Rover is a former British car manufacturing company founded as Starley & Sutton Co. of Coventry in 1878. It is the direct ancestor of the present day Land Rover company, which is a subsidiary of Jaguar Land Rover, in turn owned by the Tata Group.
The company traded as Rover, manufacturing cars between 1904 and 1967, when it was sold to Leyland Motor Corporation, becoming the Rover marque. The Rover marque was used on cars produced by British Leyland (BL), who separated the assets of the original Rover Company as Land Rover in 1978 whilst the Rover trademark continued to be used on vehicles produced by its successor companies – the Austin Rover Group(1982–1986), the Rover Group (1986–2000), and then finally MG Rover (2000–2005). Following MG Rover’s collapse in 2005, the Rover marque became dormant, and was subsequently sold to Ford, by now the owners of Land Rover, a move which effectively reunited the Rover trademark with the original company.
The Polish word now most commonly used for bicycle – rower originates from Rover bicycles which had both wheels of the same size (previous models usually had one bigger, one smaller – see Penny-farthing, and were called in Polish bicykl, from English bicycle).
The first Rover was a tricycle manufactured by Starley & Sutton Co. of Coventry, England, in 1883. The company was founded by John Kemp Starley and William Sutton in 1878. Starley had previously worked with his uncle, James Starley (father of the cycle trade), who began by manufacturing sewing machines and switched to bicycles in 1869.
J. K. Starley & Co. Ltd ‘Rover’ bicycle advertisement
In the early 1880s, the cycles available were the relatively dangerous penny-farthings and high-wheel tricycles. J.K. Starley made history in 1885 by producing the Rover Safety Bicycle—a rear-wheel-drive, chain-driven cycle with two similar-sized wheels, making it more stable than the previous high-wheel designs. Cycling Magazine said the Rover had “set the pattern to the world”; the phrase was used in their advertising for many years. Starley’s Rover is usually described by historians as the first recognisably modern bicycle.
The words for “bicycle” in Polish (Rower) and Belarusian (Rovar, Ро́вар) are derived from the name of the company. The word ровер is also used in many parts of Western Ukraine.
In 1889, the company became J.K. Starley & Co. Ltd., and in the late 1890s, the Rover Cycle Company Ltd.
In 1899 John Starley imported some of the early Peugeot motorcycles from France in for experimental development. His first project was to fit an engine to one of his Rover bicycles. Starley died early in October 1901 aged 46 and the business was taken over by entrepreneur H. J. Lawson.
1912 Rover 3-speed
The company developed and produced the Rover Imperial motorcycle in November 1902. This was a 3.5 hp diamond-framed motorcycle with the engine in the centre and ‘springer’ front forks which was ahead of its time.This first Rover motorcycle had innovative features such as a spray carburettor, bottom-bracket engine and mechanically operated valves. With a strong frame with double front down tubes and a good quality finish, over a thousand Rover motorcycles were sold in 1904. The following year, however, Rover stopped motorcycle production to concentrate on their ‘safety bicycle’ but in 1910 designer John Greenwood was commissioned to develop a new 3.5 hp 500 cc engine with spring-loaded tappets, a Bosch magneto and an innovative inverted tooth drive chain. It had a Brown and Barlow carburettor and Druid spring forks. This new model was launched at the 1910 Olympia show and over 500 were sold.
In 1913 a ‘TT’ model was launched with a shorter wheelbase and sports handlebars. The ‘works team’ of Dudley Noble and Chris Newsome had some success and won the works team award.
1920 Rover 500 cc
Rover supplied 499 cc single cylinder motorcycles to the Russian Army during the First World War. The company began to focus on car production at the end of the war, but Rover still produced motorcycles with 248 cc and 348 cc Rover overhead valve engines and with J.A.P. engines, including a 676 cc V-twin. In 1924 Rover introduced a new lightweight 250cc motorcycle with unit construction of engine and gearbox. This had lights front and rear as well as a new design of internal expanding brakes.
Poor sales of their motorcycles caused Rover to end motorcycle production and concentrate solely on the production of motor cars. Between 1903 and 1924 Rover had produced more than 10,000 motorcycles.
In 1888, Starley made an electric car, but it never was put into production.
Three years after Starley’s death in 1901, and H. J. Lawson’s subsequent takeover, the Rover company began producing automobiles with the two-seater Rover Eight to the designs of Edmund Lewis, who came from Lawson’s Daimler. Lewis left the company to join Deasy in late 1905. He was eventually replaced by Owen Clegg, who joined from Wolseley in 1910 and set about reforming the product range. Short-lived experiments with sleeve valve engines were abandoned, and the 12hp model was introduced in 1912. This car was so successful that all other cars were dropped, and for a while, Rover pursued a “one model” policy. Clegg left to join the French company Darracq in 1912.
The business was not very successful during the 1920s and did not pay a dividend from 1923 until the mid-1930s. In December 1928 the chairman of Rover advised shareholders that the accumulation of the substantial losses of the 1923–1928 years together with the costs of that year’s reorganisation must be recognised by a reduction of 60 per cent in the value of capital of the company.
During 1928 Frank Searle was appointed managing director to supervise recovery. Searle was by training a locomotive engineer with motor industry experience at Daimler and, most recently, had been managing director of Imperial Airways. On his recommendation Spencer Wilks was brought in from Hillman as general manager and appointed to the board in 1929. That year, Searle split Midland Light Car Bodies from Rover in an effort to save money and instructed Robert Boyle and Maurice Wilks to design a new small car.
This was the Rover Scarab with a rear-mounted V-twin-cylinder air-cooled engine announced in 1931, a van version was shown at Olympia, but it did not go into production. During this time the Rover 10/25 was introduced, with bodies made by the Pressed Steel Company. This was the same body as used on the Hillman Minx. Prior to this time Rover had been a great supporter of the very light Weymann bodies that went suddenly out of fashion with the demand for shiny coachwork and more curved body shapes. Weymann bodies remained in the factory catalogue until 1933.
Frank Searle and Spencer Wilks set about reorganising the company and moving it upmarket to cater for people who wanted something “superior” to Fords and Austins. In 1930 Spencer Wilks was joined by his brother, Maurice, who had also been at Hillman as chief engineer. Spencer Wilks was to stay with the company until 1962, and his brother until 1963.
The company showed profits in the 1929 and 1930 years but with the economic downturn in 1931 Rover reported a loss of £77,529. 1932 produced a loss of £103,000 but a turn around following yet more reorganization resulted in a profit of £46,000 in 1933. The new assembly operations in Australia and New Zealand were closed.
Frank Searle left the board near the end of the calendar year 1931, his work done.
In the late 1930s, in anticipation of the potential hostilities that would become the Second World War, the British government started a rearmament programme, and as part of this, “shadow factories” were built. These were paid for by the government but staffed and run by private companies. Two were run by Rover: one, at Acocks Green, Birmingham, started operation in 1937, and a second, larger one, at Solihull, started in 1940. Both were employed making aero engines and airframes. The original main works at Helen Street, Coventry, was severely damaged by bombing in 1940 and 1941 and never regained full production.
In early 1940, Rover was approached by Frank Whittle to do work for Whittle’s company, Power Jets. This led to a proposal from Power Jets in which Rover would put forward £50,000 of capital in exchange for shares in Power Jets. Rover contacted the Air Ministry (AM) regarding the proposal, which ultimately led to an arrangement between Rover and former Power Jets contractor British Thomson-Houston (BTH) to develop and produce Whittle’s jet engine. The Air Ministry had left Whittle and Power Jets out of these negotiations. Rover chief engineer Maurice Wilks led the team to develop the engine, improving the performance over the original Whittle design. The first test engines to the W.2B design were built in a former cotton mill in Barnoldswick, Lancashire which Rover moved into in June 1941 (along with Waterloo Mill in Clitheroe). Testing commenced towards the end of October 1941.
A need for greater expertise within the project, along with difficult relations between Rover management and Frank Whittle (not least because Rover under AM approval had secretly designed a different engine layout, known within Rover as the B.26, which they thought was superior), led to Rover handing over their part in the jet engine project and the Barnoldswick factory to Rolls-Royce in exchange for the latter’s Meteor tank engine factory at Ascot Road, Nottingham, the result of a handshake deal between Rover’s Spencer Wilks and Rolls-Royce’s Ernest Hives made in a local inn in Clitheroe. The official hand-over date was 1 April 1943, though there was a considerable overlap, and several key Rover staff such as Adrian Lombard and John Herriot, the latter being at Rover on secondment from the Air Inspection Department (AID) of the AM, moved to Rolls-Royce. In exchange for the jet engine project and its facilities, Rover was given the contract and production equipment to make Meteor tank engines, which continued until 1964. Although Rolls-Royce under Stanley Hooker were soon to be able to start producing the Whittle-designed W.2B/23 engine (known within Rover as the B.23, later named by Rolls-Royce the Welland), they evaluated the 4 Lombard/Herriot re-designed Rover W.2B/B.26 engines under test at the time of the takeover, and selected the Rover design for their own jet engine development (it became the Rolls-Royce Derwent engine).
