It can rightfully be said that
Daimler provided the foundation stone for the British car industry
but the name, now thought to be as typically English as afternoon
tea, has its origins in Germany. Gottlieb Daimler, the father of the
motor car was befriended by an Englishman, Frederick Simms. They met
at a German engineering exhibition in 1890, where Simms had been
greatly impressed by the Daimler single-cylinder four-stroke engine.
By 1893, Simms
had established the Daimler Motor Syndicate in London. British law
at the time restricted the use of motor cars, so the engine could
only be used in motor launches. The growing band of motoring
enthusiasts eventually managed to gain the ear of those in power and
when HRH the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, showed his
support for the cause, it was obvious the motorist's future was more
promising. A financier, Harry Lawson, approached Simms and managed
to persuade him to part with the Daimler name to establish in
February 1896 the Daimler Motor Company Limited. This was a bold
move, typical of Lawson's dealings, but one that paid off.
Premises were bought in Coventry,
then at the heart of the cycle and engineering industry and the
Motor Mills, as they became known, were to be the centre of several
of Lawson's enterprises. These activities included Daimler, the
Great Horseless Carriage Company, Pennington, and for a while at
Early in 1897 some cars started to
roll from the Motor Mills, using Panhard & Levassor chassis,
locally-built bodies, and engines made under licence to the same
specification as those used by Panhard.
royal car was a Daimler, bought by the Prince of Wales which
undoubtedly helped to create the quality image it presents to this
1898 4 hp
After the turn of the century,
Daimler had earned a reputation for high quality and was making some
exceptionally good models.
As if to confirm its place at the
top of the British industry it often entered hillclimbs and other
speed competitions. Wins at Shelsley Walsh and at the first race
meeting held at Brooklands were important to reputation building.
Entries in the Kaiser Cup, the Herkomer Trophy, and the legendary
Targa Florio, all produced good results.
THE EDWARDIAN PERIOD
period was much better for British manufacturers in the race to
catch foreign competition. The car was starting to boom, and by
1910, Coventry had over 50 manufacturers though hardly any were
destined to survive later.
1911 12 hp
This popularity attracted the
attention of big engineering concerns, one of which was the
Birmingham Small Arms Company. BSA had tried to build cars but with
Daimler was seen as the perfect
target for BSA. Both companies were held in high regard throughout
the engineering world, and had a proven pedigree that few could
doubt. The recent acquisition of the rights to make the Knight
sleeve-valve engine was important in terms of refinement and would
put Daimler far ahead of the competition.
Daimler was part of the massive
BSA by 1910, but maintained a great deal of automony and
Most of the larger car makers were
moving towards mass-production by this time, but Daimlers still
boasted coachbuilt bodies, often crafted by outside specialists such
as Hooper and Barker.
The First World War soon
interrupted plans for change and cars made way for trucks and aero
After the war, production
restarted with pre-war models until new ones could be designed. The
Daimler reputation was now at an all-time high and it had few
rivals. Rolls-Royce had only the Silver Ghost on the market and
Bentley had just been founded.
Daimler still had the added kudos
of being the royal car. By 1919, the royal family had taken delivery
of 30 Daimlers for state service by King Edward VII and King George
1920 45hp Daimler convertible saloon
technical front sleeve-valve engines were the norm, usually as
straight-sixes. In 1926, Daimler introduced the legendary Double-Six
designed by Laurence Pomeroy, comprising two six-cylinder engines
operating on a common crankshaft to form a V12. It was without doubt
one of the finest engines built in England.
Such technical advances could not
be matched commercially and the Wall Street Crash obviously hurt
1926 45hp Barker bodied Daimler all weather
tourer. This one was used in India by the Maharajah of Rewa and used
for tiger hunting
Another innovation came in 1930,
when a new form of transmission, the fluid-flywheel, was announced.
This hydraulic coupling was combined with a pre-select gearbox to
give unrivalled smoothness when compared with a conventional manual
In 1931 another respected car name
was added to the business. Lanchester had been building high-quality
cars in Birmingham for over three decades, and were widely credited
with creating Britain's first four-wheel petrol-engined saloon.
A stylish 1931 Daimler Double Six 50
In the early days, it was largely
the work of Dr F W Lanchester that gave the Lanchesters an unique
character and a technical edge over the competition. He was a genius
who could direct his skills toward any field of engineering, from
motor cars to aeronautics at a time when flight was considered only
a distant dream even by respected scientists.
The Lanchester car was good, but
never built in enough numbers to satisfy the financial needs of the
For a little while at least, the
Lanchester Forty, a straight-eight with superb performance and
refinement, was continued but soon Lanchesters became small
badge-engineered Daimlers. The market for the big luxury cars had
dwindled to such an extent that it was the only commercial option
left open. In 1936 the Daimler Fifteen was introduced as a 2.5-litre
six-cylinder car aimed directly at the people who wanted the
prestige but not the expense of running a larger car.
