In the wake of the unsuccessful 1953 Daimler Conquest roadster, the stalwart British automaker regrouped and took another shot at the red-hot sports car market. In a clear demonstration of their target market, Daimler unveiled their distinctive take on the classic British roadster in 1959, choosing the New York Auto Show to debut the flamboyant new sports car rather than London. All along, Daimler had intended to call the car the Dart, although a protest from Chrysler after the New York show forced a last-minute name change to the internal model code – SP250. The SP250 was the last complete car developed by BSA-owned Daimler before Jaguar’s takeover, and it lives on as one of the most distinctive and unique of all the postwar-era British roadsters.
The SP250’s styling was aimed at American audiences, with its flashy tail fins, broad chrome grille, and heavily stylized body sides. Daimler attained the curvaceous form through the use of glassfibre for the body, which sat on a steel ladder chassis based on the Triumph TR3. Glassfibre was inexpensive to manufacture, and the Triumph chassis saved considerable development costs. The SP250’s trump card was the compact, hemi-head 2.5-litre V8 engine. With 140 bhp at 5,800 RPM, the V8 engine and lightweight composite body made the SP250 one of the quickest cars in its class and could easily hang with Austin Healeys and Jaguars, costing considerably more. Even the London Metropolitan Police were impressed with the SP250’s performance and ordered approximately 25-30 cars for high-speed motorway enforcement duty.
Daimler expected to shift 3,000 SP250s per year, but ultimately, just 2,654 were built over a 5-year run. The company’s sale to Jaguar did little to help, as Jaguar had their own successful sports cars, and the SP250 was out of place, despite efforts by Sir William Lyons to develop it further.
This 1960 SP250 roadster is an appealing and attractive example of Daimler’s gusty little V8 sports car. It is presented with a well-maintained, older restoration that shows well thanks to regular maintenance and care. The striking metallic blue paint is complemented by a crème beige interior, chrome wire wheels, and whitewall radial tires. Paint quality is excellent overall, and the glassfibre body shows good panel fit and crisp definition. Exterior trim is also in good order, with consistent, attractive chrome plating on the wheels, grille, and optional front bumper. Complementing the exterior color scheme is a lovely light beige interior. The seats and door panels are in excellent condition, and the SP250 offers respectable room in the cabin, though the rear bench is best left for riding “side-saddle.” Clean tan carpets and crisp, clear Smiths dials round out the purposeful cockpit.
Under the bonnet rests a period-correct 2.5-litre V8 engine, fed by twin SU carburetors. The engine bay is neat and orderly, with good detailing of the components and ancillaries. American muscle fans might double-take when they see the distinct valve covers looking like miniature versions of a MoPar Hemi. The exhaust note will also turn heads, as the little V8 emits an addictive and throaty tone. This Daimler is a distinct pleasure to drive on the road, with surefooted handling from the double-wishbone front/live axle rear suspension. Four-wheel disc brakes ensure ample stopping power as well.
In the world of Austin Healeys, MGs, and Triumphs, the quirky and distinctive Daimler stands apart as the individualist’s pick of British roadsters, and this fine example will surely bring many miles of enjoyment to its next long-term caretaker.
Offers welcome and trades considered