After the Second World War, the company abandoned Helen Street and bought the two shadow factories. Acocks Green carried on for a while, making Meteor engines for tanks such as the Centurion and Conqueror, and Solihull became the new centre for vehicles, with production resuming in 1947. This was the year Rover produced the Rover 12 Sports Tourer. 200 cars were built for the export market but all had RHD so many cars stayed in the UK. Solihull would become the home of the Land Rover.
Rover JET Gas Turbine Experimental Car
Despite the difficulties experienced with the jet engine project, Rover was interested in the development of the gas turbine engine to power vehicles. In 1945, Rover hired engineers Frank Bell and Spen King away from Rolls-Royce to assist Maurice Wilks in the development of automotive gas turbines. By 1949, the team developed a turbine that ran at 55,000 rpm, produced more than 100 horsepower (75 kW), and could run on petrol,paraffin, or diesel oil. Rover’s early turbine engines consumed fuel at a rate much greater than piston engines, equivalent to 6 miles per imperial gallon (5.0 mpg-US; 47 L/100 km). Although fuel consumption was later reduced by using a heat exchanger, it was never as low as that of contemporary piston engines.
In March 1950, Rover showed the JET1 prototype, the first car powered with a gas turbine engine, to the public. JET1, an open two-seat tourer, had the engine positioned behind the seats, air intake grilles on either side of the car, and exhaust outlets on the top of the tail. During tests, the car reached a top speed of 88 mph (142 km/h). After being shown in the United Kingdom and the United States in 1950, JET1 was further developed, and was subjected to speed trials on the Jabbeke highway in Belgium in June 1952, where it exceeded 150 miles per hour (240 km/h). JET1 is currently on display at the London Science Museum.
Four further prototypes were built, the P4-based front-engined T2 and rear-engined T2A saloons, the rear-engined four-wheel-drive T3 coupé, and the front-engined front-wheel drive T4 saloon.
Rover and the BRM Formula One team joined forces to produce the Rover-BRM, a gas turbine-powered sports prototype that entered the 1963 24 hours of Le Mans, driven by Graham Hill and Richie Ginther. It averaged 107.8 mph (173 km/h) and had a top speed of 142 mph (229 km/h).
Rover also ran several experimental diesel engine projects in relation to the Land Rover. The 2-litre, 52 horsepower (39 kW) diesel unit designed and built by Rover for its 4×4 had entered production in 1956 and was one of Britain’s first modern high-speed automotive diesel engines. Experimental projects were undertaken to improve the engine’s power delivery, running qualities, and fuel tolerances. British Army requirements led to the development of a multifuel version of the 2.25-litre variant of the engine in 1962, which could run on petrol, diesel, Jet-A, or kerosene. However, the engine’s power output when running on low-grade fuel was too low for the Army’s uses. Rover developed a highly advanced (for the time) turbodiesel version of its engine in the mid-1960s to power its experimental ‘129-inch’ heavy duty Land Rover designs. This 2.5-litre engine used a turbocharger built by Rover’s gas turbine division as well as an intercooler. This was one of the first times these features had been incorporated on such a small-capacity diesel unit, but they were not adopted.
After the Leyland Motor Corporation takeover, the Rover Gas Turbine was used in a number of Leyland trucks, including one shown at the 1968 Commercial Motor Show. Rover gas turbines also powered the first Advanced Passenger Train.
The 1950s and ’60s were fruitful years for the company. The Land Rover became a runaway success (despite Rover’s reputation for making upmarket saloons, the utilitarian Land Rover was actually the company’s biggest seller throughout the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s), as well as the P5 and P6 saloons equipped with a 3.5L (215ci) aluminium V8 (the design and tooling of which was purchased from Buick) and pioneering research into gas turbine-fueled vehicles.
As the ’60s drew to a close Rover was working on a number of innovative projects. Having purchased the Alvis company in 1965 Rover was working on a V8-powered supercar to sell under the Alvis name. The prototype, called the P6BS, was completed and the finalised styling and engineering proposal, the P9, was drawn up. Rover was also working on the P8 project which aimed to replace the existing P5 large saloon with a modern design similar in concept to a scaled-up P6.
When Leyland Motors joined with British Motor Holdings and Rover and Jaguar became corporate partners these projects were cancelled to prevent internal competition with Jaguar products. The P8 in particular was cancelled in a very late stage of preparation- Rover had already ordered the dies and stamping equipment for making the car’s body panels at Pressed Steel when ordered to stop work.
Rover continued to develop its ‘100-inch Station Wagon’, which became the ground-breaking Range Rover, launched in 1970. This also used the ex-Buick V8 engine as well as the P6’s innovative safety-frame body structure design and features such as permanent four-wheel drive and all-round disc brakes. The Range Rover was initially designed as a utility vehicle which could offer the off-road capability of the Land Rover, but in a more refined and car-like package.
This Rover prototype for a midengined sports car was shown to the press in 1967, but politics in the wake of the BLMC merger got in the way, and the model never entered production.
In 1967, Rover became part of the Leyland Motor Corporation (LMC), which already owned Triumph. The next year, LMC merged with British Motor Holdings (BMH) to become the British Leyland Motor Corporation (BLMC). This was the beginning of the end for the independent Rover Company, as the Solihull-based company’s heritage drowned beneath the infamous industrial relations and managerial problems that beset the British motor industry throughout the 1970s. At various times, it was part of the Specialist Division (hence the factory designation SD1 for the first—and in the event, only—model produced under this arrangement), Leyland Cars, Rover-Triumph, and the short-lived Jaguar Rover Triumph. The Land Rover products however had flourished during the turbulent BLMC years, with the Range Rover in particular generating sizeable revenues for the company as it moved further upmarket. After the Ryder Report in 1975, Land Rover was split from Rover in 1978 as a separate operating company within British Leyland, and all Rover car production at Solihull ended and was switched to the Austin-Morris plants in Longbridge and Cowley for the rest of the marque’s existence. The Range Rover subsequently went on to become BL’s flagship product, after Jaguar was de-merged and privatised in 1984.
British Leyland entered into a collaborative venture with the Honda Motor Corporation of Japan, which resulted in a whole generation of Rover-badged vehicles which shared engineering with contemporary Honda models, which would sustain the beleaguered company and its successors until the mid-1990s.
Sale to BAe, and divestment
In 1988 the business was sold by the British Government to British Aerospace (BAe), and shortly after shortened its name to just Rover Group. They subsequently sold the business in 1994 to BMW. Honda, which had owned a 20% share in partnership with BAe, exited the business when BAe sold its share to BMW.
BMW, after initially seeking to retain the whole, decided only to retain the Cowley operations for MINI production. Land Rover was sold by BMW to Ford. The Longbridge production facility, along with the Rover and Morris Garages marques, was taken on by former Rover executive John Towers in April 2000 for a derisory sum under the marque MG Rover. The Towers administration of MG was declared insolvent in April 2005 and the business was later refloated under the ownership of Nanjing Automobile, who moved production to China.
Legally the Rover marque is the property of Land Rover under the terms of Ford’s purchase of the name in 2006. The company is now known as Jaguar Land Rover Limited, Land Rover having been sold by Ford to Tata Motors in 2008. As part of the deal with Tata the Rover marque had to remain as property of Land Rover.
The history of the Rover Company goes back to 1881 when the Coventry Sewing Machine Company was founded. From sewing machines, they graduated to manufacturing bicycles in 1869. The first Rover machine was a tricycle which appeared in 1884 and a year later the new safety bicycle appeared and the company then became known as JK Starley & Co Ltd.
John Starley’s safety bicycle was the prototype of the modern pedal cycle and was developed to overcome the balancing problems of the common penny-farthing cycle. Tricycles had been easier to control than the high and ungainly “ordinaries as the penny farthings had come to be known, but were not as maneuverable and were much more expensive.
John Starley’s safety bicycle featured a rear wheel that was driven by a chain and gearing which would reduce the effort required by the rider and would enable the front wheel diameter to be dramatically reduced.
Once his safety bicycle had proved a success, Starley began experimenting with an electrically driven battery-powered tricycle. The batteries were placed in a wicker basket above and behind the rear axle with the electric motor fitted underneath. Unfortunately, it was not a success as the performance and range was pitiful and once the batteries had gone flat, the dead weight of the machine would have taxed even the strongest of riders.
