The Daimler Company Limited History
|Fate||from 1960 a division of Jaguar Cars Abbey Road, Whitley Coventry CV3 4LF|
|Successor(s)||Jaguar Cars continue to use the Daimler name|
|Headquarters||Coventry, West Midlands, United Kingdom|
|Key people||Percy Martin Edward Manville|
|Parent||from 1910 to 1960 The Birmingham Small Arms Company|
|Subsidiaries||Lanchester Motor Company Daimler Hire Daimler Air Hire Daimler Airway Transport Vehicles (Daimler) Hooper & Co Barker & Co Carbodies Hobbs Transmission Stratton-Instone|
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 right to the use of the name Daimler had been purchased simultaneously from Gottlieb Daimler and Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft of Cannstatt, Germany. As of 2013, the brand appears to be dormant.
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.
All the Daimler shares were purchased from BSA by Jaguar Cars in 1960. After the introduction of the Daimler DR450 new models used Jaguar bodies with Daimler grilles and badging. Daimler remains in the ownership of Jaguar Cars which now belongs to Tata Group of India.
Foundation of the Coventry business 1896
The name Daimler is used by two completely separate groups of car manufacturers. The history of both enterprises can be traced back to the German engineer Gottlieb Daimler who built the first four-wheeled car in 1889.
This German firm, initially operating at Cannstatt near Stuttgart, was the origin of the business variously known as Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft from 1890 to 1926, Daimler-Benz from 1926 to 1998, Daimler Chrysler from 1998 to 2007 and now Daimler AG or Daimler Germany, which has also manufactured vehicles since the 1890s but no cars with the name Daimler since 1908.
The British business was begun by engineer F. R. Simms, who was Hamburg-born and -raised, though of English parents. Simms was impressed by Daimler’s motor in tiny railcars when supervising construction of an aerial cableway of Simms own design for the Bremen Exhibition in 1889. Daimler, an ardent Anglophile, had spent from autumn 1861 to summer 1863 working in England, then regarded as “the motherland of technology”, at Beyer, Peacock and Company of Gorton, Manchester. (Beyer was from Saxony).Simms’ then wife was Austrian. The two men became firm friends though Simms was nearly thirty years younger.
Simms first 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 and founded Simms & Co consulting engineers in June 1891. His Daimler-related work was later moved into his new company named The Daimler Motor Syndicate Limited, which formed 26 May 1893.
Following the success of Daimler-powered Peugeots and Panhards at the 1894 Paris-Rouen Trials, Simms decided to open a motor car factory, possibly the UK's first motor company.
On 7 June 1895 Simms told his own board he wished to form a company to be known as The Daimler Motor Company Limited to acquire both the right to use the name Daimler and the British rights to the Daimler patents. It would manufacture Daimler motors and cars in England. In July 1895 he arranged an agency for the Daimler-powered Panhard & Levassor cars in Britain. Simms asked his good friend Daimler to be consulting engineer to the new enterprise.
Simms revives Cannstatt
Simms was approached on 15 October 1895 by H. J. Lawson of The British Motor Syndicate Limited. Lawson had set out to monopolize motor car production in Britain by taking over every patent he could. Lawson, in January 1896, sought the right to arrange the public flotation of the proposed new company (and 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.
Healing Cannstatt's splintering
Meanwhile Gottlieb Daimler and Maybach had withdrawn from Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft's business to concentrate on cars. Now, towards the end of 1895, without Daimler and Maybach, DMG was drifting towards bankruptcy. Agreement was needed from all the former partners to the transfer of the licences from Simms to the new English business. Simms offered to pay DMG £17,100 for that transfer 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. Those close to Daimler considered it ‘no mean feat’ that Simms had managed to obtain Daimler’s signature to the proposed re-amalgamation.
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 as a going concern. One of Lawson’s associates had for sale an empty four-storey cotton mill in Coventry which was promptly purchased and that is how the British motor industry came to begin in Coventry.
In mid-1900 Frederick Simms, as a director of the German firm, proposed a Daimler union between Coventry and Cannstatt, but nothing came of the proposal
Aristocrat and car dealer Emil Jellinek had legal problems selling German Daimlers in France, Panhard-Levassor also used the name as they used German Daimler engines. Jellinek proposed to Daimler Germany that he would place a large order if they would make a car for him that bore his daughter's name, Mercedes. Daimler Germany now recognized they shared their right to the name Daimler with many others and to avoid further legal action the name Mercedes was adopted in 1902 for all the cars built by Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft itself. The name Daimler was last used for a German-built car in 1908.
Daimler, history of the British business 1896–1960
Motors, launches, cars
In February 1891 Cannstatt loaned Simms a motorboat with a 2 hp engine and an extra engine and in June, named Cannstatt, it began running on the Thames from Putney. Simms had set up a London office at 49 Leadenhall Street and, later, works premises on the Thames at Eel Pie Island where Pears Soap had been making electric motors. The launch business rapidly gained momentum.
