1964 Daimler SP250 ‘Dart’
The history of Daimler dates back to the late 1800’s. In 1893 the British businessman Frederick Simms established the Daimler Motor Syndicate Ltd in London, however, at that time the company neither manufactured vehicles nor engines. In 1895, Henry Lawson provided an investment capital and Daimler Motor Syndicate Ltd became British Motor Syndicate Ltd, as a subsidiary of the Great Horseless Carriage Company, a company founded to promote the new vehicle industry and acquire licenses and patents. Next the company acquired the British Daimler and Maybach patents. The following year, on 14th January 1896, Henry Lawson founded the Daimler Motor Company Limited which acquired the rights to the Daimler patents from the British Motor Syndicate Ltd. In 1897 the Daimler Motor Company Ltd. started production in Coventry (UK) making it the oldest British automobile factory.
For the foreseeable future Daimler remained the only automotive brand operating throughout the British Empire. As a side note, Henry Lawson and Frederick Simms also founded the Motor Car Club of Britain in 1895, which held its first London to Brighton car run, the ‘Emancipation Run’ on 14th November 1896. This event is still being held today.
The early years were not easy. The first Daimler engined cars left the factory in March 1897. By mid 1897 Daimler in Germany were in financial difficulty. They began asking for accounts to be settled and refused to send working drawings of their new engine. These financial difficulties led to a re-organisation of the company in 1898 and again in 1904. A new company was founded with a new board of directors which acquired the old company and paid for its debts and wind up costs.
In 1900 Daimler sold its first car to a member of the British Royal family, Edward VII. The car was a 6hp, 2 cylinder, 1527cc fitted with a ‘mail phaeton’ body. When King Edward bought his second Daimler, he granted Daimler a Royal Warrant to provide cars to the British monarch, a privilege it kept until the 1950’s.
Like most manufacturing companies, Daimler was significantly impacted by both the first and second World Wars. In 1937 Daimler introduced new saloons with a fresh new design. These cars were quite successful and they continued to produce limousines for the royal families of Europe as well as various embassies and consulates. The public however slowly started to turn away from Daimler. Its cars were perceived as boring and expensive compared to some of the other manufacturers like Jaguar for example which seemed to know exactly what the public wanted. Daimler continued to struggle through difficult times right through until the late 1950’s
As a last attempt to save the company, Daimler decided they needed something different. They had many talented engineers, one of them being the group automotive managing director, Edward Turner. He, together with Jack Wickes, were given the task to come up with a radical new design. In addition to designing a new car they ended up designing two legendary new V8 engines, a 2.5 litre and a 4.5 litre. The latter was used in the Daimler Majestic and called the Majestic Major, which was an interesting car in its own right. The second smaller engine was to be used in an all new Daimler V8 sports car.
Daimler’s new sports car made its world debut at the International Automobile Exhibition in New York on 4th April 1959. The car was christened the ‘Dart’, however, Chrysler objected to Daimler using the name as they had previously registered this name for one of their own cars. Daimler then decided on a new name and in line with the company tradition, named their car the SP250. Surprisingly its new car was built with an all fiberglass body. The Daimler SP250 was built from 1959 until 1964 and a total of 2,654 cars were built. As it turned out, the SP250 became the last car produced by Daimler before the company was acquired by Jaguar.
Oldtimer Australia is delighted to offer for sale one of the very last Daimler SP250’s ever produced. This car is a rare Australian delivered, factory right hand drive example.
There is a copy of the original Registration of Ownership on file that shows this particular Daimler SP250 was delivered new to Mr Grahame Elith from Mosman, NSW, on 21st December 1964. Mr Elith purchased the car through Hercules Motors Pty Ltd in Sydney. The chassis and engine numbers are both noted on the original Registration of Ownership and confirm that this car retains its original engine and it is therefore ‘matching numbers’. The car was initially registered as DPH 833. This registration was allowed to expire when the owner was at sea and the car was subsequently re-registered as DYG 624. There is also a copy of the original stock card from Hercules Motors on file which shows the car was originally delivered in ‘mountain blue’ with a red interior. The stock card also notes that the car was delivered with quite a few extras, including: an adjustable steering, a complete rear bumper, wire wheels and even a wood rimmed steering wheel. Interestingly, the car was delivered new with a hard top but no soft top.
