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The Daimler Motor Company

Daimler Motor Company

This article is about the British automobile manufacturer. See Daimler for other uses derived from the German engineer and inventor Gottlieb Daimler. For the two direct descendants of Daimler's original company, see Daimler-Benz and its successor Daimler AG.

The Daimler Motor Company was a British motor vehicle manufacturing company, founded in 1896, and based in Coventry. The company became a subsidiary of BSA in 1910, and was acquired by Jaguar Cars in 1960. The Daimler brand stayed with Jaguar Cars through its mergers into British Motor Holdings and British Leyland, and also when Jaguar regained its independence in 1984. In 1989 the Daimler brand transferred to the Ford Motor Company when Jaguar Cars became a subsidiary of Ford's Premier Automotive Group. In March 2008 the Daimler brand was included in the deal by Ford to sell its Jaguar Land Rover operations to Tata Motors of India.

As of 2006, the use of the Daimler brand was limited to one model, the Daimler Super Eight.

Origins of the name

Confusingly, the name Daimler is used by two completely separate groups of car manufacturers. The history of both companies can be traced back to the German engineer Gottlieb Daimler, who patented an engine design in the late 19th century, built (together with Wilhelm Maybach) the first motorcycle in 1885 and built the first four-wheeled car in 1889. This was the origin of the Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft ("Daimler Motors Company") which built cars from the 1890s onwards and sold licenses of its designs and patents to others. The licence granted to the Daimler Motor Company included the right to use the Daimler name in Great Britain. Gottlieb Daimler died in 1900, having sold licences to use the Daimler name in a number of countries. Emil Jellinek had legal problems selling German Daimlers in France and put it to Daimler Germany that he would put in a large order if they would make a car to order for him bearing his daughter's name. These cars proved enormously popular. Daimler Germany now realised the problem of having sold licences to use the Daimler name, and to avoid any further confusion and licensing troubles, the name Mercedes was adopted for all the cars built by Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft itself, in 1902, while the name Daimler was last used for a German built car in 1908.

In 1924, the Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft merged with Karl Benz's Benz & Cie. to form the Daimler-Benz car company which built Mercedes-Benz cars and trucks and agreed to remain together until 2000. In 1998 Daimler-Benz merged with the Chrysler Corporation to form DaimlerChrysler. During 2007, DaimlerChrysler split itself again, to become the new Chrysler LLC and a renamed Daimler AG.

Through all of this, Ford - via their 1989 purchase of Jaguar - assumed and retained the sole rights to sell automobiles under the Daimler name. However, during 2007 it was revealed that Ford intended to sell off the remaining British-derived portions of its Premier Automobile Group (consisting of both Land Rover and Jaguar holdings, which include the Daimler franchise). The new suitor in this plan was reported to be Tata Motors of India, though Ford preferred to refer to Tata as the "preferred bidder" while negotiations continued. The deal was then finalized in March 2008.

The Austro-Daimler concern has survived as Steyr-Daimler-Puch, despite being absorbed by General Dynamics in 2003.

History of the British company

Company origin

The UK patent rights to the Gottlieb Daimler's engine were purchased in 1891 by Frederick Simms, who produced them at his company F R Simms & Co. In 1893 this was renamed the "Daimler Motor Syndicate Ltd" and supplied engines to boat builders. In 1895 Harry Lawson bought the company for £35,000 and changed its name again to the British Motor Syndicate, a company mainly trading in patents. In order to capitalise on some of the patents he had bought, in 1896 he founded the "Daimler Motor Company" based in a disused cotton mill he bought in Foleshill, Coventry. Here, from 1897, he built Léon Bollée cars under licence as well as MC and Daimler cars. The first Daimler left the works in January 1897, fitted with a Panhard engine, followed in March by Daimler engined cars. The company claimed to have made 20 cars by July making the Daimler Britain's first motor car to go into serial production. These had a twin cylinder, 1526 cc engine, mounted at the front of the car, four speed gearbox and chain drive to the rear wheels.

