Monday, 10 October 2011

Daimler SP250


They must have sold SP 250s at knock-down prices. I can’t think of any other reason for the Metropolitan Police buying 26 of them. The best you could say of the gawky plastic-bodied Daimler sports car was that it had a decent V8 designed by Edward Turner. He was such a good engineer he nearly joined William Lyons at Jaguar back in 1942.
Turner’s engine was a 2½litre with a short stroke, a stiff, 5-bearing crankshaft and a single camshaft operating inclined valves in hemispherical combustion chambers. It was compact, light, made of aluminium with a cylinder head that owed something to Turner's splendid Triumph motorcycle engines.
The car, alas, was unworthy. The chassis was a lash-up, with cross-bracing and underslung half-elliptics at the back. It drooped to a crinkle-cut Daimler grille in front and swooped to tail fins at the back. Daimler was strapped for cash and while a new model was desperately needed, had no money to make a decent job of it. The SP250 was swift enough in 1959 but the body was poorly finished, the plastic creaked and rattled, doors tended to fly open as it flexed, and although later versions were better buyers did not much like acting as development engineers for what was quite an expensive car.
Jaguar bought Daimler in 1960 for £3.24million and even though the SP250 was no competitor for the E-type, it was not the sort of car Lyons wanted to make. The engine survived in a saloon, based on a Mark 2 Jaguar, continuing until October 1969.
An SP250 is coming up for sale by Historics at Brooklands on Saturday October 22nd. Call 0800 988 3838, e-mail: auctions@historics.co.uk, or see the website, www.historics.co.uk. Historics promotes it as a, “police chase car with all the bells and whistles,” bought to curb the enthusiasm of what the Daily Mirror (who else?) called, ‘road hogs and ton-up hooligans’.
This one was delivered on 1st November 1962. “Recognising that its normal patrol cars were no match for speeders and getaway cars of the day, police drivers relished the performance of their new, foot-down acquisition.” Well, one wonders. Why did the Met not buy Austin-Healey 3000s at £1326. The Daimler was £1423. An E-type was only just over £2,000. An MGA Twin Cam was £1283; not much slower than the Daimler and much nimbler.
Scotland Yard took delivery of what Historics calls, “a powerful law enforcement weapon of its own, 670 ELL, a sleek, jet black, right-hand drive, 130mph soft-top Daimler SP250.” A bit optimistic there, The Motor could only get it to do 123.7 with the hardtop on to improve the aerodynamics.
After retiring from the police in 1967, 670 ELL was an official course car for 13 years at the Goodwood Revival in the hands of the present owner, who had it for 32 years. It has had a continuous programme of restoration, maintenance and improvement and is still remarkably original, says Historics, with a re-trim and excellent paintwork. Police equipment includes the chromed Winkworth police bell.
They expect lively bidding up to £30,000 - £35,000.
But not from me. Had I been a police driver this is the view I would have preferred.


When Jaguar acquired Daimler in June 1960 it made cars, military vehicles and buses. There was a a 23-acre factory and 1700 employees at Radford Coventry, which was given over to the group’s other manufacturing while Browns Lane assembled Jaguars. The firm also acquired Lanchester and Daimler’s coach building affiliates Barker and Hooper, so in 1961 what came to be called the Jaguar Group included Guy Motors of Wolverhampton with 20 acres of production and 825 employees. Makers of trucks, tractor units and buses, Guy was bought from liquidators for £800,000. Daimler’s truck business was transferred and on 7 March 1963 Jaguar took over Coventry-Climax Engines with 428,572 new voting shares, reducing Lyons’ personal shareholding. In 1962 Jaguar received the Royal Warrant of Appointment as Motor Car Manufacturer. More expansion followed in 1965 with the purchase of Henry Meadows, engine maker since 1919, from Quinton Hazell. The £212,500 deal included 90 acres of adjacent factory space. In April 1964 Jaguar embarked on a 50/50 joint venture with Cummins, the American engine manufacturer, but due to insoluble technical problems sold its share back in 1967. Co-operation with BMW was rejected once Lyons realised that the Quandt family held 14 per cent of rival Mercedes-Benz. A takeover of Italian sports car maker Maserati was declined.

Historics at Brooklands Press Office
Contact: Chris Hodges
Tel: 01491 411777
Mobile: 07812 051886
E-mail: chris.hodges@mph.co.uk
For the full consigned list of vehicles, visit
http://www.historics.co.uk/buying/online-catalogue.aspx.

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