Car: Jowett Jupiter R4, 1953

Motoring history is littered with marques that failed despite customer loyalty and interesting products. Jowett is a prime example, and this little sports car was its last gasp. Had the Jupiter R4 entered production in 1954, as planned, it would have been the first British car with a body made of fiberglass—the plastic laminate pioneered by Chevrolet’s 1953 Corvette.

1953 model car Jowett Jupiter R4
Fiberglass body panels meant that the sporty Jupiter R4 could be produced cheaply, but it came too late to save the Yorkshire-based company.

The Jowett Javelin, an advanced family car, had caused a real stir in 1947. The Jupiter roadster that followed three years later used the Javelin’s flat-four overhead valve engine in a special spaceframe chassis. In various forms, the Jupiter then enjoyed a stellar motor-sport career, including class wins on the 1951 Monte Carlo Rally and the 1952 Le Mans 24-hour endurance race. This was all far removed from Jowett’s stock-intrade, a line of basic twin-cylinder delivery vans. But sports cars made promising export material.

1953 model car Jowett Jupiter R4
1953 model car Jowett Jupiter R4
1953 Jowett Jupiter R4
1953 Jowett Jupiter R4

The short-chassis R4 was intended to capitalize on the Jupiter’s reputation, with a body style copying the rare and exotic Ferrari 166 Barchetta. One all-steel prototype and two experimental plastic R4s were built, all boasting overdrive and an electric engine cooling fan. They were the work of Roy Lunn, later closely involved in developing the Ford GT40. Sadly, though, a decision to start manufacturing its own gearboxes proved disastrous for Jowett—the high level of rejects bringing Javelin and Jupiter assembly to a halt. The resulting cashflow problems brought the firm down, and the R4 with it.

“The exhibits on the Jowett stand at Earl’s Court will comprise the Javelin, the Jupiter, and an entirely new sports model called the R4 Jupiter… Hope has not been abandoned that delivery will be recommenced in the not too distant future.”

The motor magazine, London motor show preview 1953

Video model car Jowett Jupiter R4

Specification model car Jowett Jupiter R4

PLACE OF ORIGIN: Bradford, Yorkshire, UK
ENGINE: flat-four-cylinder, 91ci (1,486cc)
LAYOUT: front-mounted engine driving the rear wheels
BODYWORK: two-door, two-seater roadster
TOP SPEED: 100mph (161kph)