The Jowett Car Club collection at WYAS Bradford [reference WYB324], consisting of over thirty boxes of material collected and created by the car club, represents a treasure trove of information about one of Bradford’s most famous companies. The records include Jowett road tests from early editions of motoring magazines such as Autocar and The Motor, instruction books, sales catalogues, illustrated price lists, spare parts lists, technical diagrams and maintenance information, and repair notes. There are also brochures and advertisements for Jowett cars, photographs, Jowett car club rally programmes, membership lists, and magazines of the Jowett clubs of New Zealand, America, and Australia and scrap books packed with newspaper and magazine articles and advertisements relating to Jowett cars.
The advertisements are especially interesting because a distinctive style of advertising evolved at Jowett during the 1920s, combining humour and customer testimony as to the economic running costs and reliability of the cars. The photographs in the collection are equally fascinating as they show various Jowett cars competing in international races such as the Monte Carlo Rally and the Spa 24-hour race in Belgium. Other photographs reveal how the Jowett motor car attained a global reach for instance a photograph of the Cairo Jowett owner’s club meeting in 1927 and photographs of Jowett cars in North America.
The collection is of vital use to Jowett owners and enthusiasts today as it contains technical information that should ensure the smooth running of vintage Jowetts. The photographs and advertisements also provide much information about a famous Bradford company that produced reliable, economic and distinctive cars that were much loved in their day and remain so today.
The Jowett Company was established in Bradford in 1901 by Benjamin, William and Ruth Jowett. The company initially designed and built engines but designed a car in 1906. They decided to produce the car commercially in 1910, manufacturing almost 50 cars between 1910 and 1916. The First World War saw production cease to help the war effort but a purpose-built factory at Five Lane Ends at Idle enabled car manufacture to start again by the 1920s. A range of reliable models at economic prices meant that sales grew throughout the 1920s. Prices for Jowett cars in 1927 ranged from £139 to £185.
The 1930s were more difficult with a factory fire in 1930 and worldwide depression hitting sales. Jowett focused on the production of basic commercial vans. World War Two saw the factory redesigned and the workforce expanded mainly by women to produce field guns and ammunition. The company continued to plan for the production of cars suitable for the world market. After the war Jowett produced the Bradford van, the Javelin and the Jupiter cars. Unfortunately, the Javelin was not the success that Jowett had hoped for and by 1953 the company was in serious financial trouble and ceased trading.