Four years later at the June 1895 board meeting Simms detailed his plans to form The Daimler Motor Company Limited and to build a brand-new factory, incorporating light rail, for 400 workmen making Daimler Motor Carriages. Afterwards Simms confidently firmed up his plans for the new business and new factory selecting a six-acre site at Cheltenham.
During that June board meeting Simms proudly produced the first car licence. It was for a 3½ hp Panhard & Levassor (later referred to as a ‘Daimler Motor Carriage’). Bought in France by Evelyn Ellis, who had three Daimler motor launches moored by his home at Datchet, it was landed at Southampton on 3 July 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.
Then, unexpectedly, Simms received Lawson’s proposal to purchase The Daimler Motor Syndicate as a going concern. It was promptly accepted. The deal was done on 27 March 1896 and Lawson took control. 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. The Coventry mills were purchased and named Motor Mills. Another deal was concluded with Panhard & Levassor in which the Cannstatt firm would receive a commission of 10% on British sales. 1896 passed with car sales limited to imported Panhard and Peugeot cars. Aside from engines Cannstatt seemed curiously unable to supply ordered components or specially commissioned working drawings. Four experimental cars were built in Coventry and some (redesigned in detail) Daimler engines.
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 on 2 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.
1902 Daimler advert for the 8HP Tonneau
An unwelcome United Kingdom "first"
In February 1899 a Daimler 6 hp was involved in the first motor accident in the UK to be recorded as having involved the death of the driver. A young engineer was killed when the rim of a rear wheel collapsed and the car he was driving collided with a wall on a sloping road in Harrow on the Hill. The engineer's passenger was thrown from the car and died in hospital three days later.
Sutton Hoo, Suffolk, is also the site of the nation's first carport, constructed in 1910 for the owner's Daimler.
Known as Britain's oldest car manufacturers, Daimler became the official transportation of royalty in 1898, after 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 British Parliament, the first motorized vehicle to be driven there. Daimler received another Royal Warrant early in 1908, “Motor Car Manufacturer to the Court of Prussia” and the same year yet another as “suppliers of motor cars to the Court of Spain”.
“Few car salesmen ever owned a house on the fashionable Old Mile at Ascot, maintained a stable of racehorses and trotters and rode to Royal Ascot as a guest in the King’s landau.”Undecimus Stratton (1868–1929) known to friends as Eugene (Undecimus meaning eleventh child, as indeed he was), was born into a family acceptable at the royal court. A notable athlete and rugby player and record-setting balloonist friend of C S Rolls. Stratton became a lawyer then started his own brewery, and, by the time he was in his early thirties, was able to marry a noted society beauty and to retire in great comfort. As a now wealthy motoring enthusiast he stopped one day in 1903 and offered help with a large Daimler stranded by the roadside. The Daimler’s owner was impressed by Stratton and by his motoring knowledge. He was E. G. Jenkinson, the chairman of Daimler and then hunting a replacement head for Daimler’s London depot, a particularly sensitive position because of the royal cars. Taking up the position Stratton soon found himself deep in the selection of better royal chauffeurs and mechanics. He quickly became an occasional motoring companion to the King and before long motoring counsellor to other monarchs including the Emperor of Germany and the King of Spain. In 1911 he spent some weekends at Sandringham tutoring the new Prince of Wales on the workings of an automobile and then its driving. In 1921 Stratton went into partnership with Ernest Instone and they took charge of the Daimler showrooms at 39 Pall Mall naming the business Stratton-Instone. Each morning at eleven a butler in morning suit brought oysters and champagne to the directors’ rooms. Stratton died suddenly in 1929. His successors and Instone bought out Daimler 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 and clearly visible in the photograph of the 1903 car to the right. 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.
Attracted by the possibilities of the "Silent Knight" engine Daimler's chairman contacted Knight in Chicago and Knight settled in England near Coventry in 1907. 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."
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." In recognition of the design's success the RAC awarded Daimler their coveted Dewar Trophy. 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 dropped poppet-valve engines altogether. Sales outran the works' ability to supply.
Daimler's sleeve valve engines idle silently but when they left royal engagements Daimlers often departed in a just-visible haze of oil smoke. These engines had quite high oil consumption, oil being needed to lubricate the sleeves particularly when cold, but by the standards of their day they required almost no maintenance.
Daimler kept their silent sleeve-valve engines until the mid-1930s. The change to poppet valves beginning with the Fifteen of 1933.
