Daimler Motor Company
- This article is about the British automobile manufacturer. See Daimler for other uses derived from the German engineer and inventor Gottlieb Daimler. For the two direct descendants of Daimler's original company, see Daimler-Benz and its successor DaimlerChrysler
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Daimler has, since 1896, been the motor car marque of the British Daimler Motor Company, based in Coventry. The company was a subsidiary of BSA from 1910 up until 1960, when it became part of Jaguar and the brand was used for their luxury models. It is now a subsidiary of the Premier Automotive Group, making it part of Ford.
As of 2006, its production is limited to only one model, the Daimler Super Eight.
Origins of name
Confusingly, the name Daimler is used by two completely separate groups of car manufacturers. The history of both companies can be traced back to the German engineer Gottlieb Daimler, who patented an engine design in the late 1800s, built (together with Wilhelm Maybach) the first motorcycle in 1885 and built the first 4-wheeled car in 1889. This was the origin of the Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft ("Daimler Motors Company") which built cars from the 1890s onwards and sold licenses of its designs and patents to others. The licence granted to the Daimler Motor Company included the right to use the Daimler name in Great Britain. Gottlieb Daimler died in 1900, having sold licences to use the Daimler name in a number of countries. Emil Jellinek had legal problems selling German Daimlers in France and put it to Daimler Germany that he would put in a large order if they would make a car to order for him bearing his daughter's name. These cars proved enormously popular. Daimler Germany now realised the problem of having sold licences to use the Daimler name, and to avoid any further confusion and licensing troubles, the name Mercedes was adopted for all the cars built by Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft itself, in 1902, while the name Daimler was last used for a German built car in 1908.
In 1924, the Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft merged with Karl Benz's Benz & Cie. to form the Daimler-Benz car company which built Mercedes-Benz cars and trucks and agreed to remain together until 2000. In 1998 Daimler-Benz took over the Chrysler Corporation to form DaimlerChrysler.
History of the British company
The UK patent rights to the Gottlieb Daimler's engine were purchased in 1893 by Frederick Simms, who formed a new company, the "Daimler Motor Syndicate". In 1896 Simms and Harry Lawson moved into car production in the city of Coventry as the "Daimler Motor Company".
Known as Britain's oldest marque, Daimler became the official transportation of Royalty in 1898, after the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, was given a ride on a Daimler by John Scott-Montagu, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu. The Royal House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha had, like Daimler, also obtained their name from Germany, but changed this to Windsor during World War I.
Scott-Montagu, as a Member of Parliament, also drove a Daimler into the yard of the British Parliament, the first motorized vehicle to be driven there. Every British monarch from Edward VII to the current Queen have been driven in Daimler limousines although, in 1950, after a transmission failure on the King's car, Rolls-Royce was commissioned as the Royal Primary Carriage, Daimler being reduced to 'second fiddle'.
From 1910 it was part of Birmingham's BSA group of companies, producing military vehicles as well as cars.
In addition to cars, Daimler produced engines for the very first tanks ever built in 1914 ("Little Willie" and "Big Willie"), a scout army vehicle, engines used in aeroplanes, ambulances, trucks, and double-decker buses. In late 1920s, it, together with Associated Equipment Company, formed the Associated Daimler Company to build commercial vehicles.
In 1930 Daimler, through BSA, took over Lanchester Motor Company, which had the distinction of having been the maker of Britain's first production car.
During World War II, Daimler production was geared to military vehicles. After that war, Daimler produced the Ferret armoured car, a military reconnaissance vehicle, which has been used by over 36 countries.
Daimler was a proponent of the preselector gearbox. This was used in passenger vehicles and military vehicles.
Sir Bernard Docker was the Managing Director of BSA from early in WWII, and married Lady Norah Collins in 1949. It was Lady Norah's third marriage, and she had originally been a successful dance hall hostess, already having married well twice, and already wealthy in her own right. The Lady Norah took an interest in her husband's companies and became a director of Hooper, the coachbuilders.