The Fifteen saved the Daimler
marque from premature extinction but to compensate for this change
in standards a new Straight-Eight was introduced for the luxury
market. This model was inspired by Lanchester's Forty and featured
poppet-valves instead of the expensive sleeves to add to its
1938 James Young saloon
Motorsport was again taken
seriously, and a number of these new Daimlers were prepared for
rallying. Smaller, sportier Straight-Eights were developed and
different chassis lengths introduced.
first post-war cars in the forties were the new Straight-Eight - the
DE36, and two new six-cylinder cars, the smaller DB18, and the DE27.
For several years this was the basic range, although coachbuilders
added special touches to make some great and attractive cars.
At the 1948 Earls Court Motor
Show, the public was given a first idea of what was to come. The
Green Goddess was a massive drophead coupe, with coachwork by Hooper
- by now, part of the BSA/Daimler empire, as were Barker whom Hooper
had taken over some years before.
The 1951 show was the next to have
a special Daimler, commissioned by the chairman, Sir Bernard Docker,
in the name of publicity for the marque. In reality, it was probably
more for Lady Docker's publicity, as it was often used by her after
the event. This first Docker Daimler, christened the Gold Car, was
elegantly finished in black, with tiny gold stars, and all
chromework plated in real gold.
The Docker gold car
Another three memorable cars
followed, Silver Flash in 1953, Stardust in 1954, and the Golden
Zebra Car in 1955. This was to be the final Docker Daimler but
regarded as just too extravagant for the other BSA directors to
sanction. Sir Bernard and Lady Docker were ousted from BSA and
Daimler amid accusations of unnecessary expense and a trail of
newspaper headlines all over Europe.
1951 DE 36
Sir Bernard Docker did at least
bring the Daimler Conquest into being. This was a modern 2.5-litre
car, aimed squarely at the middle income market. It offered a good
pedigree refinement and, as was proved in rallying and on the race
track, a respectable performance as well.
1956 will always be remembered by
Lanchester enthusiasts. The Lanchester Sprite had been in
development for some time but for some unknown reason the new
management decided to drop the Sprite project completely - and with
it died the Lanchester name.
BSA had grown tired of supporting
the Daimler marque by now and when Sir William Lyons of Jaguar
offered to buy the Daimler factory in Radford, he not only secured
more production space but obtained another useful subsidiary and one
he would use to its maximum potential.. Daimler.
For some time,
Jaguar continued to develop original Daimler projects by refining
the SP250 sports car and introducing the big V8 saloon, the Majestic
Major. The first Jaguar-Daimler appeared at the 1962 Earls Court
Motor Show. The car was the 2.5-litre V8 and was basically a Mark II
Jaguar with the small Daimler V8 engine.
The first new model to emerge from
the Jaguar-Daimler conglomerate was the Daimler DS420 Limousine,
built on the 420G platform. The new model had a 20 inch section
added behind the front seat and was powered by the legendary 4.2
litre XK engine. The Jaguar influences on this car remained under
the surface. The body was pure Daimler, bearing more than a passing
resemblance to Hooper designed Daimlers of the past. The much
respected model was built from 1968 to 1992 and maintained a
continuing link with the Royal family and heads of state across the
In 1972 a new Jaguar V12 engine
went into production and this enabled the revival of the Daimler
'Double Six'. In addition, a very attractive two-door coupe
derivative of the XJ saloon was also produced in Daimler guise
In 1984, Jaguar was returned to
the private sector and two years later the company launched a
completely new saloon range, the XJ40 with a new 'AJ' six-cylinder
engine. Daimler versions of the XJ40 were available from
announcement and the Daimler Double-Six III remained in production
until the end of 1992.
Following the acquisition of
Jaguar by Ford in 1989, there began an intensive product development
programme. October 1992 saw the launch of a new Majestic range at
the NEC Motor Show. The new model had a five inch stretch in the
wheelbase to improve rear legroom.
In September 1994, the first
Jaguar-Daimler range to be announced since the Ford takeover was
revealed. The new XJ-series, topped by a new 6.0 litre Double-Six
Daimler, was inspired by the classic, curvaceous lines of the
earlier Series III saloons. Just nine months later the X330 long
wheelbase saloons were announced. The Daimler Six and Double-Six,
flagships in the new XJ Series saloon range, have the long wheelbase
body as standard to retain the essential elegance that is
In 1996, the Daimler Century was
launched as a limited edition model to celebrate 100 years of the
Daimler marque. Distinguished by original and uniquely comprehensive
equipment, the Daimler Century is the ultimate Daimler and one of
the finest cars ever made. To ensure lasting exclusivity and
distinction, availability of the Daimler Century was limited to the
centenary year 1996.
Now over a century after the
creation of Daimler the marque epitomises quality, craftsmanship and
refinement, which are upheld as a commitment to the traditions
established for excellence in engineering at the outset of motoring
history. Daimler is still very much a part of our future model plans
to perpetuate the timeless qualities of craftsmanship and
The range of V8 engines created
for Jaguar's acclaimed XK8 has been developed for Daimler to offer a
4.0 litre normally aspirated engine and now a 4.0 litre V8
Supercharged developing 370 bhp.
The new engines are matched with a
new electronically controlled 5-speed automatic transmission, with
'J-gate' manual over-ride.