Historic Car Brands



Benjamin (Ben) and William (Willie) Jowett started in the cycle business and went on to make V-twin engines for machinery. Some Jowett-designed engines were used as replacements for early car engines that proved unreliable. In 1904 the Jowetts formed the Jowett Motor Manufacturing Company, based in Bradford. 


Benjamin Jowett could see that the light car class was powered by engines that were small, from cyclecars, or large, from bigger vehicles. Either way, the process was flawed, because cyclecar engines wore out too quickly and larger engines were too heavy for light-car frames and running gear.

The first tiller-steered, Jowett light car was produced in February 1906, making the prototype the United Kingdom’s first real light car. The Jowett engine was designed and built for a light car, and construction of the engine and the rest of the car was robust. 


1914 Jowett – Buch T


However, as the small Jowett workshop was fully occupied with general engineering activities, experiments with different engine configurations and making the first six Scott motorbikes for Alfred Angus Scott, the car did not go into production until 1910. By then it had undergone 25,000 miles of exhaustive trials.

The first production car had an 816cc, flat twin, water-cooled engine of 6.4hp (RAC rating), with a  three-speed gearbox. The body was a lightweight, open two-seater.

Jowett’s rationale was to make a lightweight vehicle at a low price and with low running costs. Engine and gearbox were specifically designed for a light car and made largely of aluminium. Its low speed torque and gear ratios were ideally suited to the hills about Bradford and Yorkshire’s terrain, where poor roads provided little use for a high top speed or quick acceleration. 


1923 Jowett Sports – Redsimon


Twelve vehicles were made before an improved version with wheel steering was launched in 1913 and a further 36 were made before the outbreak of World War I, when the factory was turned over to munitions manufacture.

Jowett Cars Limited was a new private company formed in June 1919 to make and sell motorcars, built in a larger factory. 

The 1920 Jowett Seven had an enlarged, 831cc, version of the pre-War flat twin and it was further enlarged to 907cc in 1921. The larger engines took advantage of the newly-announced seven-horsepower RAC rating.

All Jowetts, including light lorry derivates, were Sevens until the introduction of the four-cylinder engine in 1936. 


1926 Jowett Short-Chassis Tourer – Shuttleworth Collection


In 1923 coil ignition and electric starting were added and the four-seater ‘Long Four’ was introduced as an additional model to the short-chassis two-seater. The four-seater was initially released in tourer form and was joined in 1925 by a closed saloon model.

In 1926, two Jowetts, named ‘Wait’ and ‘See’ crossed the centre of Africa, covering 3800 miles in 60 days. Jowett had accepted a challenge issued by Frank Gray, the former MP for Oxford, to build a car that was capable of crossing the ‘uncrossable’ heart of Africa, from the Atlantic coast to the Red Sea. 

Jowett sold Mr Gray and his fellow-explorer, Mr Sawyer, two standard, long-wheelbase Seven two-seaters, fitted with ‘Safari’ bodies in place of the dickey seats. The two cars were christened Wait and See, and set off from Lagos on 16 March 1926, following a route which was largely devoid of roads, mostly over desert and short of water throughout. 

For almost half the trip, advance dumps of petrol and supplies weren’t possible, so the cars had to pull loaded trailers in addition to being loaded to the gunwales themselves.

The icing on the cake was freeing a slave girl from desert nomads!

In 1929, Jowetts caught up with automotive progress, adding four-wheel brakes and removable cylinder heads to the specifications.


1929 Jowett 7hp Long Tourer  – Redsimon


Production was briefly suspended in September 1931, after fire swept through the works, but the factory was soon back in full swing.

In 1933 the Jowett Kestrel was launched, with a four-speed gearbox and in 1935 came the twin-carburettor, Jowett Weasel sports tourer. 

Ben Jowett had been busy researching different engine configurations, including a vertical four-cylinder type with an inlet-over-exhaust, F-head. He even built three prototypes for on-rod evaluation that were badged ‘La Roche’ for anonymity.


Jowett Eight – Redsimon


However, when the Jowett Ten, four-cylinder engine arrived in 1936 it was a more characteristic flat-four, displacing 1166cc, with induction by twin carburettors.

The traditional twin-cylinder models continued and the engine grew to 946cc and 8hp (RAC) in 1937. 

Ben Jowett retired in 1936 and Willie carried on until 1940.

During World War II Jowett built capstan lathes and components for Merlin engines and Barracuda, Battle and Fulmar aircraft. Jowett developed the anti-mine flail for the Sherman tank and hundreds of twin-cylinder engines were built to power generating sets and fire pumps.

The twin-cylinder continued to power the Jowett Bradford van until 1954, having been enlarged to one-litre post-War.


Jowett Javelin – Charles01


The new boss at Jowett, Calcott Reilly, took up the innovation baton and released the Gerald Palmer designed Javelin at the 1946 Motor Industry Jubilee Parade. Palmer was previously at MG.

The Javelin’s 50hp, 1.5-litre, flat four, overhead valve engine had a compression ratio of 7.2:1, was water-cooled and had an aluminium block and wet cylinder liners. Two Zenith carburettors were fitted and PA and PB versions had hydraulic tappets. The radiator was behind the engine. 


Jowett Engine (Jowett Jupiter) – Tony Hisgett


A four-speed gearbox, with column change was fitted. The decision to build the transmissions in-house proved disastrous, when manufacturing difficulties slowed production.

The Javelin was relatively expensive and heavy, but performance was good enough for a class win in the 1949 Monte Carlo Rally and a two-litre, touring-car class at the Spa 24-hour race in the same year. 

In the 1952 International RAC Rally a Javelin won its class and in 1953 the International Tulip Rally was won outright by a privately entered Javelin.


Jowett Jupiter – MalcolmA


The Javelin was joined in 1950 by the Jupiter, three-seat sports car. Powered by a higher-compression engine, it had 60hp on tap. The chassis was tubular and the bodywork, aluminium.

Like the Javelin, it was relatively heavy and a lighter, fibreglass-bodied upgrade was developed, but not produced, before Jowett production ended.

The Jupiter achieved competition success with a class win at the 1950 Le Mans 24 Hour race, a class one-two in the 1951 Monte Carlo International Rally, an outright win in the 1951 Lisbon International Rally and a class one-two in a four-hour sports car race on the public road at Dundrod Circuit in Northern Ireland, in 1951.

When the UK Government relaxed the post-War purchase tax law in 1953 there was a scramble among car makers for bodies to meet the increased demand for cars. Jowett lost out in the contest to bigger players and production volumes fell below break-even.

Production continued until 1954, but the factory was subsequently sold to International Harvester, for tractor manufacture.


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