SP250 (unofficially known as the Daimler Dart) 1959 - 1964
the late 1950's, the Daimler company was experiencing
financial problems, and the directors decided to attempt to
increase the companies revenues by capitalising on the
interest, predominantly from the US market, in sports cars,
as MG, Triumph and Jaguar had.
Daimler introduced a pre-production they named the Daimler
Dart, at the New York Auto Show at the beginning of 1959,
but renamed it after the Chrysler Company let it be known that they had
already registered the name for Dodge,
which had used the Dart name on a concept car. They planned
to launch the name on a Dodge production car in 1960.
Consequently Daimler renamed the car "Sports 250.''
This name was soon changed to just "SP250''.
SP (for sports) 250 (2.5 litre
in 1959 the Daimler SP250 was impressively fast, mainly
thanks to the new engineer, Edward Turner, who previously
worked for Triumph motorcycles. He designed an all new 2.5
litre, hemispheric-combustion chambered, overhead valve - V8
engine, with twin SU carburettors
which was influenced by an earlier Triumph motorcycle
design. Itís price
on launch was £1,395.
only weighed 2,220 pounds, so its engine provided very
lively. It developed 140
horsepower at 5,800 rpm and 155 pounds-feet of torque at
3,600, enough to propel the 1,025 kg (2,220 lb) car from
zero to 96 km/h (60 mph) in a very respectable 9 seconds.
this compared favourably to itís contemporaries of
the time, the TR3 (13.2 sec), the Austin Healey Mk1 (11.4
sec) and the MGA (14.6 sec). The
top speed for the SP250 was 196 km/h (122 mph).
SP250ís chassis bore many similarities to the Triumph TR3A but initially
it lacked rigidity. This was proved by a quirk with the
doors, which had an embarrassing habit of opening during
enthusiastic cornering manoeuvres. This was later improved
with design changes post 1961.
Itís front coil springs and A-arms were the same as the
Triumph's, and the four-speed manual transmission was
similar. The SP250 was later offered with a three-speed
automatic gearbox for the US market.
British police departments even bought the car
as a high speed traffic pursuit
car. An advanced Dunlop all-disc brake system
provided necessarily good stopping ability.
production costs, and to save
money on metal stamping dies, as
Daimler didn't plan large scale production of the Dart,
the body was made of glass-fibre over a metal frame.
This was a fairly rare at the time, although it had been
used by Lotus and a few other manufacturers.
was configured as a two-seater convertible with a basically
unusable back seat. It was
designed with a large rounded hood that sloped down to a
wide, oval, egg-crate grille. This was dominated by a big
"V" used to advertise the rare, for Great Britain, V-8
engine. The familiar Daimler flutes surrounded the grille.
Styling character lines, were probably made more for body
stiffening than for character, curved over the front and
rear fenders. In the era of tailfins, the Daimler SP250 had
them. The SP250 was designed with roll-up windows
instead of the awkward, leaky plastic side curtains. And the
SP250 could be purchased with a lift-off hardtop to go with
the folding fabric top.
The Daimler SP250 got off to a somewhat slow sales start, in
part because of quality problems with its body. During 1960
B.S.A. sold Daimler to Jaguar, and with Jaguar's
sensational new E-type sports car due in 1961,
the SP250 wasn't given the attention it deserved.
In the immediate post-acquisition period of Daimler and
for the next 6 years Daimler was run as a division and
enjoyed the opportunity to sell their new SP250 sports cars
in competition against Jaguar.
During the six year production run the SP250 underwent two
further specification changes. These specification changes
are now known as the "B" and "C" spec' cars.
Daimler upgraded the SP250 in 1961 by stiffening the body
and making bumpers standard equipment. There were further
improvements in 1963, but due to its early slow start and
poor quality reputation which seemed to plague it to the end
of itís production, in mid-1964. Only 2,648 SP250ís were
of what was originally envisioned
and then Daimler was out of the sports car business. SP250s
had an extensive and successful competition history in the
UK, USA, New Zealand and Australia.
SP250 is one of the most sought-after post-war Daimler, with
buyers paying extremely high prices for relatively
'ordinary' examples. While itís unusual styling enhances
its interest and appeal as a true icon of the sixties.