrol gauge sender unit as Swift had been thoughtful enough not to bother us with installing a gauge. Similarly a rod braked system doesn’t suffer from the hygroscopic problems that plague hydraulic braking systems and only minor adjustments were necessary.
Now it was driving and stopping our attentions turned to a couple of minor cosmetic items. The spare tyre was strapped into its rack at the back of the car with a giant plastic cable tie – definitely not of 1930s origin. There was a bag behind the rear seat containing one tatty leather strap and two new ones made to the same pattern. Having had them specially made why on earth hadn’t the restorers bothered to use them instead of the cable tie?
Also behind the seat was a badge bar with five badges, one of which was engraved WM C DUFF. Period photos that came to us with the car showed the badge bar in place. The scuttle panel this had previously been bolted to, had been replaced and loath to drill holes in a perfect panel we sourced a new longer badge bar and brackets and we fixed this to the car using the bolts that hold the headlamp brackets in place.
The Swift duly passed it first MOT since restoration on 14th December 2022.
Registration Mark: GT 6133
Chassis Number: 43737
Owner: The Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust
Inventory Number: 22/S.06
Price when new: £275
Price: 96 Weeks Average Wage