Starley’s safety bicycles caught on rapidly and the business went from strength to strength with rapidly rising sales which made John Starley a wealthy man.
In June 1896, Starley formed the Rover Cycle Co Ltd which operated from the New Meteor Works. In its first year of operation, the new company built 11000 cycles and returned a profit of 21,945 pounds. At about this time, an entrepreneur by the name of Harry Lawson had arrived in Coventry and taken over a disused cotton mill in order to manufacture his license-built Daintier motor car. Lawson was a man who was going places and, expanding by acquisition, tried to induce Starley to join forces with him. Starley would have no part of it, but it did get him thinking about engines and their possibilities.
Starley imported several Peugeot motorcycles from France in 1899 for observation and experimental work. This was a natural progression as by the end of the nineteenth century the motor car phenomenon was taking the world by storm and Britain already had motor cars being built by Daim]er, Wolseley, Lanchester and Riley.
Rover’s first project was to motorise a Rover pedal cycle, something that Triumph was already working on.
John Starley died tragically early in October 1901 aged 46, while still the undisputed leader of Coventry’s bicycle industry, his business now producing 15,000 machines a year.
Harry Smith took over as Managing Director and made the decision to go motorised in 1902. The first public appearance of the 2% HP Rover motorcycle was made on 24th November 1902.
By now Britain’s fledgling motorcar industry was starting to show signs of stability and Daimler was turning out good cars and making good money. On 16th December 1903 the Rover directors decided to start development of a light car. It would be designed by Edmund Lewis who had been acquired from Daimler who were the acknowledged motorcar experts. Rover’s decision had been made just in time as by now Daimler and Riley in Coventry had been joined by Annstrong-Siddeley, Humber, Lea-Francis, Singer and Standard.
This article is about the Daimler brand and its owner the British automobile manufacturer. It’s possible that some pictures don’t belong to the Daimler Company, because there are 3 Daimlers, with Millner Daimler even 4. For other uses derived from the German engineer and inventor Gottlieb Daimler, see Daimler (disambiguation) For the two direct descendants of Daimler’s original enterprise, see Daimler-Benz (and its successor Daimler AG) and Austro-Daimler.
Flutes: Daimler’s traditional radiator grille topped by now-vestigial cooling fins adopted by 1905
The Daimler Company Limited, until 1910 The Daimler Motor Company Limited, was an independent British motor vehicle manufacturer founded in London by H. J. Lawson in 1896, which set up its manufacturing base in Coventry. The company bought the right to the use of the Daimler name simultaneously from Gottlieb Daimler and Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft of Cannstatt, Germany. After early financial difficulty and a reorganization of the company in 1904, the Daimler Motor Company was purchased by Birmingham Small Arms Company (BSA) in 1910, which also made cars under its own name before World War II. In 1933, BSA bought the Lanchester Motor Company and made it a subsidiary of Daimler.
The company was awarded a Royal Warrant to provide cars to the British Monarch in 1902; it lost this privilege in the 1950s after being supplanted by Rolls-Royce. The company occasionally used alternative technology; the Knight engine which it partially developed in the early twentieth century and used from 1909 to 1935, worm gear final drive used from 1909 until after World War II, and the Wilson preselector gearbox used from 1930 to the mid-1950s.
In the 1950s, Daimler tried to widen its appeal with a line of smaller cars at one end and opulent show cars at the other, stopped making Lanchesters, had a highly publicised removal of their chairman from the board, and developed and sold a sports car and a high-performance luxury saloon and limousine.
In 1960, BSA sold Daimler to Jaguar Cars, which continued Daimler’s line and added a Daimler variant of its Mark II sports saloon. Jaguar was then merged into the British Motor Corporation in 1966 and British Leyland in 1968. Under these companies, Daimler became an upscale trim level for Jaguar cars except for the 1968-1992 Daimler DS420 limousine, which had no Jaguar equivalent despite being fully Jaguar-based. Jaguar was split off from British Leyland in 1984 and bought by the Ford Motor Company in 1989. Ford stopped using the Daimler name on Jaguars (or any other cars) in 2007 and sold Jaguar to Tata Motors in 2008. Tata bought the Daimler and Lanchester brands with Jaguar, but has not used them thus far; as of 2015, the brand appears to be dormant.
Simms and the Daimler engine
Gottlieb Daimler’s railcars “tirelessly ferrying passengers around the Bremen showground as if by magic”.
Engineer Frederick Richard Simms was supervising construction of an aerial cableway of his own design for the Bremen Exhibition in 1889 when he saw tiny railcars powered by Gottlieb Daimler’s motors. Simms, who had been born to English parents in Hamburg and raised by them there, became friends with Daimler, an Anglophile who had worked from autumn 1861 to summer 1863 at Beyer-Peacock in Gorton, Manchester.
Simms introduced Daimler’s motors to England in 1890 to power launches. In an agreement dated 18 February 1891, he obtained British and Empire rights for the Daimler patents. That month, DMG lent Simms a motorboat with a 2 hp engine and an extra engine. In June 1891 Simms had set up a London office at 49 Leadenhall Street and founded Simms & Co consulting engineers. In May 1892, the motorboat, which Simms had named Cannstatt, began running on the Thames from Putney. After demonstrating a motor launch to The Honourable Evelyn Ellis, Simms’s motor launch business grew rapidly, but became endangered when solicitor Alfred Hendriks was found to have been illegally taking money from the company. Hendriks severed his connections with Simms & Co. in February 1893. Simms’ Daimler-related work was later moved into a new company, The Daimler Motor Syndicate Limited, which was formed on 26 May 1893.
On 7 June 1895, Simms told the board of the Daimler Motor Syndicate that he intended to form The Daimler Motor Company Limited to acquire the British rights to the Daimler patents and to manufacture Daimler engines and cars in England. That month, he arranged for the syndicate to receive a ten percent (10%) commission on all British sales of Daimler-powered Panhard & Levassor cars.
At the same meeting, Simms produced the first licence to operate a car under the Daimler patents. It was for a 3½ hp Panhard & Levassor that had been bought in France by The Honourable Evelyn Ellis, who had three Daimler motor launches moored by his home at Datchet. On 3 July, after Ellis bought the licence, the car was landed at Southampton and driven by Ellis to Micheldever near Winchester where Ellis met Simms and they drove together to Datchet. Ellis later drove it on to Malvern. This was the first long journey by motorcar in Britain. Simms later referred to the car as a “Daimler Motor Carriage”.
Later in 1895, Simms announced plans to form The Daimler Motor Company Limited and to build a brand-new factory, with delivery of raw materials by light rail, for 400 workmen making Daimler engines and motor carriages. Simms asked his friend Daimler to be consulting engineer to the new enterprise. Works premises at Eel Pie Island on the Thames where the Thames Electric and Steam Launch Company, owned by Andrew Pears of Pears Soap fame, had been making electrically powered motor launches, were purchased to be used to service Daimler-powered motor launches.
Simms sells out to Lawson
Investor Harry John Lawson had set out to use The British Motor Syndicate Limited to monopolise motor car production in Britain by taking over every patent he could. As part of this goal, Lawson approached Simms on 15 October 1895, seeking the right to arrange the public flotation of the proposed new company and to acquire a large shareholding for his British Motor Syndicate. Welcomed by Simms, the negotiations proceeded on the basis that this new company should acquire The Daimler Motor Syndicate Limited as a going concern, including the name and patent rights.
In order that the Daimler licences could be transferred from Simms to the new company, all the former partners would have to agree to the transfer. By this time, Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach had withdrawn from Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft’s business to concentrate on cars and engines for them. Simms offered to pay DMG £17,500 for the transfer and for a licence for Daimler and Maybach’s Phénix engine, which DMG did not own. Simms therefore insisted that the transfer be on the condition that Daimler and Maybach rejoined DMG. This was agreed in November 1895 and the Daimler-Maybach car business re-merged with DMG’s. Daimler was appointed DMG’s General Inspector and Maybach chief Technical Director. At the same time Simms became a director of DMG but did not become a director of the London company. According to Gustav Vischer, DMG’s business manager at the time, Simms getting Daimler to return to DMG was “no mean feat”.
The sale of Daimler Motor Syndicate to Lawson’s interests was completed by the end of November 1895. The shareholders of the Syndicate had made a profit of two hundred percent (200%) on their original investment.