This SP250 has quite an interesting history. It is believed to be the last SP250 to be sold new in Australia and the fourth last SP250 every built. This car arrived into Australia along with another SP250 that went to the Canberra police force. That would have been an interesting patrol car back in the day!
Very early in its life the car was involved in an accident which damaged the hard top. In his quest to find someone locally who could repair the hard top Elith got in touch with master craftsman Stan Brown of Brookvale in Sydney. After discussing possible solutions with him it was decided Stan would build a custom, all aluminium, fastback style hard top. There are photos on file showing the car with the new hard top which definitely changed the look of the car. While that was being done it was suggested that fitting four twin choke Weber carburetors would give the car a bit more get up and go! The bonnet had to be modified to make it fit! There are period photos of the car on file with this set up. Supposedly the ‘improvements’ were done to allow this SP250 to be raced as a GT car in that short-lived class of motor sport in Australia. However, little is known of its successes or failures or whether it indeed participated in any races.
The first owner traded the SP250 for a family car in 1972 when his wife was pregnant with their first child. Whilst the subsequent owners of the car are known, it wasn’t until 1986 when it was acquired by Terry Lister from Noosa, QLD that it came back into the public domain. The car was in poor condition, though it still retained its fastback style hard top built by Stan Brown all those years ago. Lister took it upon himself to restore the car and he soon embarked on a total nut and bolt restoration.
His first challenge was to find a new boot lid and some of the other body parts which had been removed when the fastback style hard top was installed. Eventually a wrecked SP250 was found in the UK which still had all the parts needed in good condition. All his efforts were rewarded when the completely restored Daimler, now red with a light tan interior, won ‘Best of Show’ at the inaugural Noosa Classic Car Show in 1989.
The car is featured in the March/May 1989 issue of Sports & Classic Cars Australia magazine, a copy of which will accompany the car.
The current owner purchased the Daimler in 2018 from a deceased estate. The car had not been used for a few years and needed recommissioning. The owner did most of the work himself. He also had the interior retrimmed by Coastal Auto Upholstery in Beerwah, QLD.
Today this Daimler SP250 retains its red paintwork as restored by Terry Lister in excess of 30 years ago. The car presents and drives exceptionally well. There are a few defects in the paint, most notable a few bubbles on the passenger door and a small crack on the left front guard near the headlight. The chrome work is still in good condition and the same is true for all the glass, including the rear window in the hard top. The condition of the soft top is best described as average. It has a few small tears and the plastic rear windscreen has a few wrinkles from having been stored for a long period. Underneath the chassis appears to be in good condition with no obvious signs of rust.
The interior is in great condition. The ‘as new’ leather feels supple and soft, the carpets and door cards are also in good condition. The timber steering wheel and gear knob were hand made by Terry Lister from Tasmanian Oak and are a feature. They remain in excellent condition along with all the instruments and controls which look to be in good working order.
Turn the ignition on, wait a few seconds for the fuel pump to do its work, pull out the choke, turn the key and the V8 roars to life. You have got to love these British sports car with V8 engines . . . After warming up for a few minutes this car very quickly settles into a smooth idle. It’s time to take it out on the road! Now, the first key point to remember is that these cars do not have synchro on first gear. The big V8 has plenty of torque so you only need first when taking off from standstill, though if you do need to change down it is a skill easily mastered. The first impressions of this car are really good. This Daimler SP250 has more than enough power on tap and the engine revs strongly through the rev range. The brakes work well and pull the car up efficiently. The car feels solid on the road and the ride is firm but comfortable. You almost expect it to be somewhat ‘rattley’, but it’s not! The four-speed gearbox feels smooth and the car is relatively easy to drive. These Daimlers have no power steering and with plenty of weight up front they are quite heavy at parking speed, though out on the open road the car is a real delight.
The car’s current owner has decided it’s time to move in a different direction, hence, this Daimler SP250 is looking for its next owner.
These cars have an almost cult following and quite frankly offer a huge amount of car for the money.
There is an excellent history file, including a copy of the original Registration of Ownership as well as a Hercules Motors stock card, period photographs, an original service manual and lots of magazine articles on Daimler SP250’s that will accompany this car.
- An Australian delivered, factory right hand drive, matching numbers example.
- One of the last four Daimler SP250’s built and understood to be the very last car sold to the general public.
- Known and interesting history from new.
- Includes a rare factory hard top.
- A well presented car that is ready to be used and enjoyed.
- 10,696 miles
- 2547 cc