The History of Jowett Cars Ltd & Where it is Now

What is Jowett Cars Ltd?

Jowett Cars Ltd was a car manufacturer located in Bradford. They made some of the lightest, affordable early cars and vehicles right here in Yorkshire.

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The beginning of Jowett Cars Ltd

In 1901, two brothers called Benjamin and William Jowett joined together to form their own business. This was originally to make and sell bicycles.

Over the next three years, the brothers quickly developed as a company. They began to produce engines for machinery and then for use as replacements in early cars.

In 1904, they bought their first official premise on Back Burlington Street in Bradford. It was here where they started developing their first prototype for a light and affordable vehicle.

During this time, the Jowetts were providing engines for some of the early Scott’s motorcycles. They were based in nearby Shipley.

In 1910, after years of work and 25,000 miles of exhaustive trials,the brother’s had finally done it. The first Jowett light vehicle was put into production.

In total, twelve cars were made. All of these were sold by 1911 which, at the time, only the very rich could afford them.


The early Jowett car engines were made from aluminium. They also had a maximum speed of 20mph – be ‘eck that’s a bit different compared to now!

These cars were the first to be specifically designed for hilly roads, especially those around Bradford. A faster speed would have been of no use.

In 1913, a new and improved model was produced which had wheel steering. 36 of these vehicles were made before the outbreak of the First World War.

Like many businesses with factories in the UK, they were asked to help out in the war effort. As a result, Jowett motoring began making munitions until 1918.

Post War and Decline

After the end of the war in June 1919, the business became a limited company. They were now called Jowett Cars Ltd and continued to create and sell motor vehicles.

During this time, the business also decided to move to a new premises. This was on the site of a disused quarry on Bradford Road in Idle.

The production of a brand new car was in the pipeline. Launched in 1920, the Jowett Seven was released and used an enlarged version of the pre-war aluminium flat twin engine.

In 1922, their latest creation was exhibited at the London Motor Show. This achieved nationwide recognition and put Bradford firmly on the motoring map.

All of this attention proved extremely beneficial to the company. It led to Jowett’s car being used by the Metropolitan Police until 1932.

Jowett Cars were making money through extended orders. With this they were able to design and create several innovative motors throughout the 1920’s and 1930’s.

One of these included the Jowett “Long Four” (1923) which was the first four seated vehicle. Other vehicles were the four-speed “Jowett Kestrel” (1934), and the Weasel sports tourer model.

Jowett Cars Ltd were doing really well. Their vehicles became a common sight on Britain’s roads during the 1930’s.

However, this soon stopped. Jowett Cars were once again affected by another war – World War II.

During this conflict, they helped with the war effort. This time they were providing aircraft components and other military hardware for the Allied Forces.

In 1945, Britain as a whole became a different place. Jowett Motoring had to diversify their range to try and compete with the changing demands of the market.

First off the post-war production line was the “Bradford Van”, based on their old 1930’s Jowett Eight. It was an economic and efficient design with a flat twin engine, three speed gearbox, and a top speed of around 50mph.

Image of a Jewett Van, Photo credit Redaimon, Wikipedia, GNU
A Jowett Van, Photo credit Redaimon, Wikipedia, GNU license

On the other side of the market was the Jowett Javelin. This post war car had a top speed of 80mph.

This vehicle was much more streamline. It had been developed during the war years and had four gears that were made in-house at their Idle plant.

Unfortunately, production of the Javelin and its sister car “Jowett Jupiter” stopped. This was due to the gearboxes being too expensive to make.

Not only this, the cars just weren’t selling. In the end, they were left with a stockpile of car bodies without gearboxes to put in them.

In 1953, a legislation was passed. This was for a 25% cut in car tax which made motor vehicles much more affordable.

As a result, it led to the production of cheaper cars. These were designed for the masses by larger companies such as Ford.

The new legislation didn’t benefit Jowett Cars Ltd. Instead they were left floundering in this brave new post-war motoring world.

Briggs of Doncaster were one of their major suppliers for the bodywork of the Bradford vans and Javelin cars. However, it wasn’t long before disaster struck.

Ford bought “Briggs of Doncaster” and then sold it onto another firm. This was then bought out by The British Motoring Company creating a merger between Austin and Morris.

At the time, the business was creating the new Jowett R4 which would have reached 100mph. However, as a result this never came into production.

By mid-1955, Jowett motoring had run out of working capital. They were forced to sell their Idle factory to tractor manufacturers “Harvester” who remained there until 1983.

Jowett continued making parts for their cars at another site on Howden Clough Road in Morley until 1963. They also made aircraft fittings in another part of the county.

Yorkie the Long Four Tourer

The “Long Four Tourer” was built in 1926 at Jowett’s factory in Idle. This was the second model made by the company post the First World War after the Jowett Seven.

It was the first of their range to use a coil ignition and electric start. As the name suggests, this model also had four seats.

In 1926, the “Long Four” would have cost £245 which is roughly £16,000 in today’s money. Only the very rich would have been able to afford one.

Despite its huge body compared to the size of its engine, the weight was kept to a minimum. This was something which Jowett had sought to do since their first pre-war creations.

Like many vintage cars, the driver has an all round view. It has been simply designed with a steering wheel and three speed gearbox.

The gearbox would have been operated on the right side of the driver. The reverse gear was left and forward while the first gear was reverse and back.

Rather shockingly, the car had no front wheel brakes. This was something which only appeared on post-1929 Jowett cars.

Drivers would have stopped these vehicles with a foot operated transmission brake and lever for hand brakes to halt the rear wheels. This could have been quite hazardous in wet conditions.

The car is driven by a two cylinder engine. However, it remains comparatively small in comparison to the rest of the vehicle.

Overall, the steering of this car was quite good for its time. It can go around corners seamlessly but with a maximum speed of 40mph it had plenty of time to think about it.

Where is Jowett Cars Ltd Now?

Nowadays, the site of the old Jowett factory in Idle has a different use. It’s currently a retail park featuring a Morrison’s supermarket and a McDonalds.

Jowett cars were never the fastest. However, they were always renowned for their toughness, reliability, and flexibility especially across rough terrain.

Despite their use in the South for the Met Police, Jowett cars were far more popular in the North of England. This was especially true for those with large country estates where these attributes would come into their own.

After the Second World War, the company tried to change over to making faster cars. This would ultimately contribute to their demise in mid-1955.

Gladly, their memory lives on in the form of highly sought after and collectable classic cars around the world.