On 14 January 1896 Lawson incorporated The Daimler Motor Company Limited. A prospectus was issued on 15 February. The subscription lists opened on 17 February and closed, oversubscribed, the next day.The Daimler Motor Company Limited bought The Daimler Motor Syndicate Limited from Lawson’s British Motor Syndicate as a going concern. Simms was appointed consulting engineer to the new business but was not to be on the board of directors, possibly because he had become a director of the Cannstatt firm.
One of the duties assigned to Simms was to find a suitable location for the factory. Simms found the Trusty Oil Engine Works, a company in receivership whose six-acre site at Cheltenham included a foundry, a machine shop, and testing facilities. Simms recommended buying the works immediately since, with ready facilities and the availability of skilled workers, they could start up in a very short time. Instead, at the first statutory meeting of the company, held while Simms was overseas, Lawson persuaded the board to buy a disused four-storey cotton mill in Coventry which was owned by Lawson’s associate Ernest Terah Hooley. Despite Simms’ later protest and pleas to sell the mill and buy the Trusty Oil Engine Works, Daimler stayed with the mill as the site of Britain’s first automobile factory.
Delayed delivery of machines kept the factory unfinished throughout 1896 and into 1897. During 1896 Daimler sold imported cars from companies for which Lawson held the licences. Cannstatt supplied engine parts but the delivery of working drawings were delayed for months. Four experimental cars were built in Coventry and a Panhard van was dismantled and reverse engineered. Some Daimler engines, with details redesigned by works manager J. S. Critchley, were also made in 1896.
The first car left the works in January 1897, fitted with a Panhard engine, followed in March by Daimler-engined cars. The first Coventry Daimler-engined product made its maiden run in March 1897. By mid-year they were producing three of their own cars a week and producing Léon Bollée cars under licence. Lawson claimed to have made 20 cars by July 1897 making the Daimler Britain’s first motor car to go into serial production, an honour that is also credited to Humber Motors who had also displayed, but in their case their production models, at the Stanley Cycle Show in London in 1896. The Daimlers had a twin-cylinder, 1526 cc engine, mounted at the front of the car, four-speed gearbox and chain drive to the rear wheels.
1899 12 hp Daimler
In July 1897, as a result of financial difficulty, Daimler began asking Lawson’s Great Horseless Carriage Company to settle its accounts with them. In the same month, they refused to send working drawings of their 4 hp motor frame to DMG in Canstatt. Lack of co-operation with the Canstatt firm caused Simms to resign as Daimler’s consulting engineer that month. Also in July 1897, the company sold their launch works at Eel Pie Island at a loss of seven hundred pounds (£700) or more.
Ongoing difficulties with the Great Horseless Carriage Company and the British Motor Syndicate caused Lawson to resign from Daimler’s board on 7 October 1897. He was replaced as chairman by Henry Sturmey, who at the time was five days into a motor tour in his personal Daimler from John O’Groats to Land’s End. On arriving at Land’s End on 19 October, Sturmey became the first person to make that journey in a motor car.
In July 1898, Gottlieb Daimler resigned from the board of the Daimler Motor Company after never attending a board meeting. Sturmey opposed the appointment of a proposed successor who, according to Sturmey, held no shares and knew nothing about the automobile business. A committee was brought in to investigate the activities of the board and the company. The committee summed up the management of the company as being inefficient and not energetic and suggested that the company be reorganised and run by a paid managing director. When Evelyn Ellis and another board member did not run for re-election, they were replaced by E. H. Bayley and Edward Jenkinson, with Bayley replacing Sturmey as chairman. Sturmey resigned in May 1899 after Bayley and Jenkinson had reorganised the company.
In mid-1900, Simms, as a director of DMG, proposed a union between the Daimler Motor Company in Coventry and DMG in Cannstatt, but the reorganised company was not interested in the merger and turned the offer down.
Persistent financial troubles caused Daimler to be reorganised again in 1904. The previous company was wound up and a new company was formed to acquire the old one and pay its debts and winding-up costs.
Under the chairmanship of Sir Edward Jenkinson, Daimler hired American electrical engineer Percy Martin as works manager and socialite Undecimus Stratton as the head of the London depot, and promoted Ernest Instone to general manager. Jenkinson was succeeded in 1906 by Edward Manville, a consulting electrical engineer.
The first Royal car 6 hp 2-cylinders 1527 cc fitted with a “mail phaeton” body purchased by the Prince of Wales, 1900. Currently on display at Sandringham
Known as Britain’s oldest car manufacturers, Daimler was first associated with royalty in 1898 when the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, was given a ride on a Daimler by John Douglas-Scott-Montagu later known as Lord Montagu of Beaulieu. Scott-Montagu, as a member of parliament, also drove a Daimler into the yard of the Palace of Westminster, the first motorised vehicle to be driven there.
In early 1900, Daimler had sold the Prince of Wales a mail phaeton. In 1902, upon buying another Daimler, King Edward VII awarded Daimler a royal warrant as suppliers of motor cars.
In 1903, Undecimus Stratton met E. G. Jenkinson, the chairman of Daimler, when Jenkinson’s Daimler was stranded by the roadside. Upon seeing the stranded motorist, Stratton stopped his Daimler and offered assistance.Jenkinson was impressed by Stratton and by his motoring knowledge. At the time, Jenkinson was looking to replace the head of Daimler’s London depot, a particularly sensitive position because of the royal cars. Taking the position, Stratton soon found himself having to select better royal chauffeurs and mechanics. He quickly became an occasional motoring companion to the King. In 1908, through Stratton’s Royal connections, Daimler was awarded a “Royal Appointment as suppliers of motor cars to the Court of Spain” by King Alfonso XIII and a Royal Warrant as “Motor Car Manufacturer to the Court of Prussia” by Kaiser Wilhelm II. Stratton also sold Daimlers to the Sultan of Johor. In 1911 he spent some weekends at Sandringham tutoring the new Prince of Wales on the workings and driving of an automobile.
In 1921 Stratton went into partnership with Daimler’s commercial manager Ernest Instone. Stratton and Instone took charge of the Daimler showrooms at 27 Pall Mall, naming the business Stratton-Instone. Stratton died in July 1929 after a brief illness. His successors and Instone bought out Daimler’s interest in 1930 and renamed the business Stratstone Limited. The following summer the future King Edward VIII rented Stratton’s house at Sunningdale from his widow.
Every British monarch from Edward VII to Elizabeth II has been driven in Daimler limousines. In 1950, after a persistent transmission failure on the King’s car, Rolls-Royce was commissioned to provide official state cars and as Daimlers retired they were not replaced by Daimlers. The current official state car is either one of a pair which were specially made for the purpose by Bentley, unofficial chauffeured transport is by Daimler. Her Majesty’s own car for personal use is a 2008 Daimler Super Eight but she is also seen to drive herself in other smaller cars.
Since 1904, the fluted top surface to the radiator grille has been Daimler’s distinguishing feature. This motif developed from the heavily finned water-cooling tubes slung externally at the front of early cars. Later, a more conventional, vertical radiator had a heavily finned header tank. Eventually these fins were echoed on a protective grille shell and, even later, on the rear licence plate holder.
Knight-Daimler engine, transverse section
Attracted by the possibilities of the “Silent Knight” engine Daimler’s chairman contacted Charles Yale Knight in Chicago and Knight settled in England near Coventry in 1907. Daimler bought rights from Knight “for England and the colonies” and shared ownership of the European rights, in which it took 60%, with Minerva of Belgium. Daimler contracted Dr Frederick Lanchester as their consultant for the purpose and a major re-design and refinement of Knight’s design took place in great secrecy. Knight’s design was made a practical proposition. When unveiled in September 1908 the new engine caused a sensation. “Suffice it to say that mushroom valves, springs and cams, and many small parts, are swept away bodily, that we have an almost perfectly spherical explosion chamber, and a cast-iron sleeve or tube as that portion of the combustion chamber in which the piston travels.”
Daimler 22 hp open 2-seater
among the first of the sleeve-valve Daimlers (1909 example)
” . . . left a slight haze of oil smoke trailing behind . . .” Kop Hill Climb 2014
The Royal Automobile Club held a special meeting to discuss the new engine, still silent but no longer “Wholly Knight”. The Autocar reported on “its extraordinary combination of silence, flexibility and power.” Daimler stopped making poppet-valve engines altogether. Under the observation of the Royal Automobile Club (RAC), two Daimler sleeve-valve engines were put through severe bench, road, and track tests and, upon being dismantled, showed no visible wear, earning Daimler the 1909 Dewar Trophy. Sales outran the works’ ability to supply.
Daimler’s sleeve valve engines idle silently but they left a slight haze of oil smoke trailing behind them. These engines consumed oil at a rate of up to an Imperial gallon every 450 miles, oil being needed to lubricate the sleeves particularly when cold. However, by the standards of their day they required very little maintenance.
