Posted by: suemason | July 8, 2009


Oldie ‘Scrappage’ Scheme: We won’t go without a fight!

By Sue Mason

With the Government’s offer of ‘scrappage’ in the news, it seemed even more appropriate and indeed essential to take our ‘over ten year old’ cars out for a spin on ‘Drive it Day’ April 26th 2009 to prove something, if only that we can.

I don’t suppose anyone in the Jowett Car Club will seriously consider the offer to trade a hundred years of heritage for a couple of grand off a modern car, even though there may be members daft enough to risk divorce to rescue any ‘spares’ that may be going.

The Great British Jowett was manufactured in Yorkshire – Idle to be exact, from the very early part of the twentieth century. Originally makers of motorbikes, Benjamin and William Jowett continued to develop motors and engines for industry and later, developed a reputation for building an engine with ‘great pulling power’.

A quick trawl through Google will take you to the Wikkipedia site where a more full version of the history and beautiful photographs can be found

We have been owners of Jowetts since our marriage in 1967, where the vehicle that we bought for £15 was used to take us to and from our home in Scotland to our families in Cheshire. We knew every AA man on that route as our breakdowns were frequent: something: to do with the plugs and electrics being located in the maximum position to catch the wet. The Jowett is not good in the rain and the A34 North, takes you through some of the wettest roads in the country.

But the famous ‘pulling power’ used to come into its own as we chugged up Shap Fell, behind heavy transport vehicles and as long as we held it in second gear (in case it jumped out) and held our breath, we would arrive at the top

It was on our honeymoon in the Lake District that I was first addressed as Missis, when an AA man took one look at us and said ‘you’ll never get that going’ a remark I took to be relating to the car, which had ploughed through a flood that lifted the floorboards. The plugs had no chance.

The bench seats of the Jowett Javelin are all deep leather, which along with the walnut fascia gives the Javelin its luxurious interior. The gear stick is on the steering column, so the front seat can hold three comfortably. We could pack our children and their many friends into the car: this of course was before the days of health and safety rules and regs relating to seat belts and child seats.

When our children were small, they recognized the sound of a starter motor that wasn’t going to fire, and would obligingly wave the starting handle, stored on the floor at their feet, and would shout encouragement as we wound up the car from the front, taking care of course to hold the handle correctly to prevent dislocated thumbs.

Keeping the car running as our day-to-day vehicle, kept my husband and his Jowett friends busy. They would often return from the office, change their suits for overalls and set to changing a clutch or brakes, or solving electrical problems.

An incident occurred on one of these occasions, when having finished their fettling they decided they deserved a drink. So the best friend lent my husband some decent trouser to replace the overalls for the pub trip.

Some ten years later, and turning up for another evening of make do and mend, the friend announced that he still had the jacket that matched the stolen trousers. But Jowett friendships run deep and they still help each other with renovation and running issues, though now the cars are for best and not for daily chores.

One of our Javelins has been in a garage for twenty years, awaiting restoration: a common enough tale amongst Joweteers but my husband had been pining to get back to his hobby, during the six years that we have been ex-pats. And so we are back to greasy clothes, and the jar of Swarfega on the dressing table.

The most recent addition to our stable is a beautiful scarlet Jupiter. Its previous octogenarian owner and the restorer had worked for Jowett spares in Bradford until it closed in the late 50s. He is an Oldie with remarkable knowledge of the mechanical and engine components of Jowetts and thinks nothing of stripping and repairing the parts of the engine and gearbox. It actually now requires little more than polishing but my retired husband has remarked that it still has great pulling power!

These Jowett ex-employees have a reunion every year, to which everyone is invited and where stories about the manufacturing days, the quirks of the cars and tips for better performance, are exchanged.

The Jowett Car Club is the oldest single marque club in the world, having been formed in 1923. The club is divided into geographical sections, and most of the sections were going to commemorate this day with a drive. Our North West Section brought ten cars to the Knot Inn, Rushton Spencer. These included two Bradford lorries, and an 8hp as well as the more ubiquitous Javelins and Jupiters.

The route took us to where the Cheshire, Staffordshire Derbyshire borders converge and was a driving challenge of hills, bends, narrow lanes and arguments with the navigators, (or nagavator as I am affectionately referred as). All vehicles returned with no mechanical issues to report.

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