Showing posts with label Daimler Cars. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Daimler Cars. Show all posts

Daimler SP250 Dart

Daimler SP250 Dart 1950s British classic sports car

When first seen - at the '59 NY Motor Show - the Daimler Dart was derided as an ugly duckling. The consensus was that the fins looked dated, the headlamps bug-eyed - and the grille a bit ... well, fishy! Over time, though, qualms over the SP250's styling subsided. Daimler was on a downswing in the late Fifties. New management sought to remedy that - by emulating Jaguar, Triumph and MG. Daimler, too, would produce a sports car for the American market. The potential problem was that Daimler lacked experience with sports cars. Indeed, the Dart was the only one the marque made. To get the ball rolling, it used the chassis and suspension set-up from the Triumph TR3. After that, Daimler turned to the bodywork. Which is when things started to go awry. The glassfibre shell Daimler designed seemed fine. Until the going got a bit rough - at which point the doors were liable to fly open! The writing was on the wall for the Dart as early as 1960. Jaguar then took over the SP250 project. Sir William Lyons was the new CEO. As well as being a top-flight manager, he was a stylist of high repute. Sadly, Lyons and the Dart did not see eye to eye. Its 'unwieldy' form upset his sensibilities. One of the two had to go. It would not be Lyons.

Prior to the Jaguar takeover, Edward Turner was managing director at Daimler. Before that, he had worked at Triumph - in its motorcycle division. His engine design work there had achieved widespread acclaim. Indeed, in the bike world, he was legendary. Some of that had rubbed off on the Dart. Indeed - courtesy of Turner - its motor was pretty much flawless. Torquey but smooth, it catapulted the lightweight Dart to a top speed of 125mph. 0-60 took 9.5s. The engine's hemispherical combustion chambers - and twin SU carburettors - were key to its performance. Plus, the SP250 returned a respectable 25mpg. Best of both worlds, basically. Brakes-wise, a full set of Dunlop discs were fitted.

In a bid to drive up US sales, attempts were made to upgrade the Dart. It was given a stiffer chassis and bumpers - as well as a few more creature comforts than it had previously provided. From a marketing perspective, the SP250 was pitched between the cheaper Triumph TR and MGs - and the more expensive Jaguar XK150. 2,644 SP250s were built. Production ceased in '64. The ugly duckling never did morph into a graceful swan. But, beauty is in the eye of the beholder - and Daimler Dart fans loved it all the same!

Daimler Majestic Major

Daimler Majestic Major 1960s British classic car

At first glance, the Daimler Majestic Major may not appear to be much of a performance car. But - at least by the standards of its day - it was. Notwithstanding the Major's large dimensions - and a separate chassis - it could outpace the best of them. And, it had manoeuvrability to match! Top whack was 122mph. Enough for it to glide with ease past many a sports car. Come the corners - and things were no different. Power steering saw to that. Key to the speed was a 4.7-litre hemi-head V8. 0-60 turned up in less than 10s - 9.7, to be precise. Impressive acceleration for a car of its bulk. Transmission was via a 3-speed auto 'box.

Few saloons cruised Britain's highways and byways like the Major. Of course - being a Daimler - elegance came as standard. The cabin was all one would expect from a car of its class. Leather pews - and a wooden dash - made it home from stately home. Seating arrangements were suitably spacious. The boot - about the size of your average black hole - could accomodate every golf club known to man. A limousine version - the DR45 - was tailor-made for the carriage trade. Funeral parlours doted on it. And yet - for all of its high-end charm - the Majestic Major had a trace of the common touch. It was drawn by the same designer as the FX4 taxi-cab!

1,180 saloon version Majors were built. Plus, 864 limousines. In the course of the car's run, Daimler was taken over by Jaguar. indeed, a Daimler engine was ear-marked for a new MkX - Jaguar's flagship model, at the time. Sadly, a prototype of the V8 motor was as far as it got. It blew all the Jaguar engines into the weeds. That did not endear it to Jaguar's top brass. After all, shareholders might legitimately have asked what they had been doing for the last few years! So, the Daimler Majestic Major combined edge-of-your-seat speed with rarefied styling. In short, it was a souped-up saloon car for the wannabe aristocrat in all of us. Well, all right, most of us!