Daimler kept their silent sleeve-valve engines until the mid-1930s. The change to poppet valves began with the Fifteen of 1933.
1910 Daimler 57 hplimousine, an official state car for King George V
Under an agreement dated 22 September 1910 the shareholders of The Daimler Motor Company Limited “merged their holdings with those of the Birmingham Small Arms Company (BSA) group of companies,”receiving five BSA shares in exchange for four ordinary Daimler shares and ₤1 5s plus accrued dividend for each ₤1 preference share. This deal was engineered by Dudley Docker, deputy-chairman of BSA, who was famous for previous successful business mergers.
Daimler, a manufacturer of motor vehicles, had a payroll of 4,116 workmen and 418 staff immediately before the merger. BSA produced rifles, ammunition, military vehicles, bicycles, motorcycles and some BSA-branded cars. The chairman of the combined group was Edward Manville, who had been chairman of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders – founded by Simms – since 1907.
However the merger was not a great success. By 1913 Daimler had a workforce of 5,000 workers which made only 1,000 vehicles a year.
Daimler 20 hp open drive limousine for the Empress of Korea
By 1914 Daimlers were used by royal families including those of Great Britain, Germany, Russia, Sweden, Japan, Spain, and Greece; “its list of owners among the British nobility read like a digest of Debrett;” the Bombay agent supplied Indian princes; the Japanese agent, Okura, handled sales in Manchuria and Korea.
During World War I, the military took the normal production cars, lorries, buses and ambulances together with a scout army vehicle and engines used in ambulances, trucks, and double-decker buses. Special products included aero-engines and complete aircraft, tank and tractor engines and munitions.
The first aircraft engine manufactured by Daimler was the 80 hp Gnome Monosoupape rotary. With no drawings available to them, Daimler’s Gnome engines were reverse-engineered from an engine delivered to them on 7 August 1914. Daimler later built the RAF 1 and 1a air-cooled V8s, the RAF 4 and 4a V12s, the Le Rhone rotary, and the Bentley BR2 rotary alongside other manufacturers. Production of RAF 4 engines gave Daimler experience in building V12 engines which would be appreciated when they later designed and built “Double-Six” V12 engines for their large cars.
Daimler trained air force mechanics at its works and its training methods became the standard for all manufacturers instructing RAF mechanics.
Having its own body shop, Daimler had the woodworking ability to build complete aircraft. By the end of 1914, they had built 100 units of the Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2c. These were followed by the BE12 and RE8.Daimler purchased an open field beside their Radford factory, cleared the site, and made it available to the Government, who turned it into the main RAF testing ground for aircraft built in the Coventry district. Although Daimler tooled up for production of the Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.4 bomber the aircraft was cancelled due to poor performance. The last wartime aircraft produced was the Airco DH.10 bomber when they were building 80 aeroplanes a month.
British Mark IV tank with an extended tail designed to improve its trench-crossing ability. Powered by a version of the Daimler 105 hp engine
Before the war, Daimler had been making 105 hp engines for tractors made by Fosters of Lincoln for the South American market. These tractors were developed into artillery tractors to haul 15-inch (380 mm) howitzers. Production of the artillery tractors began on 3 December 1914. These engines were later used for the first British tanks ever built, the prototypes “Little Willie” and “Mother” and later in the production Mark I tank. One major difficulty for the tanks was the fine oil haze above their Daimler engines which the enemy quickly learned meant tanks were operating nearby if out of sight. The early tanks weighed up to 28 tons. They were all Daimler powered. The Mark IV tank – the first major improvement in design – had uprated engines delivering 125 hp; these engines had aluminium pistons and are believed to have been designed by W. O. Bentley while he was working on the Bentley BR1 rotary engine in Coventry.
Daimler made more twelve inch (305 mm) shell casings than any other private business in the country, with a peak production of more than 2000 casings a day. Each was machined from a 990 lb forging down to a finished weight of 684 lb.
De Havilland DH.34
Daimler Airway livery red and white
After the Armistice it was decided that Daimler Hire should extend its luxury travel services to include charter aircraft through a new enterprise, Daimler Air Hire. Following the take-over of Airco and its subsidiaries in February 1920 services included scheduled services London-Paris as well as “Taxi Planes” to “anywhere in Europe”. In 1922 under the name of Daimler Airway services extended to scheduled flights London to Berlin and places between. Frank Searle, managing director of Daimler Hire and its subsidiaries moved with his deputy Humphery Wood into the new national carrier Imperial Airways at its formation on 1 April 1924. Searle and Wood and their Daimler Airway machines formed the core of Imperial Airways operations.
In 1930 the bulk of Daimler’s shareholding in its subsidiary Daimler Hire Limited was sold to the Thomas Tilling Group and, in January 1931, Daimler completed the purchase of The Lanchester Motor Company Limited.The new Lanchester 15/18 model introduced in 1931 was fitted with Daimler’s fluid flywheel transmission.
Although at first they produced separate ranges of cars with the Daimler badge appearing mainly on the larger models, by the mid-1930s the two were increasingly sharing components leading to the 1936 Lanchester 18/Daimler Light 20 differing in little except trim and grille.
This marketing concept already employed with their BSA range of cars continued to the end of Lanchester and BSA car production. Some very important customers, including the Duke of York and at least two Indian princes, were supplied with big Daimler limousines with Lanchester grilles. The Daimler range was exceptionally complex in the 1930s with cars using a variety of six- and eight-cylinder engines with capacities from 1805 cc in the short lived 15 of 1934 to the 4624 cc 4.5-litre of 1936.
The divisiveness of the Daimler board did not end with the BSA takeover, but continued into the board of BSA. Despite this, Daimler prospered until the late 1920s, increasing its profits and its reputation. Along with an apprenticeship programme that was among the best in the British industry at the time, they attracted a large number of pupils out of public schools. During the First World War, Daimler’s labour force grew from 4,000 to 6,000 men.
The acquisition of Airco in February 1920 was a financial disaster for the BSA group. Percy Martin had been strongly in favour of the purchase, including Airco’s extensive production facilities near London, and no one thought to examine Airco’s true circumstances, leading to liabilities in excess of 1.3 million pounds. All dividends were passed from 1920 to 1924.
By 1930, the BSA Group’s primary activities were BSA motorcycles and Daimler vehicles. However, all the quality car businesses experienced financial difficulties in the late 1920s. Daimler’s situation seemed particularly serious. Sales fell sharply in 1927–1928, a period of losses ensued and no dividends were paid between 1929 and 1936. The sleeve valve engine was outdated, Daimler’s production methods had become old-fashioned, they had an extravagantly large range of products. Their bankers noted the decreasing sales volume, the poor performance for price and the need for up-to-date machine tool equipment. Stratton-Instone’s dominance of distribution was removed and other outlets arranged. The interests in Singer and the Daimler Hire business were sold and Lanchester bought. The in-house bodywork department was closed and by the spring of 1931 car production ceased, only commercial vehicle production and aero engine work kept Daimler in business.
Laurence Pomeroy joined Damler in late 1926, at first working on commercial vehicles but from 1928 he worked at the products of the main Daimler operation. Pomeroy introduced redesigned poppet valve engines with the Daimler Fifteen in September 1932, developed new models of Daimlers, and recommended what became the September 1932 introduction of the small BSA and Lanchester Tens with poppet valve engines to help Daimler survive the depression. According to Martin, these actions rescued the business from total collapse in 1932. In 1934, the Pomeroy-designed poppet-valve Straight-Eights replaced the Daimler Double-Six sleeve-valve V12s without controversy or embarrassment, thereby being a personal triumph for Pomeroy.
From before the merger of Daimler into the BSA group the core of Daimler’s management was formed by chairman Edward Manville, works manager Percy Martin, and sales manager Ernest Instone, who left Daimler in 1921 to start auto dealer Stratton-Instone, and was responsible for Daimler sales in England and Wales thereafter. Instone died in 1932, Manville died in 1933, and Martin, who in January 1934 replaced Alexander Roger, Manville’s replacement, as chairman, retired in 1935. In May 1936 Laurence Pomeroy was fired as managing director of Daimler with immediate effect. Daimler was not paying dividends and the 1936 BSA shareholders’ meetings were stormy. Attempted solutions had included the Lanchester acquisition and the introduction of smaller cars, the lower-priced 10 hp Lanchester and its matching but six-cylinder stable-mate the Daimler Fifteen (later DB17 and DB18) introduced in the early thirties. This particular product line as the Lanchester Fourteen and Daimler Conquest was to run through to almost the very end.
Edward H. W. Cooke attempted a revival and from 1937 introduced saloons with a freshness of design new to Daimler. The new products had successes in competitions and rallies. His policy was proved sound but another war, post-war austerity and yet more boardroom battles, this time in public, seemed to put an end to Daimler’s once-proud business.
In 1928 Daimler started testing the “Fluidrive” system in a bus chassis. This system, patented by Harold Sinclair in 1926, applied Hermann Föttinger‘s fluid flywheel to replace the clutch in the transmission systems of road vehicles. Daimler was initially interested in the fluid flywheel for use in commercial vehicles, but Martin decided to develop the system for use in passenger cars as well. Martin and Pomeroy originally intended to use the fluid flywheel with a conventional gearbox. Their consultant, Frederick Lanchester, warned them that putting a car with that combination on the market would be “a terribly big gambling risk,” and an accident in March 1929 where a Double-Six 30 with a prototype transmission damaged a garage in Devon after Pomeroy left it idling while in gear may have shown the nature of this risk. By October 1930, when Daimler introduced the fluid flywheel on their new Light Double-Six for an extra £50, it was used with the self changing gearbox developed by W. G. Wilson. Martin and the Daimler Company patented their refinements to Sinclair’s system in 1930.
By November 1933 the combination of fluid flywheel and Wilson preselector gearbox was used in all Daimler vehicles, “ranging from 10 h.p. passenger cars to double-deck omnibuses” according to the chairman’s report to the shareholders at their Annual General Meeting that month. According to the same report, “more than 11,000 vehicles” were using the transmission by that time. Daimler would continue to develop and use these transmissions until 1956, when Borg-Warner fully automatic units were offered initially as an alternative but later as standard.
The Lanchester Sprite, a 1.6 L car with a unit body and Hobbs fully automatic gearbox, was shown at the British International Motor Show at Earls Court in 1954. Problems with the transmission and other systems were never fully sorted out, and the Sprite was discontinued about two years later with only thirteen being built.
World War II work
Daimler Mk1 Armoured Car
During World War II, Daimler turned to military production. A four-wheel-drive scout car, known to the Army as the Dingo had a 2.5-litre engine and the larger Daimler Armoured Car powered by a 4.1-litre engine and armed with a 2-pounder gun were produced, both with six-cylinder power units, fluid flywheels and epicyclic gearboxes. These military vehicles incorporated various innovative features including disc brakes on all four wheels.The Dingo was designed by parent company BSA and took the name “Dingo” from an unsuccessful competitor submitted by Alvis.
During the war Daimler built more than 6,600 Scout Cars and some 2,700 Mk I and Mk II Armoured Cars. Daimler also provided tank components, including epicyclic gearboxes for 2,500 Crusader, Covenanter and Cavalier tanks. They built 74,000 Bren gun, initially at a workshop in their Coventry factory and, after the workshop was destroyed in the April 1941 raid, at a boot and shoe factory in Burton-on-Trent.
Instead of building complete aircraft as they had in World War I, Daimler built aircraft components, including 50,800 Bristol radial aero-engines—Mercury, Hercules and Pegasus—with full sets of parts for 9,500 more of these engines, propeller shafts for Rolls-Royce aero-engines, and 14,356 gun-turrets for bombers including their Browning machine guns. In all, Daimler produced more than 10 million aircraft parts during the war. All this production is Daimler’s alone excluding BSA’s other involvements.
Daimler’s peak workforce, 16,000 people, was reached in this period.
The original Sandy Lane plant, used as a government store, was destroyed by fire during intensive enemy bombing of Coventry, but there were by now ‘shadow factories’ elsewhere in the city including one located at Brown’s Lane, Allesey. After the Jaguar takeover, the factory at Brown’s Lane became the principal Jaguar car plant for several decades. The factory has since been torn down.
After that war, Daimler produced the Ferret armoured car, a military reconnaissance vehicle based on the innovative 4.1-litre-engined armoured car they had developed and built during the war, which has been used by over 36 countries.
Lanchester Ten, body by Briggs Motor Bodies
Winston Churchill campaigned for the 1945 and 1950 general elections in the DB18 two-door drophead coupé he had ordered in 1939. The government ordered new limousines for the commanding officers of the occupying forces. New straight-eights were supplied to the former colonies for the planned royal tours.
The first Daimler limousines to be delivered after the war went to embassies and consulates in Europe and to the Lieutenant-Governors of Jersey and Guernsey. These were Straight-Eights built largely from pre-war stock. The first post-war model was the Eighteen, a development of the pre-war Fifteen using the Scout Car’s 2.5 L engine with a new high-compression cylinder head. The model used curved glass in its side windows which were framed by chromed metal channels instead of the thick pillars that were usual at the time. Because of ongoing restrictions on steel, many of the Eighteen’s body panels were made from aluminium. The first post-war Lanchester, the Ten, looked like an enlarged Ford Prefect and its body was made in the same factory, Briggs Motor Bodies on the Ford site at Dagenham.
Despite the austerity of the times, Daimler celebrated the 1946 golden jubilee of the founding of the business was with a luncheon at the Savoy, at which they announced the pricing of the Daimler Eighteen and the Lanchester Ten. Production of large eight-seat limousines, the six-cylinder DE 27 and the eight-cylinder DE36, began in March 1946. These were among the first series-built cars with electrically operated windows. They were also the first Daimler cars since 1909 to use bevel gear final drive instead of Daimler’s usual worm final drive, and the DE 36 was the last straight-eight automobile to be manufactured in Britain. The DE 27 chassis was also used in the Daimler Ambulance with bodies by Barker and Hooper.
Then in June 1947 purchase tax was doubled on cars costing more than one thousand pounds (£1,000), with home market sales already having been restricted to cars for “essential purposes”. Petrol remained rationed; initially ten gallons a month, the monthly ration was increased to fifteen gallons in July 1946, but was reduced again late in the summer of 1947. Princess Elizabeth took her 2½-litre coupé, a 21st -birthday gift from her father, to Malta, where her new husband was stationed. The King took delivery of a new open tourer straight-eight in March 1949. In the commodities boom caused by the 1950 Korean War Australasian woolgrowers reported the new electrically operated limousine-division to be ‘just the thing’ if over-heated sheepdogs licked the back of a driver’s ears. A DE 27 limousine given to HRH Princess Elizabeth by the Royal Air Force as a wedding present was traded for a Rolls-Royce when its transmission failed.
Rolls-Royce was persuaded to re-enter the high-end luxury market and built the straight-eight Phantom IV solely for royalty, heads of state, and their chairman. Former Daimler customers, including British royals and the Aga Khan, switched to the Phantom IV, while the Emperor of Ethiopia and the King and Queen of Greece ordered coachbuilt six-cylinder Silver Wraiths.
All-weather tourer, Sydney NSW 1954
Sir Bernard Docker took the extra responsibility of Daimler’s managing director in January 1953 when James Leek was unable to continue through illness. Car buyers were still waiting for the new (Churchill) government’s easing of the ‘temporary’ swingeing purchase tax promised in the lead up to the snap-election held during the 1951 Earl’s Court motor show. Lady Docker told her husband to rethink his marketing policies. 3-litre Regency production was stopped. In the hope of keeping 4,000+ employed the Consort price was dropped from 4 February 1953 to the expected new tax-inclusive level.
Stagnation of all the British motor industry was relieved by the reduction of purchase tax in the April 1953 budget. Daimler announced the introduction of the moderately sized Conquest in May (apparently developed in just four months from the four-cylinder Lanchester 14 or Leda with a Daimler grille).
Daimler and Lanchester (there were no more BSA cars) struggled after the War, producing too many models with short runs and limited production, and frequently selling too few of each model, while Jaguar seemed to know what the public wanted and expanded rapidly. Daimler produced heavy, staid, large and small luxury cars with a stuffy, if sometimes opulent image. Jaguar produced lower quality cars at a remarkably low price, designed for enthusiasts.
The BSA group’s leadership of the world’s motorcycle market was eventually lost to Japanese manufacturers.
Sir Bernard Docker was the managing director of BSA from early in WWII, and married Norah Lady Collins in 1949. Nora was twice-widowed and wealthy in her own right. This was her third marriage. She had originally been a successful dance hall hostess. Lady Docker took an interest in her husband’s companies and became a director of Hooper, the coachbuilders.
Daughter of an unsuccessful Birmingham car salesman Lady Docker could see that the Daimler cars, no longer popular with the royal family, were in danger of becoming an anachronism in the modern world. She took it upon herself to raise Daimler’s profile, but in an extravagant fashion, by encouraging Sir Bernard to produce show cars.