1915 Daimler advert
BSA amalgamation 1910
This business deal was engineered by F Dudley Docker, deputy-chairman of BSA and famous for previous successful business mergers. He later created the Metropolitan-Vickers combine. His son Sir Bernard Docker (1896–1978) became a key player in Daimler's history
Under an agreement dated 22 September 1910the shareholders of The Daimler Motor Company Limited "merged their holdings with those of the Birmingham Small Arms Company (BSA) group of companies". They handed in their Daimler shares for new BSA shares. BSA produced bicycles and motorcycles and rifles, ammunition and military vehicles as well as some BSA branded cars.
Immediately before the merger Daimler had a payroll of 4,116 workmen and 418 staff. The chairman of the enlarged group was Edward Manville who had been chairman of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders - founded by Simms - since 1907.
Transport of emperors, kings and princes
By 1914 Daimlers were in the service of royal families including those of Great Britain, Russia, Germany, Japan, Spain, Sweden, 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.
A 1932 Daimler V12 & King George V outside Buckingham Palace
World War I work
War was declared on 4 August 1914. It would last until 11 November 1918 and involve much of the world in the conflict.
The military took normal production of 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.
Aero engines manufactured by Daimler included: the French designed Gnome Monosoupape rotary engine, the air-cooled V8 RAF 1. Followed by RAF1a, the V12 RAF4 and RAF4a, Le Rhone and Bentley BR2. Daimler trained air force mechanics in its works and its training methods became the standard for all manufacturers instructing RAF mechanics.
Having its own bodyshop Daimler moved to building the complete flying machine and by the end of 1914 they had built 100 of the BE2c. These were followed by the BE12 and RE8. Their own test-ground beside the factory was compulsorily purchased and became the main RAF testing ground for aircraft built in the Coventry district. After tooling up for the FE4 raider bomber that project was cancelled. The last wartime aircraft produced was the DH10 bomber when they were building 80 aeroplanes a month.
The first special production in late 1914 were the power trains used in the Fosters of Lincoln made massive artillery tractors to haul 15-inch (380 mm) howitzers. As a result Daimler produced engines for the very first tanks ever built in 1914 ("Little Willie" and "Big Willie" or "Mother"). 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. Modifications designed by W. O. Bentley upgraded output from 105 to 125 horsepower during production. Derivatives included a gun-carrier and a supply vehicle and a salvage machine to rescue broken-down tanks and heavy guns.
Daimler made more twelve inch (305 mm) shells than any other business in the country, 2000 a week. Each was machined from a 994 lb forging down to a finished weight of 684 lb.
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 late 1920s, it, together with Associated Equipment Company (AEC), formed the Associated Daimler Company to build commercial vehicles.
Lanchester acquisition and Badging
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 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.
1931 Daimler Park Wood body V12
Mid-term review and outlook
Through the whole life of its business, Daimler seemed to suffer from often truly crippling boardroom battles and intense personal rivalries.
It has been suggested Simms and Daimler soon withdrew from their initial association with Lawson because Lawson showed little potential ability for managing a manufacturing business. It was felt Lawson's was an unsatisfactory group of people to be associated with. They were described by Frederick Lanchester as "the Coventry Company Promoting Gang". Once relieved of Lawson, the next period, Sturmey's chairmanship, suffered from the division between his supporters and his opponents. Sturmey departed in 1899.
Yet in the early 1900s, the achievement of a Royal Warrant and acquisition of some capable talent led to improved fortunes. Under the chairmanship of Sir Edward Jenkinson, an American, Percy Martin, a substantial shareholder and electrical engineer, was promoted to works manager and Ernest Instone to general manager. Jenkinson was succeeded in 1906 by Edward Manville, a distinguished consulting electrical engineer who was to become chairman of BSA. The involvement of the Docker family, father and son, beginning in 1910 failed to solve boardroom difficulties which transferred to BSA and in the end may have brought about disaster but in any case until the late 1920s the collective Daimler leadership did well and the business prospered. Its repute and its profits grew. "Side by side with an apprenticeship scheme which was as good as any in the trade, they had begun to attract pupils from public schools with such success that shortly before (World War I) there was a hostel full of them in a pleasant house in St Nicholas Street near the Coventry works."During that war, the 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, the blame since laid at Percy Martin's door, and all dividends were passed from 1920 to 1924. Martin had been strongly in favour of its purchase with its extensive aircraft or motor vehicle production facilities near London and no one thought to exercise "due diligence", which would have revealed Airco's true circumstances.
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 now well out of date, Daimler's production methods had become old-fashioned, they had an extravagantly large range of products. Their bankers noted the dwindling sales volume, the poor performance for price and the need for installation of up-to-date machine tool equipment. Stratton-Instone's new dominance of distribution was removed and new 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, recommended what became the September 1932 introduction of the small BSA and Lanchester Tens with poppet valve engines to help Daimler survive the depression and according to Percy Martin these things rescued the business from total collapse in 1932. 1934's new Straight-Eights were a personal triumph for Pomeroy.
