It is hard to imagine today that the motor car was not very well received in Great Britain. At the time the first races were organized in France across the channel cars were only allowed on the road escorted by a man on foot waving a large red flag to warn pedestrians and animals alike for the dangerous machine approaching. These strict limitations might explain why F. R. Simms did nothing with the exclusive right to build Daimler engines in Great Britain he received in 1891. He sold the rights a few years later to Harry J. Lawson who subsequently formed the Daimler Motor Co. in 1896. The company first met the country's small demand by importing cars from Europe, but within a year production of the first British car commenced. A mix of a German engine and a chassis heavily inspired by Panhard & Lavasseur, the British Daimlers were immediately popular with the British nobles including the Royal Family. With the motor car now fully accepted and embraced by the upper class, Daimler thrived in the first two decades of the 20th century. Daimler's hugely diverse line-up catered to many budgets, but the company obviously took most pride in their many Royal customers. In this niche market Rolls Royce had gradually eased in as Daimler's main rival and when the Phantom was launched in 1925 the Coventry based company had their work cut out to do one better.
Apart from being exceptionally well put together, Daimlers offered an extremely quiet ride thanks to adoption of the Knight patented sleeve valve engines. These used sliding valves to open and close the intake and exhaust ports in complete silence. This was quite a contrast to the rattle usually produced by the conventional camshaft actuated valve. A drawback of this configuration was that the valves required lubrication to work properly, resulting in a visible oil-smoke trail wherever one ventured out with a sleeve valve Daimler. Just like the Phantom, the then current line up of Daimlers all featured six cylinder engines, so to really take centre stage something a little more exotic was required; a V12. Aptly named the Double Six, the new engine was designed by the company's chief engineer L. H. Pomeroy. Using the basic design of the six cylinder engines, consisting of two sets of three cylinders, he relatively easily created the new engine with the aluminium crankcase being the only completely new part. Each bank of six cylinders had a separate intake, exhaust and ignition system. In the process Pomeroy also refined the sleeve-valve design by replacing the cast-iron valves with more precisely manufactured steel ones, which significantly lowered the oil consumption.
Production of the Daimler Double Six commenced in 1926 and although the model remained available until 1937, a production figure of as low as 26 is frequently quoted, but a figure closer to 75 seems more likely. All of them were built to meet the special demands of the owners and as a result no two were alike. The V12 engine was also available in a very wide variety of displacements ranging from the initial 7136cc for the 'Double Six 50' to 3477cc for the 'Double Six 30'. Being the most complex and exotic machine available at the time, the Double Six appealed to local and foreign Royals. Britain's King George owned two seven person limousines and King Hussain of Jordan was driven around in an open example. Daimler's top model did not only form the basis for lavish luxury vehicles, but also for a number of 'sporty' fixed head and drop top models. All of them shared a conventional pressed steel ladder frame chassis of which the wheelbase varied from very long to even longer. There was one notable exception, which sported a custom chassis constructed by Thompson and Taylor to a design penned by Reid Railton. It differed from the other chassis that it had an underslung rear end, which made the rolling chassis considerably lower. Railton would later use this design for the highly acclaimed Invicta S-Type. Before being bodied and sold to its first customer, the low-chassis Daimler was used as a demonstrator of Daimler's excellence for a considerable time.
Featured is one of the second generation Daimler Double Sixes introduced in 1931. The 50 and 30 models were replaced by new 40/50 and 30/40 models featuring new 6.5 and 5.3 litre engines respectively. The rest of the car was also brought up to date with more advanced lubrication used throughout and a preselector gearbox was now standard equipment. Both models were available until 1935 and the 40/50 made a brief return in 1937 with a conventional valve-train probably to get rid of surplus stock. Daimler had finally come to conclusion that the advantages of the sleeve-valve system did not make up for the increased complexity and oil consumption. Commissioned by Herbert Wilcox for his wife and famous film star Anna Neagle, the pictured Double Six sports a handsome Sport Saloon body designed by H. R. Owen and constructed by Martin Walter. With a wheelbase of over four metres, it is the largest Double Six ever built. Over time the complex V12 engine probably failed as it was at some point replaced by a Buick 'eight'. More recently, the unique Daimler has been brought back to its original specification and has since toured the world's finest concours d'elegance, highlighted by a 'Best of Show' at Pebble Beach in 1999. It is seen here at the 2006 Meadowbrook Concours d'Elegance and The Quail, a Motorsports Gathering.