For most of the period between the two World Wars, Jowett Cars of Bradford had earned themselves a reputation for producing cars that despite being rugged and straightforward, were lacking in terms of technical innovation.
The Jowett brothers, who had been at the helm of the company for almost 50 years, had the good sense to see the writing on the wall.
To counter the stagnation that had long been choking progress in their company, the brothers took the ambitious step of hiring Gerald Palmer, one of the industry’s leading car designers of the era, to lead the company into a more optimistic post-war era.
Palmer's ideas soon manifested themselves in the Javelin, and when the car was launched early in 1948, it was the subject of considerable praise due to its winning composition of style and performance.
As far as the previously established standards set by Jowett, based around practicality and reliability, the Jowett Javelin was indeed a breath of fresh air, thanks to its exciting and pleasing body design as well as the many technical features that Palmer introduced.
Although the Javelin was powered by the front-mounted flat-four engine, there were no direct technical links with Jowett's past and no parts were shared with older, pre-war Jowett private cars.
The Javelin’s design was based around a unit-construction four-door saloon body shell, custom made for Jowett by the Briggs Motor Bodies in Doncaster, emphasised, by the car’s high nose and long sweeping tail.
With an eye to aerodynamics, Palmer had designed the car to be remarkably wind-cheating, which had its effects both on speed and fuel economy.
Fitted with a wholly redesigned flat-four engine, the Javelin to ensure that it was capable of producing speeds at least ten mph faster than other comparable British 1.5-litre cars of the day, while providing first-class road holding.
The Javelin soon began to earn a name for itself, not just as a good-looking and reliable family saloon, but also on the race track, faring particularly well in especially in long-distance rallies.
Jowett’s reputation was given another boost with the release of the Jupiter, a specialized sports car, a year or so later, whose design based on the same running gear. While Palmer was not involved in the design of the Jupiter, it was still a first-class car.
For the first time in many years, and possibly even in their history, it looked like Jowett had produced not one but two cars that could take them to the next stage.
Unfortunately, Jowett did not have a vast dealer network with which to compete against their major UK rivals (Ford, Austin and Morris) head-on, nor could they sell the Javelin at a low enough price to capture any share of the market.
This lead to a classic “Catch-22” situation in which it was never financially possible for Jowett to facelift the original style, or even to invest in a new one.
Ongoing transmission reliability problems didn't help; a high selling price also took its toll, and by the early Fifties the Javelin was well past its marketable peak.
Jowett tried hard to update and modernise the Javelin as time went by, though there was a losing battle against engine failures (not solved until a revised crankshaft was introduced in 1952), and a constant struggle to make reliable gearboxes.
In 1950 a De Luxe model was offered, having Connolly leather upholstery and full instrumentation, and from 1951 Jowett began manufacturing its own gearboxes. An engine oil cooler was standard by 1952, as was all-hydraulic braking.
Sales for the car fell away gradually during the early Fifties, and well before Jowett admitted that it was in major difficulties the Javelin’s marketability, at least in its existing format was effectively over.
The Jowett Javelin will retain its place in history as a well designed and attractive family saloon, with a better chassis than many of its competitors, yet with too many other mechanical problems to survive in the long.
In seven years that it was in production a total of 22,799 Javelins were produced, a commendable figure for such a small company, especially in the face of such intense competition.