With the 1930s, another gradual slide began. Manville died in harness in 1933, Percy Martin was forced out two years later, and Frederick Lanchester resigned as consultant in 1936. That same year, Laurence Pomeroy was not re-elected to the board and left for de Havilland. Ernest Instone had left the works in the early 1920s to concentrate his efforts on distribution (Stratton-Instone) but he too died, in 1932.
The staid Daimler was never a young man's carIt might be smooth, silent and impeccable, but a Bentley or Hispano-Suiza was a great deal faster and more appealing to the adventurous. Most important of all, Daimler was not paying dividends and by 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 remarkable 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.
Daimler's semi-automatic transmissions
Daimler became a proponent of the Wilson self changing gearbox matched with Fottinger's fluid flywheel further developed from Vulcan's and their own patents. They were introduced by Daimler in October 1930 on their new Light Double-Six for an extra £50 and soon they were used in all Daimler vehicles. The chairman reported to the shareholders at their Annual General Meeting in November 1933 "The Daimler Fluid Flywheel Transmission now has three years of success behind it and more than 11,000 vehicles, ranging from 10 h.p. passenger cars to double-deck omnibuses, aggregating over 160,000 h.p., incorporate this transmission. . . . . it has yet to be proved that any other system offers all the advantages of the Daimler Fluid Flywheel Transmission. Our Daimler, Lanchester and BSA cars remain what we set out to make them—the aristocrats of their class and type. . . . We have also received numerous inquiries from overseas markets. (Applause)".These transmissions remained in production until replaced by Borg-Warner fully automatic units beginning in the mid-1950s. Late in that period a new Lanchester model with a Hobbs fully automatic gearbox did not, in the end, enter full production.
World War II work
War was declared on 3 September 1939. It would last until 15 August 1945 and again involve much of the world in the conflict.
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 all-round disc brakes. The Dingo was a BSA design, Daimler's own design had proved inferior but the "Dingo" name was retained.
During the war Daimler built over 6,600 scout and some 2,700 Mk I and Mk II armoured cars. Tank components, particularly epicyclic gearboxes were provided for some 2,500 Crusader, Covenanter and Cavalier tanks. No complete aircraft as in the previous war but 50,800 radial aero-engines—Bristol Mercury, Hercules and Pegasus—with full sets of parts for a further 9,500 of these engines; propeller shafts for Rolls-Royce aero-engines; 14,356 gun-turrets for bombers including their Browning machine guns; 74,000 Bren guns—bombed-out that production had to be moved to a boot and shoe factory in Burton-on-Trent. Over 10 million aircraft parts were produced during the war. All this production is Daimler's alone excluding BSA's other involvements.
Daimler Scout armored cars ww2 1943
Daimler's peak workforce, 16,000 people, was reached in this period.
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.
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—now itself destroyed—but which after the Jaguar takeover became for several decades the principal Jaguar car plant.This acquisition, made by buying Daimler and getting a Coventry plant and its workforce, was a clever move by Sir William Lyons. Most motor industry members were forced by planning controls to expand in areas of unemployment without skilled operatives. Consequently they suffered lasting difficulties with quality of workmanship.
Churchill, always a regular customer, did his electioneering for his first postwar election sitting on the top of the back seat of a discreetly fast and luxurious low-slung Dolphin two-door drophead coupé first registered in 1944. The government ordered new limousines for the top brass of the occupying forces. New straight-eights were supplied to the former colonies for the planned royal tours.
Foreign monarch re-ordered to replenish their fleets. The 1946 golden jubilee of the founding of the business was celebrated with a luncheon at the Savoy.
However 'austerity' seemed infectious. The new Lanchester looked just like a Ford Prefect and its body was made in the same factory. A new model Eighteen with a lot of aluminium because of the steel supply shortage, a modified pre-war Fifteen, was introduced with technical innovations limited to a new cylinder head and curved glass in its side windows now framed by elegant chromed metal channels. Windows were 'in'. The big DE27 and DE 36 models were the first series-built cars with electrically operated windows. Daimler ambulances became a common sight.
Then in June 1947 purchase tax was doubled—home market sales had already been restricted to cars for "essential purposes". Petrol remained rationed, ten gallons a month. Princess Elizabeth took her 2½-litre drophead coupé, an 18th-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. The newest royal Daimler's transmission failed again and again. This schedule shows where what should have been Daimler repeat-orders went to. Daimler subsidiary Hoopers at least got to make some of the bodies.
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). But somehow it was all too late. The image had changed. Even local royalty deserted for Rolls-Royce.
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 and they were designed for enthusiasts.
The BSA group's leadership of the world's motorcycle market was eventually lost to Japanese manufacturers.
Lady Docker's Daimlers
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 far too opulent and perhaps a little 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.
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 head Daimler 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 rationalization, the larger in 1968 and the smaller a year later
Tata, Jaguar, Daimler 2007
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".