Picture: The Daimler SP250 Dart was created with the US market firmly in mind.
One of the biggest surprises of the 1960s was provided by Daimler. This staidest of all British manufacturers, who usually built vast limousines for heads of state and other large saloon cars, suddenly announced their entry into the sportscar market with a glass-fiber-bodied car called the SP250. The car was in fact announced in prototype form in 1959 at the New York Show but production did not begin until late that year.
Picture: Daimler SP250 Dart green
Picture: Daimler SP250 Dart green rear
Picture: Interior of left hand drive 1961 SP250
The car featured a box type ladder chassis, strongly cross braced, with front suspension by double wishbones and coil springs, while at the rear the live axle was mounted on semi-elliptic leaf springs in conjunction with lever arm dampers. The chassis was underslung beneath the axle to give a low overall height. Steering was by cam and peg with only 2.6 turns lock to lock and braking was by Girling discs on all four wheels.
Picture: 1960 Daimler SP250 engine
Power came from a very pleasant little VS engine which used a cast iron block and alloy cylinder heads. The crankshaft ran in five main bearings and the overhead. Valves were operated by a central camshaft. With a compression ratio of 8.2:1 and twin SU carburetors the engine gave 140 bhp at 5800 rpm. This engine was mated to a four-speed all-synchromesh gearbox with the option of overdrive, or a fully automatic gearbox was available. The bodywork, built of laid-up glass fiber mat at Daimler's Coventry works was undoubtedly ugly, having contrasting lines all over the body.
Picture: Daimler SP250 front to right rear
Picture: 1963 Other Makes Daimler
By attempting to reach a halfway house between traditional sports car lines and the all-enveloping shape that was already available on other cars, the Daimler fell between both camps. It was redesigned as a 2 + 2, although the rear pair needed to be quite small.
It was quite a good performer as it would reach a top speed of 124 mph and accelerate from 0 to 50 mph in 6.8 seconds. The effectiveness of its glass fiber body was demonstrated here, as at just a bit lighter than the Austin Healey 3000.
Picture: Jay Leno's 1962 Daimler SP250 restoration stage
Picture: Jay Leno's Daimler SP25
Unfortunately, the Healey cost £200 less than the Daimler, and this, combined with the Daimler's strange appearance, kept sales down. Daimler recognized the faults of the SP250 and in April 1961 they introduced the SP250B with a much strengthened glass fiber body and a number of other small improvements. But the damage had been done and sales never reached an economic level.
Picture: SP250 British Style
In any case Daimler had been taken over by Jaguar in 1960 and Jaguar felt that the E-type was quite sufficient for the new company. So in 1964 the SP250 was allowed to die, although Daimler engineers had been working on a very pretty body that might well have resuscitated the car.
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