Known as Britain's oldest marque, 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 Scott-Montagu, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu. The Royal House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha had, like Daimler, also obtained their name from Germany, but changed this to Windsor during World War I.

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. Every British monarch from Edward VII to the current Queen have been driven in Daimler limousines although, in 1950, after a transmission failure on the King's car, Rolls-Royce was commissioned as the Royal Primary Carriage, Daimler being reduced to 'second fiddle'.

Since 1907, the fluted radiator grille has been the Daimler marque's distinguishing feature. The company acquired a Knight Engine licence in 1908 to build sleeve valve engines for its automobiles.

BSA take over

From 1910 it was part of Birmingham Small Arms Company (BSA) group of companies, producing military vehicles as well as cars.

In addition to cars, Daimler produced engines for the very first tanks ever built in 1914 ("Little Willie" and "Big Willie"), a scout army vehicle, engines used in aeroplanes, ambulances, trucks, and double-decker buses. In late 1920s, it, together with Associated Equipment Company, formed the Associated Daimler Company to build commercial vehicles.

In 1930 Daimler, through BSA, took over Lanchester Motor Company, which had the distinction of having been the maker of Britain's first production car.

During World War II, Daimler production was geared to military vehicles. After that war, Daimler produced the Ferret armoured car, a military reconnaissance vehicle, which has been used by over 36 countries.

Daimler was a proponent of the preselector gearbox. This was used in passenger vehicles and military vehicles.

Sir Bernard Docker was the Managing Director of BSA from early in WWII, and married Lady Norah Collins in 1949. It was Lady Norah's third marriage, and she had originally been a successful dance hall hostess, already having married well twice, and already wealthy in her own right. The Lady Norah took an interest in her husband's companies and became a director of Hooper, the coachbuilders.

Lady Docker could see that the Daimler cars, while popular with the royal family, were in danger of becoming an anachronism in the modern world. She took it upon herself to raise the company's profile, but in an extravagant fashion, by encouraging Sir Bernard to produce show cars.

The first was the "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. At the same time Lady Norah 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. Norah ran up large bills, and presented them to Daimler as business expenses, but some items were disallowed by the Tax Office drawing further attention. 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.

In 1951 Jack Sangster had sold Ariel and Triumph to BSA, and joined their board. The Docker Daimler era was soon to end. By 1956 Sangster was voted in as the new Chairman, defeating Sir Bernard 6 to 3, and he promptly made Edward Turner head of the automotive division. This then included Ariel, Triumph, and BSA motorcycles, as well as Daimler and Carbodies (London Taxicab manufacturers). Turner then designed the Daimler SP250 and Majestic Major, with a lightweight hemi head Daimler 2.5 & 4.5 Litre V8 Engines. Under Sangster Daimler's vehicles became a little more performance oriented.

Daimler 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.

Some of the most significant vehicles produced by Daimler prior to their acquisition by Jaguar in 1960 were:

Jaguar and British Leyland

In 1960, the Daimler name was acquired by Jaguar Cars. William Lyons was looking to expand manufacture, and wanted the manufacturing facilities, but then had to decide what to do with the existing Daimler vehicles.

The Daimler Majestic Major and the sporty Dart, already in production, were continued for a number of years, using the Daimler V8 engine. In 1961 Daimler introduced the DR450 , a limousine version of its Majestic Major with a longer chassis and bodyshell and higher roofline. It continued in production until the DS420 arrived in 1968, by which time it had sold almost as many as the "Major" saloon.

These were the last Daimler-badge cars not designed by Jaguar.

It is said that Jaguar put a Daimler 4.5L V8 in a Mark X, and it went better than the Jaguar version. It is also said that when Jaguar ceased production of Daimler designed vehicles, Lyons had all the spares bulldozed into a pit.

The last car to have a Daimler engine was the V8 250 which was essentially, apart from a fluted grille, badges and drivetrain, a more luxurious Jaguar Mark II.

