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.
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.
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'.
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:
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:
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: