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1959-1964 Daimler SP250

1959-1964 Daimler SP250 Performance

There was little to complain about in terms of 1959-1964 Daimler SP250 performance. The engine had great potential, which was never fully realized after the Jaguar takeover, although it also powered the Daimler 2.5-liter saloon (which was actually a Jaguar Mk II with an engine transplant).

Problems piled up in the first year, as The Autocar noted in an October, 1959, road test: “Glass-fibre bodies, though far from being new, are still something of a novelty, and that of this first production right-hand-drive SP250 requires much greater rigidity and attention to detail finish . . . on all but the smoothest roads there is considerable steering wheel shake, and some body flexing. On two occasions of fast cornering to the left the driver’s door flew open . . .”

Yet there was no criticism of the performance or fuel consumption. A top speed of 122 miles per hour easily bettered that of the Austin-Healey 3000 (114 mph in overdrive), as did the fuel consumption of 29.1 miles per Imperial gallon, compared with 20.0 mpg. Since the Daimler could spring to 60 mph in a mere 10.2 seconds, it seemed to have a lot to offer.

On this side of the pond, Road & Track tested the SP250 in early 1960 and called the acceleration “sensational,” and proved it by zipping from 0-60 in a mere 9.1 seconds, with the quarter-mile run accomplished in 16.9 seconds with a terminal speed of 83 mph.

Like The Autocar, R&T road-testers recorded a top speed of 122 mph, while averaging 19 to 26 miles per U.S. gallon. They agreed with other contemporary reports that the engine easily stood out as the best feature of the car and that cowl shake rated as the worst.

Nonetheless, they liked the car well enough to comment that with the shake eliminated, “we think the Daimler will be a very desirable sports car.”

There remained, however, another problem: price. In the UK the Daimler sold for £1,395, compared to £1,168 for the Austin-Healey 3000 and £991 for the TR3A. In the U.S., the SP250 retailed for $3,842, barely undercutting the 1960 Corvette roadster, which started at $3,872 -- tough competition indeed for a newcomer.

sp250, black 2-seater
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
The SP250 made for a roomy two-seater, which
was useful in police work.

Daimler worked hard to improve their new sports car, both in quality and in options availability. But the designers must have been shocked and disappointed when they saw their company taken over by Jaguar in June, 1960, especially since it was known in Coventry that Jaguar also had a new sports car model, the legendary E-Type, almost ready for launch.

Jaguar’s chairman, Sir William Lyons, was not only known to be a great artist with a real eye for the right sort of styling but also to hold in scathing contempt a poor effort. He would not be one to tolerate poor quality for his company’s products, so efforts were redoubled to refine the SP250.

In April 1961, therefore, the improved “B-Specification” SP250 went on sale, with a much-stiffened body shell. Front and rear bumpers were standardized, as was a telescoping steering column. In the meantime, a choice of wire spoke or steel disc wheels, hard or soft top, manual or automatic transmission, had already been publicized.

Two years later, the “C-Specification” derivative went on sale, the changes being only to the equipment, which now included a heater/demister unit in the base price.

Alas, none of these efforts really helped to increase the car’s appeal, for if a car gets a poor reputation when new, it can take years to recover -- ask Chevrolet about the Corvair, for instance. Thus, the last SP250s left the factory during 1964, and Daimler’s short-lived attempt to produce sports cars ended there.

Pity, too, because a completely redesigned and re-engineered SP250 was already well under way, and it looked to be an altogether better car. Styling, for example, sported a completely new look that would have compared well with any Aston Martin or MGB of the period, while rack-and-pinion steering was specified to replace the less precise cam-and-lever type.

By this time, however, Jaguar couldn’t build E-Types fast enough, so there was no room -- or need -- for a Mk II SP250 in the product line.

Find 1959-1964 Daimler SP250 specifications in our final section.

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