The Daimler Dart was a fiberglass-bodied sports car produced by Daimler in the United Kingdom from 1959 to 1964. It was launched as the Daimler Dart at the New York Motor Show in April 1959, but Chrysler, whose Dodge division owned the trademark for the “Dart” model name, ordered Daimler to change the name under threat of legal action. With little time to come up with a new name, Daimler used the project number, SP250, as the model number.
The SP250 was powered by a 2.5-liter V8 engine that produced 140 horsepower, giving the car a top speed of 120 mph. It was also equipped with disc brakes on all four wheels, making it one of the first production cars to do so.
The SP250 was a controversial car from the start, due to its radical styling. The car had a gaping grille, whisk-like bumper overriders, and a long, sleek body that some said resembled an angry catfish. However, the SP250 was also praised for its performance and handling.
The SP250 was only produced for five years, with a total of 2,654 cars built. It was initially expensive, but prices have fallen in recent years, making it a more affordable classic car to own.
Today, the SP250 is a highly sought-after collector’s car. It is known for its unique styling, excellent performance, and rarity.
Introduction to Daimler Dart
The Daimler Dart was first introduced at the New York Motor Show in 1959, where it caused quite a stir with its unique design and powerful performance. It was marketed as a high-performance and affordable sports car, targeting a wider audience than its competitors. The name “Dart” was chosen to evoke a sense of speed and agility, which perfectly reflected the car’s capabilities on the road.
History of Daimler Dart
The story of the Daimler Dart begins in 1956 when the British automobile manufacturer Daimler was acquired by Jaguar Cars Ltd. At the time, Daimler was struggling financially and needed a new model to boost its sales. With the success of the Jaguar XK series, the company saw an opportunity to enter the growing sports car market. The project was led by Daimler’s chief engineer, Edward Turner, who had previously worked on designing motorcycle engines for Triumph.
Turner designed a compact and lightweight V8 engine for the Daimler Dart, which was a first for the company. The engine had an impressive output of 140 horsepower and could propel the car from 0 to 60 mph in just 9 seconds, making it one of the fastest cars of its time. The chassis was based on the Triumph TR3, with some modifications to accommodate the V8 engine. The body design was handled by Bert Lawrence, who created a sleek and aerodynamic shape that was both eye-catching and functional.
However, despite its promising start, the Daimler Dart faced several challenges during its production. One of the major setbacks was the poor quality control during the early stages of production, leading to various mechanical issues and reliability concerns. This resulted in a negative reputation for the car, and sales were affected. Additionally, the Daimler Dart faced stiff competition from other popular sports cars such as the Jaguar E-Type and the Porsche 356, which were more established in the market.
In 1961, Daimler was acquired by British Motor Corporation (BMC), and the production of the Daimler Dart was moved to a BMC factory. However, the merger did not improve the car’s sales, and in 1964, after only 2,654 units were produced, production was halted, and Daimler discontinued the model.
Design and Features of Daimler Dart
The Daimler Dart is a two-seater sports car with a lightweight fiberglass body mounted on a steel chassis. Its design was heavily influenced by American sports cars of the 1950s, with its long hood, short rear deck, and low-slung profile. It also featured distinctive front grilles, large fender flares, and a curved windshield, giving it a unique and aggressive look.
The interior of the Daimler Dart was simple yet elegant, with leather seats and a wooden dashboard. It also had a comfortable and spacious cabin, making it suitable for long drives. One of the standout features of the Daimler Dart was its hood, which opened forward, revealing the entire engine bay – a feature that was rare in sports cars of that time.
Performance of Daimler Dart
The Daimler Dart’s performance was impressive, thanks to its lightweight design and powerful V8 engine. It could reach a top speed of 125 mph and had excellent handling and braking capabilities. Its suspension was also praised for providing a smooth and comfortable ride, even on rough roads.
However, as mentioned earlier, the Daimler Dart faced reliability issues during its production, mainly due to poor quality control. This affected its overall performance and reputation, making it less competitive in the sports car market.
Legacy and Impact of Daimler Dart
Despite its short production run, the Daimler Dart left a lasting impact on the automobile industry. It was one of the first British sports cars to feature a fiberglass body, paving the way for other manufacturers to adopt this material in their designs. It also introduced the use of disc brakes, which were later adopted by other sports car makers.
Moreover, the Daimler Dart has a dedicated fan base and remains a highly sought-after classic car among collectors. Its unique design and impressive performance have made it a timeless classic, with restored models selling for high prices at auctions.
Buying Guide for Daimler Dart
If you are considering buying a Daimler Dart, there are a few things to keep in mind. Firstly, due to its relatively low production numbers, finding an original and well-maintained model can be challenging. However, with proper research and patience, you may be able to find one. It is essential to thoroughly inspect the car for any mechanical issues, especially with the engine and suspension. Other factors to consider include the car’s history, previous ownership, and restoration work.
It is also important to understand that due to its rarity, spare parts for the Daimler Dart may be difficult to find, and they can be quite expensive. Therefore, it is crucial to factor in maintenance costs before making a purchase.
Maintenance Tips for Daimler Dart
To keep your Daimler Dart in top condition, regular maintenance is necessary. Here are some tips to help you take care of your classic car:
- Regularly check and change the engine oil and oil filter.
- Keep an eye on the cooling system and ensure that the radiator is functioning correctly.
- Check the brakes regularly and replace worn-out brake pads or discs.
- Lubricate all moving parts, including door hinges and window mechanisms.
- Inspect the tires and replace them if they show signs of wear.
- Keep the body clean and waxed to prevent rusting.
- Store the car in a cool and dry place, away from direct sunlight and moisture.
Frequently Asked Questions about Daimler Dart
- How many Daimler Darts were produced?
- A total of 2,654 Daimler Darts were produced between 1959 and 1964.
- Is the Daimler Dart a convertible?
- No, the Daimler Dart is a hard-top sports car with a fixed roof.
- Who designed the Daimler Dart?
- The design of the Daimler Dart was handled by Bert Lawrence, while Edward Turner was responsible for the engine design.
- What is the top speed of the Daimler Dart?
- The top speed of the Daimler Dart is 125 mph.
- Does the Daimler Dart have any famous owners?
- Yes, famous owners of the Daimler Dart include actress Jayne Mansfield and musician Eric Clapton.
Comparing Daimler Dart with Other Classic Cars
The Daimler Dart stands out among other classic sports cars due to its unique design and powerful performance. However, when compared to other popular models of its time, such as the Jaguar E-Type and the Porsche 356, it falls short in terms of sales numbers and overall reputation. Nevertheless, the Daimler Dart holds its own in terms of style and driving experience, making it a desirable classic car for many.
Conclusion: Why Daimler Dart is a Timeless Classic
The Daimler Dart may have had a relatively short production run, but its impact on the automobile industry and its timeless design have solidified its place in history. Despite facing numerous challenges during its production and sales, the Daimler Dart remains an iconic and sought-after classic car that continues to captivate enthusiasts and collectors. Its unique design, impressive performance, and lasting legacy make it a worthy addition to any collection.