Lady Docker could see that the Daimler cars, while popular with the royal family, were in danger of becoming an anachronism in the modern world. She took it upon herself to raise the company's profile, but in an extravagant fashion, by encouraging Sir Bernard to produce show cars.
The first was the "Golden Daimler", an opulent touring limousine, in 1952, "Blue Clover, a two door sportsmans coupe, in 1953 the "Silver Flash" based on the 3 litre Regency chassis, and in 1954 "Stardust, redolent of the "Gold Car", but based on the DK400 chassis. At the same time Lady Norah earnt a reputation for having rather poor social graces when under the influence, and she and Sir Bernard were investigated for failing to correctly declare the amount of money taken out of the country on a visit to a Monte Carlo casino. Norah ran up large bills, and presented them to Daimler as business expenses, but some items were disallowed by the Tax Office drawing further attention. The publicity attached to this and other social episodes told on Sir Bernards standing, as some already thought the cars far too opulent and perhaps a little vulgar for austere post war Britain. To compound Sir Bernard's difficulty, the royal family shifted allegiance to Rolls Royce.
In 1951 Jack Sangster had sold Ariel and Triumph to the Birmingham Small Arms Company group (BSA), and joined their board. The Docker Daimler era was soon to end. By 1956 Sangster was voted in as the new Chairman, defeating Sir Bernard 6 to 3, and he promptly made Edward Turner head of the automotive division. This then included Ariel, Triumph , and BSA motorcycles, as well as Daimler and Carbodies (London Taxicab manufacturers). Turner then designed the Daimler SP250 and Majestic Major, with lightweight hemi head Daimler 2.5 & 4.5 Litre V8 Engines. Under Sangster Daimler's vehicles became a little more performance oriented.
Daimler struggled after the War, producing too many models with short runs and limited production, and frequently selling too few of each model, while Jaguar seemed to know what the public wanted and expanded rapidly.
Some of the most significant vehicles produced by Daimler prior to their acquisition by Jaguar in 1960 were:
- 1896 First Daimler Vehicle
- 1926-1938 The Double Six
- 1933-1936 Daimler 15
- 1936-1953 Daimler Straight Eight
- 1938 - ? Daimler Dingo - a BSA design
- 1940- ? Daimler Armoured Car
- 1952-1971 Ferret Scout Car
- 1939-1949 Daimler DB18
- 1949-1953 Daimler DB18 Consort and DB18 Sports Special
- 1952-1954 Daimler Regency/Empress II
- 1953-1956 Daimler Conquest
- 1954-1957 Daimler Regency II
- 1954-1957 Daimler Empress IIa and Empress III
- 1954-1958 Daimler Conquest Century
- 1954-1960 Daimler Regina/DK400
- 1958-1962 Daimler Majestic
- 1959-1968 Daimler Majestic Major
- 1959-1964 Daimler SP250 (Dart, A-spec.)
- 1962-1969 Daimler 250 V8
- Daimler 104
Jaguar and British Leyland
In 1960, the Daimler name was acquired by Jaguar. William Lyons was looking to expand manufacture, and wanted the manufacturing facilities, but then had to decide what to do with the existing Daimler vehicles.
The Daimler Majestic Major and the sporty Dart, already in production, were continued for a number of years, using the Daimler V8 engine. In 1961 Daimler introduced the DR450 model, a limousine version of its Majestic Major. The DR450 had a longer chassis and bodyshell and higher roofline. The Daimler DR450 continued in production until the DS420 arrived in 1968, by then some 864 examples had been sold.
These were the last cars not designed by Jaguar to bear the Daimler badge.
It is said that Jaguar put a Daimler 4.5L V8 in a Mark X, and it went better than the Jaguar version. It is also said that when Jaguar ceased production of Daimler designed vehicles, Lyons had all the spares bulldozed into a pit.