The first was the 1951 “Golden Daimler”, an opulent touring limousine, in 1952, “Blue Clover”, a two-door sportsmans coupe, in 1953 the “Silver Flash” based on the 3-litre Regency chassis, and in 1954 “Stardust”, redolent of the “Gold Car”, but based on the DK400 chassis as was what proved to be her Paris 1955 grande finale, a 2-door coupé she named “Golden Zebra”, the “last straw” for the Tax Office and now on permanent display at The Hague.
At the same time Lady Docker earned a reputation for having rather poor social graces when under the influence, and she and Sir Bernard were investigated for failing to correctly declare the amount of money taken out of the country on a visit to a Monte Carlo casino. Sir Bernard was instantly dumped “for absenteeism” by the Midland Bank board without waiting for the court case. Norah drew further attention. She ran up large bills and presented them to Daimler as business expenses but some items were disallowed by the Tax Office. The publicity attached to this and other social episodes told on Sir Bernard’s standing as some already thought the cars too opulent and vulgar for austere post-war Britain. To compound Sir Bernard’s difficulty, the royal family shifted allegiance to Rolls-Royce. By the end of 1960 all the State Daimlers had been sold and replaced by Rolls-Royces.
In 1951 Jack Sangster sold his motorcycle companies Ariel and Triumph to BSA, and joined their board. In 1956 Sangster was elected chairman, defeating Sir Bernard 6 votes to 3. After a certain amount of electioneering by the Dockers an extraordinary shareholders’ meeting backed the board decision and Bernard and Norah left buying a brace of Rolls-Royces as they went registering them as ND5 and BD9. Many important European customers turned out to have been Docker friends and did not re-order Daimler cars.
Daimler Majestic Major, 1964 example
Sangster promptly made Edward Turner head of the automotive division which as well as Daimler and Carbodies (London Taxicab manufacturers) included Ariel, Triumph, and BSA motorcycles. Turner designed the lightweight hemi headDaimler 2.5 & 4.5 Litre V8 Engines. The small engine was used to power a production version of an apprentice’s exercise, the very flexible Dart and the larger engine installed in the Majestic Major, a relabelled Majestic. Under Sangster Daimler’s vehicles became a little less sober and more performance oriented. The Majestic Major proved an agile high-speed cruiser on the new motorways. Bill Boddy described the SP250 as unlikely to stir the memories of such ghosts as haunt the tree-lined avenues near Sandringham, Balmoral and Windsor Castle. The two excellent Turner V8 engines disappeared with British Leyland’s first rationalisation, the larger in 1968 and the smaller a year later.
Daimler CVD6 coach 1948 example
A significant element of Daimler production was bus chassis, mostly for double deckers. Daimler had been interested in the commercial vehicle market from 1904. In 1906 it produced, using the Auto-Mixte patents of Belgian Henri Pieper, a petrol-electric vehicle and on 23 May 1906 registered Gearless Motor Omnibus Co. Limited. It was too heavy. Following the introduction of Daimler-Knight sleeve-valve engines re-designed for Daimler by Dr Frederick Lanchester Lanchester also refined the Gearless design and it re-emerged in 1910 as the KPL (Knight-Pieper-Lanchester) omnibus, an advanced integral petrol electric hybrid. The KPL bus had four-wheel brakes and steel unitary body/chassis construction. Failure to produce the KPL set bus design back twenty years.
Introduction of the KPL was stopped by a patent infringement action brought by London General Omnibus‘s associate Tilling-Stevens in early May 1911 when just twelve KPL buses had been built. This was just after Daimler had poached LGOC’s Frank Searle and announced him to be general manager of its new London bus service which would be using its new KPL type to compete directly with LGOC.
Some of LGOC’s vehicles used Daimler engines. With the collapse of Daimler’s plans Searle, an engineer and designer of the LGOC X-type and AEC B-type bus, instead joined Daimler’s commercial vehicle department. Reverting to (before LGOC) omnibus salesman Searle rapidly achieved some notable sales. 100 to Metropolitan Electric Tramways and 250 to LGOC’s new owner, Underground.
First Searle designed for Daimler a 34-seater with gearbox transmission (the KPL used electric motors each side) very like the B-Type and it was introduced by Daimler in early 1912. The main difference from what became the AEC B-Type was the use of Daimler’s sleeve-valve engine. In June 1912 what had been LGOC’s manufacturing plant was hived off as AEC. Between 1913 and 1916 AEC built some Daimler models under contract and Daimler sold all AEC vehicles which were surplus to LGOC needs. After war service now Colonel Searle moved to Daimler Hire Limited and its involvement in aviation. The Searle models were developed after World War I, but from 1926–8 Daimler entered into a joint venture with AEC vehicles being badged as Associated Daimler.
In the 1930s the Daimler CO chassis became the main model, followed by a similar, but heavier, CW ‘austerity’ model produced during World War II (100 with the Gardner 5LW engine (CWG5), the rest with the AEC 7.7-litre engine – CWA6) and in postwar years production worked through the Daimler CV to the long-running Daimler CR Fleetline, built from 1960 to 1980 (CVG5 and CVG6 had been a common type of bus in Hong Kong between 1950 to 1988 and Fleetline had also become a major type of bus in Hong Kong until 1995). Small numbers of single deck vehicles were also built. Many British bus operators bought substantial numbers of the vehicles and there were also a number built for export. The standard London double-decker bus bought from 1970 to 1978 was the Daimler Fleetline.
Daimler Fleetline 1968 example
Daimler buses were fitted with proprietary diesel engines, the majority by the Gardner company, of Eccles, Lancashire, although there were a few hundred Daimler diesels built in the 1940s & 1950s, and the Leyland O.680 was offered as an option on the Fleetline (designated CRL6) after the merger with Leyland. The bus chassis were also fitted with bodywork built by various outside contractors, as is standard in the British bus industry, so, at a casual glance, there is no real identifying feature of a Daimler bus, apart from the badges (Front engined Daimler buses retained the distinctive fluted radiator grille top). The last Daimler Fleetline was built at the traditional Daimler factory in Radford, Coventry, in 1973. After that date, the remaining buses were built at the Leyland factory in Farington, Preston, Lancashire, the final eight years of Fleetline production being badged as Leylands. The last Fleetline built was bodied by Eastern Coach Works in 1981.
During that Jaguar-owned period 1960–1968, Daimler became the second-largest (after Leyland) double-decker bus manufacturer in Britain, with the “Fleetline” model. At the same time, Daimler made trucks and motorhomes. BMH merged with the Leyland Motor Corporation to give the British Leyland Motor Corporation in 1968. Production of Daimler buses in Coventry ceased in 1973 when production of its last bus product (the Daimler Fleetline) was transferred to Leyland plant in Farington. Daimler stayed within BLMC and its subsequent forms until 1982, at which point Jaguar (with Daimler) was demerged from BL as an independent manufacturer.
In May 1960, the Daimler business was purchased from BSA by Jaguar Cars for 3.4 million pounds. William Lyons was looking to expand manufacture, wanted the manufacturing facilities and had to decide what to do with the existing Daimler vehicles.
Jaguar had been refused planning permission for a new factory in the area in which it wanted it to be. Daimler had shrunk to representing just 15% of BSA group turnover in 1959–1960 and BSA wished to dispose of its motoring interests. Jaguar stated publicly that it would continue production of the existing range of Daimler, that it would continue normal research and development for future Daimler products, and that it would expand Daimler markets in Britain and overseas.
Jaguar discontinued the six-cylinder Majestic in 1962 and the SP250 in 1964, but Daimler’s core product, the old-fashioned, heavy but fast 4.5 L V8 Majestic Major, was continued throughout Jaguar’s independent ownership of Daimler. In 1961 Daimler introduced the DR450, a long-wheelbase limousine version of the Majestic Major. The DR450 also continued in production beyond the end of Jaguar’s independent ownership of Daimler. 864 examples of the long-wheelbase DR450 were sold, as opposed to 1180 examples of the Majestic Major saloon.
The 4.5 litre saloon and limousine were the last Daimlers not designed by Jaguar.
Daimler V8-250, hybrid
Small Daimler V8 in a re-badged Jaguar car
the most popular Daimler (1968 example)
Apart from the DR450 limousine, new models under Lyons control were the result of negotiations between Lyons and the executives of Daimler distributor Stratstone Ltd. In exchange for a small Daimler in the tradition of the Consort and the Conquest, Stratstone gave up their Volkswagen franchise. Lyons’ response was the 2.5 V8, a more luxurious Jaguar Mark 2 with the V8 engine from the SP250, automatic transmission, different badges, and a grille with a fluted top. Despite the obvious Jaguar heritage, motor journalist S. C. H. Davis wrote of the car’s “marked character” and claimed, “This is not a Jaguar with a Daimler radiator grille and name plate. It can stand on its own.”