Jaguar merged with the British Motor Corporation, the masters of badge-engineering marques in 1966 to form British Motor Holdings (BMH). Not surprisingly, except for the Daimler DS420 Limousine introduced in 1968 and withdrawn from production in 1992, subsequent vehicles were badge-engineered Jaguars, but given a more luxurious and upmarket finish. For example the Daimler Double-Six was a Jaguar XJ-12 with the Daimler badge and fluted 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.

During that period, 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. The Daimler marque stayed within BLMC and its subsequent forms until 1982, at which point Jaguar (and Daimler) went their own way and the Austin Rover Group went the other.

Significant Daimler models for that period include:

Daimler buses

A significant element of Daimler production was bus chassis, mostly for double deckers. These were developed after World War 1, and Daimler entered into a short joint venture with AEC in the early 1920s, vehicles being badged as Associated Daimler. In the 1930s the Daimler COG became the main model, and in postwar years production worked through the Daimler CVG to the long-running Daimler CRG Fleetline, built from 1960 to 1980. 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 deck bus bought from 1970 to 1978 was the Daimler Fleetline. Daimler buses were fitted with proprietary diesel engines, the majority by the Gardner company, although there were a few Daimler diesels built in the 1950s. The bus chassis were also fitted with bodywork built by various outside contractors, as standard in the British bus industry, so at a casual glance there is no real identifing feature of a Daimler bus apart from the badges. 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 Lancashire, the final couple of years of Fleetline production being badged as Leyland.

Jaguar (Under Ford Ownership)

In 1989 the Ford Motor Company took over Jaguar and with it the right to use the Daimler name. In 1992, Daimler stopped production of the DS420 Limousine, the only model that was not just a re-badged Jaguar. In 1996 Jaguar Cars produced a "Daimler Century" model to celebrate 100 years of motoring.

The name 'Daimler' continued to be used to determine top-line XJ Jaguars (in every country except the USA, where the top line XJ was (and still is) known as the 'XJ Vanden Plas', as the company feared that the American market would confuse Jaguar Daimler with DaimlerChrysler) until 2002, when, with the arrival of the new Mk. III XJ, the Daimler name (seen on the Mk. II XJ as the 'Daimler V8') ceased to be used to mark out the top models, with the 'Jaguar Super V8' the new flagship model. Now, Daimler is back with the new 'Super Eight' model, and there are rumours that Jaguar may be designing a successor to the DS420 Limousine.

Significant Daimler Models for that period include:

Revival

In July 2005, after a three-year hiatus, a new Daimler, the Super Eight, was presented, with a 4.2 L V8 supercharged engine which produces 291 kW (400 bhp) and a torque rating of 533 Nm (395 ft·lbf) at 3500 rpm. It is derived from the Jaguar X350.

Daimler in the media

  • The Daimler was a popular British police car in the 1960s and was featured in British films and TV series of that era.
  • Modesty Blaise had an ivory-coloured SP250 in the early book versions of her adventures, and it also appeared occasionally in the comic strip.
  • An SP250 features briefly in the film The Fast Lady.
  • The Beatles rented and drove a Daimler motorhome during their first Canadian tour.
  • A Daimler Sovereign Series 3 was driven by character Arthur Daley in the popular 1980s television series Minder.
  • A green SP250 was used in the ITV Series Heartbeat in 2005.
  • A Daimler Limousine was the Queen Mother’s favorite car and as befitted her position, was typically the car immediately following Her Majesty the Queen’s Rolls Royce, during official events.
  • The funeral of Princess Diana featured a convoy of Daimler DS420 hearses and limousines.
  • A Daimler hearse was used for the Queen Mother’s funeral.
  • The Queen's own car for personal use is a 2002 Daimler V8 Supercharged (based on the MkII XJ).
  • A 1951 Daimler convertible was featured in Clive Cussler's novel Cyclops

See also

References

External links

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