1950 Jowett Jupiter 'Rawson' Special
only four made and three surviving with aluminium coachwork by Rawson;
interesting history and first owned by Sir Hugh Bell, father of Derek; Mille
Miglia eligible; fresh from a total nut-and-bolt rebuild that took 10 years to
The Jowett brothers began car production at their Bradford
factory as early as 1906 but the car that really put them on the map was the
Javelin of 1947, a compact family saloon that was so far ahead of its
UK-produced rivals that it had more in common with the best that Europe had to
To quote Georgano: "With its independent torsion-bar
suspension, rigid unitary body-chassis construction, good aerodynamic shape,
light weight and high gearing, its fine handling, 80mph maximum speed and
combination of excellent acceleration and high cruising speed, it was more
reminiscent of the pre-war Lancia Aprilia, the Fiat 1100 or the BMW."
Fast and economical, the Javelin not only sold well
(25,000 in five years) it also racked up class wins in events like the Monte
Carlo Rally and the Spa 24-Hours. This prompted Jowett to launch an even
sportier version, the Jupiter, which they hoped would boost their overseas sales
and thereby entitle them to a greater allocation of steel, a precious commodity
in post-war Britain with supply tightly controlled by the government.
the chassis design they approached ERA who came up with a stiff tubular steel
affair developed by their star recruit, Austrian engineer Eberan von Eberhorst,
formerly of Auto Union. The suspension used torsion bars front and rear,
independent at the front and easily tuned for competitive use. Steering was by
rack-and-pinion and brakes were Girling hydraulic all round with twin leading
shoes at the front.
Power came from a tuned version of the 1,486cc
flat-four ohv unit in the Javelin with twin carbs and a higher compression ratio
which developed 60bhp. Mounted well ahead of the front axle with the radiator
low down behind, it drove through a four-speed column change gearbox with
synchro on the top three gears and proved good for a top speed of 90mph.
Production cars had a steel and aluminium open body styled by Jowett's
own Reg Korner, with a bench seat for three people. There was no external access
to the boot and the bonnet was rear-hinged and opened complete with the wings.
The Jupiter was an instant success with a record-breaking class win at
Le Mans in 1950, a class 1-2 in the 1951 Monte Carlo International Rally, an
outright win on the 1951 Lisbon International Rally, and a class 1-2 at Dundrod
in a gruelling 4-hr sports car race on public roads in 1951. Le Mans was again
class-won in 1951 and 1952, and lesser events were taken in 1952, but by 1953
newer faster cars were proving a match for the Jupiter which was a
well-appointed touring car first and a racer second.
By the time
production came to an end in 1954, just 899 Jupiters had been built, including a
few special bodied cars, of which just 561 were right hand-drive. Peter Ustinov
owned one, as did John Surtees and legendary race team manager, John
This particular car is a real rarity, being built on one
of the 75 chassis that were made available to external coachbuilders like
Stabilimenti Farina, Ghia Suisse and Abbott of Farnham before the production
cars were ready. It is one of only four cars built by the tiny firm of John
Colinsons of Slough, a coachbuilding company formed by Lionel Rawson and Dave
Piper in 1947.
Rawson was an ex-aircraft engineer who bodied several
different British marques and would later work with Donald Healey in producing
the front and rear of the Healey 100 Bonneville Land Speed streamliner car.
Rawson’s design used aluminium throughout and included a clamshell-style bonnet
and a fully enclosed rear panel made in one piece without separate wings.
Chassis number 25, this car is the first of the four to be
bodied by Rawson and it became the very first Jupiter to be sold into private
hands when it was purchased by Sir Hugh Bell, father of racing driver Derek
Bell. The chassis itself was delivered by Jowett Cars Ltd to their agent,
Harewood Garage of Thornaby-on-Tees on 10th
October 1950. It was a
fully equipped driveable rolling chassis with the standard Jupiter engine fitted
and, as with the very earliest cars, it was typed as a Javelin Jupiter, hence
the bonnet badge it wears today.
The history file is fascinating and comes with a
hand-written letter from Sir Hugh dated May 1966 recalling in some detail how he
came to buy the chassis from Jowett once it had done the rounds of the dealers
as an exhibit and how he took a hands-on role in building it – scrounging parts
from the Jowett works in Bradford, getting the former Service Manager at Lagonda
to do the wiring and trimming, painting the chassis with many coats of Mander’s
Black varnish and tuning the suspension to his own tastes while the body was
still being made.
