As Great Britain recovered from the ravages of the Second World War, its car manufacturers faces a huge battle to restart production. Some new models arrived – notably the Armstrong Siddeley Lancaster and Hurricane as early as 1945 – but generally most companies hastily relaunched their pre-war ranges. Progress was slow to arrive, so Jowett rather stunned the world with the Javelin of 1947. For a start, it looked very much of its time, not something styled in the previous decade. The sweeping lines hid torsion bar suspension all-round, rack and pinion steering and Jowett’s own flat-four engine in 1486cc form.
Gerald Palmer designed the car – he would go on to pen the delicious MG Magnette Z, a favourite sporting saloon of many, including myself. He was allowed to be rather unconventional for the time, with engineering seemingly inspired far more by the likes of Citroen than other British manufacturers. Sadly, crankshaft problems blighted the engines, gearbox woes were next in line and then Ford bought Jowett’s body supplier. It all went a bit wrong and the 23,307 sold just wasn’t enough. Jowett ceased production in 1953 and one of Britain’s most exciting manufacturers was dead and buried.
That’s all history though. What is a Javelin like to drive today? Naturally, it’s really rather good, or I wouldn’t like it. History is fine, but I won’t rate a car if I don’t like driving it. I demand a car that handles and stops. The Javelin does, with its distinctive flat-four engine noise giving a wonderful off-beat thrum familiar to anyone who’s spent time with Volkswagen Beetles or Subaru Imprezas. It remains refined though and delivers strong performance for its age and size – 80mph is comfortably within reach.
The huge steering wheel gives wonderful feel, and the column-mounted gearchange is an engineering delight. It makes you wonder why column change never became more popular. Reach a bend and you needn’t be too cautious as it’ll sail around pretty quickly if you ask it too. Full hydraulic brakes – far from universal in the late 1940s in Britain – ensure speed can be reduced without worry.
Time has enabled enthusiasts to overcome many of the car’s foibles. For my money, the Javelin remains one of the best classic saloons money can buy. I just wish I had enough money to buy one!