Curbside Classic: 1961 Daimler SP250: The Queen’s Sports Car

Sometimes I cannot believe the remarkable vehicle related experiences this olelongrooffan stumbles into. Today I was down at my brother’s Goodyear shop getting my Comanche’s bodily fluids changed and one of his clients drives up in this 1961 Daimler (dame-ler) SP 250!! Yeah, you read that correctly, a 1961 Daimler SP 250! One of only 1,200 left hand drive SP 250’s produced, along with 1,445 right hand drive units, between 1959 and 1964. My brother told me that when he pointed this out to me as it was pulling in, my jaw just dropped, my eyes got as big as saucers and that I said nothing, just headed over to that truck and grabbed my image taker. I was aware of the existence of these but had never previously seen any of the three of them located in the Sunshine State.

And I have to tell you this: that affable owner answered every question I had for him and provided a ton of additional information.

This 2218 pound ragtop is 13 feet, 4 1/2 inches long and 5 feet, 1/2 inch wide. I don’t know the height of it but the dude standing beside it in the above image is 5’10” tall.

The SP 250 was originally named the Daimler Dart but Dodge, who owns the copyright to the Dart name, objected and this was rebadged to the name it currently possesses.

The owner related to me, after commenting that I asked a lot of questions, this fiberglass, yes that’s glass fibre in merry old England, sports car was designed with the US market in mind. In an attempt to emulate the success Jaguar, Triumph and MG had in the late 50’s here in the states, Daimler hastily put this together for the 1959 New York Motor Show.

Sorry, once again, about my crappy el cheapo image taker.

Edward Turner designed this 2,548cc hemispherical combustion chambered V-8, utilizing SU carburetors, and it was the most desirable feature of this Daimler sports car. Looks just like a little baby Chrysler hemi, except for those carbs.  Girling (or maybe Dunlop?) hydraulic disc brakes provide stopping power at each corner while a synchronized four speed transmission was utilized. At the time of the SP 250’s introduction, Daimler was known for mostly their sedans (Ed: see 1964 Daimler Majestic Major 4.5 Liter in this CC Cohort piece), the British Royal Family’s choice for their private cars, and this was Daimler’s fastest offering to that point. Its top speed was 123 miles per hour with a 0-60 mph time a still respectable 8.9 seconds. It averaged 21 miles per US gallon.

The low mouth on this reminds me of the early Triumph TR’s while the headlights bring the Bugeye Sprite to mind. The location of turn signal indicators above the headlights provide some interesting body contour lines. Yeah, that’s my brother, thejeepjunkie, on the left getting a whole education on this rare Daimler SP 250.

While many contemporary sports cars were sporting wire wheels, Daimler decided to build toward the American market by offering full size wheel covers including

the spinner style offered on the Corvette. The owner mentioned this was yet another of the US market inspired features of it.

The dashboard of this SP 250 has just enough gauges and toggle switches to make it highly desirable to me. And the location of that handbrake in the passenger compartment? I thought the Lotus Caterham was the only one to have that feature!

And while the SP 250 was marketed as a 2+2, I sure don’t see anything other than a tote bag or small pet sitting in the rear seat of it.

Check out the hood hinges in the above image and keep them in mind when looking at the trunk hinges in a later image. Those pins along the top of the dashboard are to hold the, now rare, cockpit tonneau cover in place.

As I was hunched down alongside the driver’s door of this object of art and chatting it up with the owner, he extolled on the fact that Daimler was trying to hit the desired US market with fiberglass (Corvette), low mouth (Triumph TR), fins (pretty much anything in the late 50’s) and spinners (again, Corvette). I quickly gathered the above image as he chuckled and stated “I guess they failed on all accounts.”

I would disagree and apparently so does he as he drives this classic around 2,000 miles per year


One of the questions I asked him was how he acquired it? “The best man in my wedding owned this and left it to me in his will. As much as I like this car, I would rather have him still be around and have me as a passenger.” In our version of car Heaven, this will happen Kind Sir.

I also asked him what his daily drivers were. “Well, here in Florida, my wife has a PT Cruiser but I have this along with my Austin Mini Wagon.” Yeah! “In Chicago, I have my GMC Denali and an Alfa Milano.” Yeah! “I also have 4 or 5 Morgans scattered around.” Yeah! This olelongrooffan has a new best friend and I am visiting his garages real real soon.

He also mentioned that, due to the recession in the late 50’s, these were not great selling automobiles. Several of the automatic versions of them ended up in the United Kingdom metropolitan police department fleet. Yeah, and we thought Italian Lamborgini cop cars were cool!

However, in summation I must note, as cool as this car is and as totally stoked as I am in being able to see one in person and share it with you,

it is still an English car with all its leaks and Lucas electrics, after all.