It was finally finished and registered for the road as GPY
859 on 7th
December 1950, the original buff logbook recording Sir
Hugh Bell as the first owner. He was to keep the car for three years and used it
intensively, getting through engines at an alarming rate thanks to his heavy
right foot and the poor-quality petrol of the day.
"When it went the car was the quickest and best-mannered I
have ever had," he writes. "I did Darlington to Chelsea door-to-door in 4 hours
20 minutes (250 miles, average speed 57.75mph) comfortably. This on pool petrol
diluted with 50% industrial alcohol – and there was no dual carriageway north of
Hatfield! Until the Mercedes 300SLR, I thought it the best car in the world in
the wet. It seemed a lucky car and is the only one I never spun. I was only
stopped once by the police for doing 80 down the Severn Sisters Road. It was
about 2 o’clock in the morning and they let me off!"
Sir Hugh sold the car in July 1953 in favour of another
Mercedes: "I was doing 30,000 miles a year at the time, often with passengers… I
remember the Jupiter with the great affection one has for intelligent but
difficult children on whom much thought is lavished and who make up for it by
intermittent brilliance. I would recommend the empty twisting hilly roads of
Scotland to know it at its best!"
GPY 859 then went through four more owners, the third of
whom toured Italy in the car, before being acquired by a Giles Tozer of
Tavistock and London in July 1965. He appears to have used it for a while before
entrusting it to Jowett specialist Charlie Dodd of Erith for a restoration.
Tozer spent much of his time in America and communication
clearly became an issue, with Dodd sending increasingly frantic letters
demanding the settlement of unpaid bills or he would have no option but to dump
the car outside in his yard – a fate which does indeed seem to have come to
pass. Tozer finally got the car back and put it into storage where it languished
until our vendor acquired it in April 2010.
By this time it had been completely stripped of everything
and was in a very poor state. A serial Jowett restorer with a collection of
similar cars, our vendor embarked on a total nut-and-bolt restoration which was
to take almost 10 years to complete, much of the time being spent undoing and
rectifying alterations that had taken place over the preceding 60 years.
Although there are no bills to show exactly what has been done, the car speaks
for itself and, as you can see in the photos, it is in sparkling condition
The vendor tells us that he was assisted by various
friends and professionals over the course of the restoration: "When I found the
car it was in such a state that it was in danger of being lost forever. I slowly
built it up weekend after weekend and the hours did not matter – it was my
passion and my hobby and I was determined to see it through. My goal was to save
a historically important car and to get it back on the road. It wasn’t done up
"I own and have owned a lot of cars, including numerous
Jowetts, and have built up a network of close friends in the classic car world
over the years. James Sidwell, the Jaguar XK specialist who has worked on the
famous NUB 120 and made cars for the Indiana Jones films restored the bodywork –
he is the best of the best, now retired. The paintwork was done by another close
friend and the engine was supplied and rebuilt by Jowett specialist Bill Lock,
who also did the gearbox. The trimming was done by Vision Leisure, specialists
in their field and also good friends." Since the restoration was
completed it has only done a handful of 'shakedown' miles and will need a
careful period of running-in before the performance is exploited to the full.
It comes with a fascinating history file containing many historic bits
of printed ephemera from some of the best-known automotive names of the era –
Hardy Spicer, Zenith Carbs, Hepolite Pistons, Vandervell Bearings, Laycock
Engineering, Cords Piston Rings to name but a few. There is also some
entertaining correspondence from previous owners and from the Jupiter Owners
Club, to whom the car is well known. There is also a historic photo of
the car and others of the stalled restoration in the ‘70s plus three old
MOTs from 1967, 1968 and 1972.
Of four Jupiters bodied by Rawson, this is one
of three survivors. Another is in Greece and the other, which was raced in
period with some success, now resides in Italy where it has more recently
‘competed’ several times in the Mille Miglia Retro, an event for which GPY 859
will also be eligible.
All Jupiters are rare cars and few come onto the
open market as they tend to change hands discreetly through the club network.
This ‘Rawson Special’ is rarer than most: expertly restored and with an
interesting and well-documented history, it would sit well in any collection.
For more information contact James on 07970 309907 or email