The Daimler Dart was introduced at the 1959 New York Motor Show, and it that time it was the fastest car Daimler had ever produced. Eventually the name Dart had to be dropped because of Dodge copy rights, and the car became officially known as the SP250.
The glass fibre body covered a beautifully designed 2.5 litre OHV V8, which produced 140 BHP. The engine was designed by Edward Turner, and was apparently based on a Cadillac bottom part and also used the combustion chambers of the Turner designed Triumph vertical twin motorcycle engine. It was primarily destined for the lucrative American market.
In 1960 the Daimler company was taken over by Jaguar, and one of the first things Jaguar did was work on the chassis, which they found: "extremely unrefined". Contemporary road tests mentioned the opening of doors during hefty cornering. Jaguar even went as far as shipping back unsold cars from the USA to be updated to B-spec. The car reappeared in a so-called B-spec with not only a stiffer chassis but also a number of cosmetic changes and a "generally better finish". Jaguar even went as far as shipping back unsold cars from the USA to be refitted to B-spec. The final version (C-spec) had such luxuries as a heater/demister and a cigar lighter as standard.
The quality of the SP250 was reflected in the fact that the UK Metropolitan police had a fleet of 9 black painted Darts fitted with automatic gearboxes, a welcome change to the ubiquitous MkIIs that they were running as their fast cars.
Production lasted until 1964, when 2645 examples were built. Shown here is freshly restored example proudly presented by its owner at the 2005 Silverstone Classic.
I grew up in Southern West Virginia, but that didn't stop my Dad from buying some rather exotic (for West Virginia) automobiles. One being a Damiler SP250. Prior to my Dad's involvement with the car, it was tailended by a Pick Up truck; all the way to the rear seat. The car had been totaled by the insurance company and Dad bought it for a song. He did all repairs himself. The car had some interesting attributes (some good and some bad). The bad was, in my opinion, the body style, which looked like the designers worked in group with one doing the front end, another doing the rear end, and another worked on the interior - unfortunately, these groups never talked to each other. The resulting body reflected my theory. The ride was very ox-cart in quality. The transmission was fairly typical of British cars at the time - 4 speed, syncro on the upper 3 cogs. The interior was nicely done in leather and a high quality carpeting. The beauty of this car was the engine; powerful (140 HP), smooth, and very tractable. One could put the car in 4th, and throttle back to a walking pace, without downshifting, floor the throttle and the car would just gain speed until the throttle was released, no complaints were felt nor heard. The car was a mixed bag. Had it had a more attractive body, a full syncro transmission, and a little more compliant suspension, Daimler would have had a winner - otherwise it was a ill thought out automobile - another missed opportunity by a another British car company.
Country of origin
1959 - 1964
Front, longitudinally mounted
iron block, alloy head
2.548 liter / 155.5 cu in
Bore / Stroke
76.2 mm (3 in) / 69.9 mm (2.8 in)
2 valves / cylinder, OHV
2 SU HD8 Carburettors
142 bhp / 106 KW
@ 5800 rpm
210 Nm / 155 ft lbs
@ 3600 rpm
56 bhp / liter
wishbones, coil springs, telescopic dampers
live axle, semi-elliptic springs, lever arm dampers
cam and lever
4 speed Manual
Rear wheel drive
948 kilo / 2090 lbs
Length / Width / Height
4072 mm (160.3 in) / 1537 mm (60.5 in) / 1276 mm (50.2 in)