History Page

 

History of  the Daimler SP250 ( Dart )

 

Daimler SP250 (unofficially known as the Daimler Dart)   1959 - 1964

 During 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 engine).  

Launched 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. 

The SP250 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).

The 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. Some 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. 

To reduce 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.  

The car 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 built, about 10% 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.

Today the 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.

 
 
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