At the time of its release - in '59 - the Daimler SP250 Dart was dismissed as an ugly duckling. In time, though, qualms over its styling deficiencies subsided. Daimler was on a downturn in the late '50s. New management sought to remedy that by emulating Jaguar, Triumph and MG. They, too, would produce a sports car for the American market. Trouble was that Daimler had relatively little experience with sports cars. The chassis and suspension set-up from the Triumph TR3 served as a useful tempate. After that, Daimler turned to the bodywork. Which is when things started to go awry. The glassfibre shell Daimler had designed was fine. What was not fine was that the doors were liable to fly open when the going got rough. Nor did the Dart's looks come riding to the rescue. The consensus was that the fins looked dated, the headlamps bug-eyed - and the grille like it would be more at home on a marine mammal! The writing was on the wall for the Dart as early as 1960 - at which point, Jaguar took over the reins. Sir William Lyons was the new head honcho. As well as being a top-flight manager, he was a stylist of high repute. Lyons and the Dart did not see eye to eye. Its unwieldy form upset his design sensibilities. One of them was going to have to go ... and it would not be Lyons!
Prior to the Jaguar takeover, Edward Turner had been managing director at Daimler. Before that, he had worked at Triumph - in its motorcycle division. His engine design work there had achieved widespread recognition. Indeed, in the bike world, he was something of a legend. Some of that found its way into the Dart. The motor was pretty much flawless. Combining smoothness and torque, Turner's engine shot the lightweight Dart to a top speed of 125mph. 0-60 took 9.5s. Hemispherical combustion chambers - and twin SU carburettors - were key. The Dart returned a respectable 25mpg. A full set of Dunlop discs were fitted.
Attempts were made to upgrade the Dart with a stiffer chassis and bumpers - and a few more creature comforts. In the end, it slotted in between the cheaper Triumph TR and MGs - and the more expensive Jaguar XK150. 2,644 SP250s were built. Production of the Daimler Dart ceased in '64.