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From the PublisherAustralian Classic Car, January 2009
Daimler is at the cornerstone of automotive development, associated with luxurious saloon cars, royalty and limousines. But the company took extreme steps in its long history, and certainly fell on hard times. The unexpected, exciting SP 250 sports car is a result of both these traits. By the late '50s, Daimler was in financial difficulty following a period of mismanagement after the war. Early in its history, the company had merged with BSA, whose engineer Edward Turner was asked to develop a new saloon designated DN 250. Taking inspiration from Cadillac, he and his designer decided that no less than a V8 engine, rare in European road cars, would do and proceeded to develop a pushrod unit based on an advanced motorcycle engine he had made for BSA. By 1958, Daimler had run short of marketable models, left with only two outdated saloons and a limousine. Daimler investigated and built prototypes, searching for a suitable body and chassis for Turner’s engine. Remaining photos and rumors from this period suggest a link to Vauxhall, especially the Cresta, but in fact no real link was ever established and, in fact, the saloon project was abruptly abandoned. Suddenly, Turner was pursuing a fiberglass bodied sports car, the SP 250. Nevertheless, Daimler was as methodical about the project as you might expect them to have been. An extensive feasibility study was conducted, the document for which Long has included in his text, the results were collated and a case made for the V8 SP 250. Fascinating, early photos of the car show pronounced tail fins, swooping lines and a bulge in the bonnet to accommodate a Solex carburetor. This was later rejected but it gives these early versions a racy look that you will like. In fact, this little car and its story, from the first production models through the B- and C-spec cars, are charismatic and show the value of books on individual models. They offer a glimpse into the way a manufacturer really works, the risks it has to take, and how individuals have influenced auto history. Two useful chapters outline the backgrounds of Daimler and of Jaguar, who bought Daimler in 1960 when BSA lost patience waiting for their saloon. Jaguar helped initiate the B-spec cars in 1961 to iron out problems from scuttle shake to overheating. Later chapters present the pretty SP 252, which sadly never went into production but brought the tantalizing possibility of a merger with Lotus, the SP’s competition history, Daimler's V8 saloons and SP specials. Engaging, informative biographies of the people involved in the model’s development are included. The early photos have been carefully researched to give you a wonderful feeling of involvement with this lovely and rare Daimler. I hope you will see one some day.
The Caravan Club Magazine, December 2008
Why did royal limousine maker, Daimler, produce such an out-of-character car? Like the Jaguar book (The Rise of Jaguar), this is the equally fascinating tale of not only the SP250 sports car, but also of Britain's post-war motor industry. As part of Daimler's planned resurgence, the Edward Turner-designed (of Triumph motorcycle fame) V8-engined Dart made more sense to Daimler than to the buying public – or to its eventual owner, Jaguar, which 'developed' then discontinued it. But Jag happily popped the respected V8 into its Mark 2. Learned words and evocative pictures ooze period charm.
Jaguar magazine, Edition 137, 2008
The Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust has had one for a long time, but still the quirky fiberglass-bodied Daimler SP250, or Dart, sports car is a bit of a lost identity. It is powered by that magical Edward Turner-designed V8 engine, boasts an enviable power-to-weight ratio and even has quite a competition history, but probably for the first time ever is documented by a genuine Daimler devotee. Brian Long is undoubtedly the finest author of all things Daimler and has done a mighty fine job of his latest tome. Published by Veloce, seemingly the most prolific source today of books concentrating on British marques, this large format edition is fascinating if not merely for the fact Jaguar purchased Daimler when this model was already in production. Not being one to waste an opportunity, Sir William Lyons then utilized the SP250s engine to power his Daimler versions of the Mk2. Author Brian Long was born in Coventry, and is a professional scribe with a dedication to Daimlers. Now with Daimler seemingly likely to be revived into a super-luxury stand-alone marque, this might just be the right moment to think again about how fortunate it was Sir William acquired it in 1960 – without informing his fellow Directors who read about it in the morning paper! There are 192 pages of compelling reading here – don't miss it.
Big End, Winter 2008
It is good to have a second, updated and greatly improved edition of Brian Long's seminal work for Veloce of the development of Daimler's quirky and engaging sports car the SP250. I know that some of our members own or have owned one of these pocket rockets, myself included, so they should be delighted to read this handsome 192-page hardbound history. I also commend this book to a wider audience interested in both the development of this model and the Daimler version of Jaguar's successful Mk II saloon (which I've also owned), and of the fascinating tale of a struggling automotive pioneer in a rapidly changing post-war climate. There's a misnomer that the shockingly radical SP250 was a last throw of the dice but nothing could be further from the truth. Daimler was only too aware that it was losing ground at both the luxury end of the market and in its wider appeal to the emerging middle-class mass market. Stuck with an ultra-conservative image, despite the very best, if wacky, attempts of Norah, Lady Docker with her outrageous Motor Show spectaculars, Daimler decided that it badly needed to boost sales. They engaged Edward Turner, the designer of the famous vertical-twin Triumph motorcycle engine and by then MD of the BSA Automotive Division which included Daimler, to devise a whole new family of modern, more profitable middle-range saloons. In the event the engine proved the easiest part of the equation to solve because Turner had, in essence, scaled-up , his beautifully-balanced motor-cycle engine as early as 1956 – and I'm pleased he gave due acknowledgement about its 'classic valve layout to Riley - but they had no saloon nearly ready enough to put it in. A merciful release, perhaps, in retrospect because the Daimler team dabbled with all sorts of strange pseudo-American looking devices including one based on Vauxhall's PA Cresta – a poorly engineered and rust-prone car that would have done nothing but tarnish Daimler's quality image. A parallel project to produce a sports car therefore received a shot in the arm and a sense of urgency from the board – after aII they had to do something with the engine they'd so expensively developed. And no doubt they hoped that the sports car might also attract a new – and possibly younger – audience to Daimler. The SP250's body styling was always controversial but the early prototypes were, if anything, even more extreme and – well – dart-like. After the Jaguar takeover, those distinctive rear fins were reduced to the point of sheer anonymity in the prototype SP252. A fascinating motoring what-if though. You can read what happened to that and why in the book and also how an interesting Ogle prototype ended up as the Reliant Scimitar. And there's all you could possibly want to know about the SP250 sports car itself. The final irony is that the most successful product of aII this frantic Daimler ingenuity was the arrival of the later V8 250 saloon. The fabulous Turner 78 engine, finally. was given a saloon body to reside in that was both sleek and character. In an odd sort of way it was exactly the kind of car that Daimler should have built. It was also highly profitable for Jaguar. Sadly, though, Daimler had by that stage lost its struggle for survival as an independent car maker.