The last car to have a Daimler engine was the Model 250 which, apart from a fluted grille, badges and drivetrain was otherwise indistinguishable from a Jaguar Mark II.
Jaguar merged with the British Motor Corporation, the masters of badge-engineering marques in 1966 to form British Motor Holdings (BMH). Not surprisingly, except for the Daimler DS420 Limousine introduced in 1968 and withdrawn from production in 1992, subsequent vehicles were badge-engineered Jaguars, given a more luxurious finish. For example the Daimler Double Six Vanden Plas was a Jaguar XJ-12 with the Daimler badge and fluted grille and boot handle the only outward differences from the Jaguar.
During that period, Daimler became the predominant double-decker bus manufacturer in England. At the same time, Daimler made trucks and motorhomes.
BMH merged with the Leyland Motor Corporation to give the British Leyland Motor Corporation in 1968. Production of Daimler buses in Coventry ceased in 1973 when production of its last bus product (the Daimler Fleetline) was transferred to Leyland plant in Farington. The Daimler marque stayed within BLMC and its subsequent forms until 1982, at which point Jaguar (and Daimler) went their own way and the Austin Rover Group went the other.
Significant Daimler models for that period include:
- 1959-1968 Daimler Majestic Major
- 1959-1964 Daimler SP250 (B and C spec.)
- 1961-1967 Daimler DR450
- 1963-1969 Daimler 250
- 1968-1992 Daimler DS420 Limousine
Jaguar (Under Ford Ownership)
In 1989 the Ford Motor Company took over Jaguar and with it the right to use the Daimler name. In 1992, Daimler stopped production of the DS420 Limousine, the only model that was not just a re-badged Jaguar. In 1996 Jaguar Cars produced a "Daimler Century" model to celebrate 100 years of motoring.
The name 'Daimler' continued to be used to determine top-line XJ Jaguars (in every country except the USA, where the top line XJ was (and still is) known as the 'XJ Vanden Plas', as the company feared that the American market would confuse Jaguar Daimler with DaimlerChrysler ) until 2002, when, with the arrival of the new MKIII XJ, the Daimler name (seen on the MKII XJ as the 'Daimler V8') ceased to be used to mark out the top models, with the 'Jaguar Super V8' the new flagship model. Now, Daimler is back with the new 'Super Eight' model, and there are rumours that Jaguar may be designing a successor to the DS420 Limousine.
Significant Daimler Models for that period include:
- 1987 Daimler Double Six
- 1988 Daimler Davos
- 1996 Daimler Century
- 1996 Daimler Corsica
- 2002 Daimler Super V8 for HM The Queen
In July 2005, after a three-year hiatus, a new Daimler, the Super Eight, was presented, with a 4.2 L V8 supercharged engine which produces 291 kW (390 hp) and a torque rating of 533 N·m (393 ft·lbf) at 3500 rpm. It is derived from the Jaguar X350.
- 2005- Daimler Super Eight
Daimler in the media
The Daimler was a popular British police car in the 1960s and was featured in British films and TV series of that era. During their first Canadian tour, The Beatles rented and drove a Daimler motorhome. Popular 1980s television programme Minder regularly featured character Arthur Daley driving a Daimler Sovereign Series 3. A Daimler Limousine was the Queen Mother’s favorite car and, as befitted her position, was typically the car immediately following Her Majesty the Queen’s Rolls Royce, during official events. The funeral of Princess Diana featured a convoy of Daimler DS420 hearses and limousines and a Daimler hearse was used for the Queen Mother’s funeral as well. This is not to mention that the Queen's own car for personal use is a 2002 Daimler V8 Supercharged (based on the MkII XJ).
- Daimler Cars official web site
- Daimler (enthusiast page)
- vandenplas Daimler page
- Daimler Super Eight brochure
- Daimler (Daimler V8 250 enthusiast page)
- Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust
- Daimler Automobile History
- The Daimler DS420 Limousine
- Jaguar Enthusiasts Club
- Daimler and Lanchester Centre forum
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