Daimler Sovereign (1969 example)
While the 2.5 V8, later renamed the V8-250 under new ownership, became the most popular car Daimler ever produced, it was not enough to establish brand loyalty. Unlike Jaguar, whose wide range of models allowed sixty percent (60%) of new Jaguars to be sold in exchange for Jaguars, few customers traded old 2.5 V8s for new ones. Most 2.5 V8 buyers were trading up from the bigger Ford, Wolseley, or Rover cars.
James Smillie, chairman of Stratstone, made Lyons aware of this situation in 1965. Lyons responded by preparing a Daimler-ised version of the upcoming Jaguar 420 and presenting it to Smillie and Stratstone managing director John Olley. Lyons asked the Stratstone executives what it should be called; Smillie suggested “Sovereign” while Olley suggested “Royale”. Despite Lyons stating his preference for “Royale” at the meeting, the company decided on “Sovereign” two months later. The Sovereign was launched in October 1966 to fill the gap between the 2.5 V8 and the Majestic Major.
Though Jaguar had diversified by adding, after Daimler, Guy trucks and Coventry-Climax to their group they remained dependent on Pressed Steel for bodies. Once BMC had taken control of Pressed Steel Lyons felt compelled to submit to the BMC takeover. Lyons remained anxious to see that Jaguar maintained its own identity and came to resent the association with British Leyland. He was delighted by Sir John Egan‘s accomplishments and by the new independence arranged in 1984.
End of Daimler brand in the United States
In 1967, BMH’s dealer network in the United States stopped importing Daimlers, claiming that there was insufficient funds in the group advertising budget to market all of BMH’s brands in USA.
The Daimler DS420 Limousine was introduced in 1968 to replace their Daimler DR450 and BMC’s Vanden Plas Princess. The DS420 used a Jaguar Mk X unitary carcass with a restyled roof and a floor pan extended by 21 inches behind the front seat and strengthened. The extension of the Mark X unit bodies was done by Motor Panels, a subsidiary of Rubery Owen. The floor pan with mechanicals was available to coachbuilders as a rolling chassis for use with specialised bodywork, usually as hearses; Startin of Birmingham built more than 300 DS420-based hearses. Finishing from the bare metal, including final assembly and trimming the interior, was done byVanden Plas, who had earlier made the Princess for BMC.
The DS420 was withdrawn from production in 1992. From 1986 it had been the last production automobile to use the Jaguar XK6 engine. The last DS420-based Startin hearse was delivered on 9 February 1994 to Mr. Slack, a funeral director in Cheshire.
Though based entirely on Jaguar components, the DS420 was unique to Daimler. These limousines, wedding and funeral cars and the hearses made by independent coachbuilders are now the way most remember Daimler cars.
Daimler Sovereign, Daimler Double-Six
Daimler Sovereign 4.2 SI (1972 example)
These were the first series of vehicles that were badge-engineered Jaguars (XJ Series), but given a more luxurious and upmarket finish. For example, the Daimler Double-Six was a Jaguar XJ-12, the Daimler badge and fluted top to its grille and boot handle being the only outward differences from the Jaguar, with more luxurious interior fittings and extra standard equipment marking it out on the inside.
Daimler XJS prototype, Coventry Motor Museum, England
One strategy to sell Daimlers was through fleet sales of Jaguars to boards of directors; Jaguar would offer to include a more prestigious Daimler for the chairman.
From 1972 to 1974 the chairman of Jaguar Cars was Lofty England, who began his career in the automotive industry as a Daimler apprentice from 1927 to 1932.
Fluted grilles in Continental Europe and the US
Jaguar to Daimler ‘conversion’
The Daimler name was dropped in Europe in the 1980s, while Jaguar adopted the Sovereign designation. This caused a great demand for imported Daimler parts as “conversion kits” to convert Jaguars into Daimlers. Deducing from this “conversion kit” market that there was still a demand for Daimler cars, Jaguar Cars returned the Daimler brand to Europe at the end of 1985.
Meanwhile, in the United States, Jaguar marketed the “Vanden Plas” with Daimler fluted grilles and licence plate housings.
Owned by Jaguar Cars (1984-1989)
Daimler Six Europe specification
XJ40 produced 1986–1994
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1988 Daimler Double-Six SIII; the V12 would not fit in the 1986-1992 XJ40
If Jaguar was not to follow Daimler into becoming just another once iconic brand it needed immense amounts of capital to develop new models and build and equip new factories. This was beyond the ability of the BMH—now British Leyland—Group. It was decided to market the Jaguar business by first obtaining a separate London Stock Exchange listing to fix a price then ensuring any successful bid for all the listed shares in the whole business would be from a bidder with, or with access to, the necessary capital. That bidder proved to be Ford.
1984 produced a record group output of 36,856 cars but less than 5% were badged Daimler. Two years later Daimler’s share had reached 11.5%, and would have been almost 23% if the Vanden Plas sold in the USA were included.
When the new XJ40 came into production in 1986, the Series III was kept in production a further six years to 1992 to carry the big Double Six engines.
Daimler Double Six Europe specification
XJ81 produced 1992–1994
In 1989 the Ford Motor Company paid £1.6 billion to buy Jaguar and with it the right to use the Daimler name. In 1992, Daimler (Ford) stopped production of the DS420 Limousine, the only model that was a little more than just a re-badged Jaguar.
When Ford bought Jaguar in 1990, the British press showed a coloured computer-generated image of a proposed ‘new’ Daimler car – not merely a rebadged Jaguar XJ. At least one related project has been documented.
Daimler remained the flagship Jaguar product in every country except the USA where the top Jaguar is known as the “XJ Vanden Plas” — Jaguar may have feared that the American market would confuse Jaguar Daimler with Daimler AG.
Daimler’s centenary was celebrated in 1996 by the production of a special edition: 100 Double Six and 100 straight-six cars, each with special paint and other special finishes including electrically adjustable rear seats.
Daimler Double Six
Daimler Century Six
Daimler Century Double Six
The single 2-door 4-seater convertible built in 1996 to commemorate Daimler’s centenary and called Daimler Corsica was based on the Daimler Double-Six saloon. The prototype, which lacked an engine, had all the luxury features of the standard saloon but a shorter wheelbase. Painted “Seafrost” it was named after a 1931 Daimler Double-Six with a body by Corsica. Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust have decommissioned it to operate as a fully functional road-legal car and it is on display at their museum at Browns Lane in Coventry, England.
Daimler Super V8
Daimler Super V8
Daimler Super V8
1997 saw the end of production of the Double Six. It was superseded by the introduction of a (Jaguar) V8 engine and the new car was given the model name Mark II XJ. The engine was the only significant change from the previous XJ40. The replacement for the Double Six was the supercharged Super V8, the supercharger to compensate for the loss of one-third of the previous engine’s capacity.
Daimler Super V8
Daimler Super Eight
After a three-year break a new Daimler, the Super Eight, was presented in July 2005. It had a new stressed aluminium monocoque/chassis-body with a 4.2 L V8 supercharged engine which produced 291 kW (396 PS; 390 bhp) and a torque rating of 533 N·m (393 lb·ft) at 3500 rpm. This car was derived from the Jaguar XJ (X350).
Owned by Tata (2007-)
At the end of 2007 (the formal announcement was delayed until 25 March 2008), it became generally known that India’s Tata Group had completed arrangements to purchase Jaguar and Daimler.
Tata had spoken to the press of plans to properly relaunch England’s oldest car marque. In July 2008 Tata Group, the current owners of Jaguar and Daimler, announced they were considering transforming Daimler into “a super-luxury marque to compete directly with Bentley and Rolls-Royce”. Until the early 1950s it was often said “the aristocracy buy Daimlers, the nouveau riche buy Rolls-Royce”.
An application to register the Daimler name as a trademark in the USA was rejected in 2009.
The Daimler Company Limited, now The Daimler Motor Company Limited, is still registered as active and accounts are filed each year though it is currently marked “non-trading”. Until 20 December 1988 its name was The Daimler Company Limited.
Before 5 October 2007 Jaguar, while still controlled by Ford, reached agreement to permit then de-merging DaimlerChrysler to extend its use of the name Daimler. The announcement of this agreement was delayed until the end of July 2008 and made by Jaguar’s new owner, Tata.
By 2007, Jaguar’s use of the Daimler brand was limited to one model, the Super Eight, which was to be last Daimler model to be produced.
In 2009, Jaguar lost the right to trademark the Daimler name in the United States.