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Daimler Dart SP250

Published: 4th Nov 2015 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Daimler Dart SP250
Daimler Dart SP250
Daimler Dart SP250
Daimler Dart SP250
Daimler Dart SP250
Daimler Dart SP250
Daimler Dart SP250
Daimler Dart SP250
Daimler Dart SP250

Buyer Beware

  • The glass fibre body can’t rust of course, but as with all GRP cars, the shell suffers from ‘cobwebs’ as the outer skin micro-blisters, but worse still thanks to the inherent body-flexing that’s worse on the earliest cars, don’t be surprised to find significant stress-cracks.
  • The most serious problem with poorly maintained SP250s is a real danger of the bonnet flying open due to corroded check straps. Built-in body flex can also cause doors to fly open, but the car has to be in a particularly bad state to achieve this.
  • Most SPs are fairly well looked after these days but, that said, the box-sectioned chassis will rot with ease; usually at the suspension pick-up points (especially the front wishbones) and the rear axle. Get underneath to check well.
  • Because initial body flex was so dire, added strengthening members were fitted to B and C-Spec cars around the windscreen, while door posts were actually bolted on. If the strengthening members are badly rotted, they don’t have to be replaced to comply with the MoT but wise to.
  • That simple sweet V8, is long-lasting with it, if serviced properly. Lowly oil pressure (you need to see in the region of 40psi if good), general decay and hot running due to corroding alloy waterways can occur if anti-freeze has gone stale and allowed to eat into the water works.
  • The Triumph-derived transmission isn’t as robust as the real thing, although fitting proper Triumph hardware (2000/GT6 etc is regarded best) isn’t the straight swap you think it might be. It’s worth persevering though, particularly if the gearbox contains overdrive – something the SP250 always strangely lacked. It’s claimed that 20 per cent of SP250s were autos as it suits the car well.
  • The Triumph-cloned front suspension suffers from similar maladies, such as MT failing trunnion wear, usually stemming from a lack of proper greasing, although repairs can be extremely expensive. When checking the car, see that the front doesn’t dip, especially on A-Spec cars, says the SP250 Owners’ Club.
  • The Dart’s steering is lorry like and replacing it with a lighter, sharper Triumph rack-and-pinion set up is a popular mod, and well covered by the SP250 Owners’ Club. It’s not cheap or easy though – expect to spend around £500 on the upgrade if you are doing your own spannering or perhaps £1500 if a specialist does it.


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The Daimler Dart’s looks won’t appeal to everybody but underneath that gawky glassfibre body lurks an XK-beater and at much less cost

When Jaguar bought the ailing Daimler concern he had a problem with its SP250 sports car. It is said that the main reason Sir William Lyons killed off the Dart was because it could have wounded sales of his own sporty cats such as the XK and E-type despite those questionable lines – which Jaguar actually did a good job of refining before deciding to drop the Daimler all together in 1964. Thankfully if nothing else, the SP250 goes much better than it looks and with prices considerably cheaper than an XK, the dignified Daimler is certainly worth some serious consideration.


There’s only a singleton model and the differences lie in chassis and mechanical changes over its five year production span. It was widely reported that Daimler simply bought a Triumph TR3 and cloned it – especially the chassis, suspension (independent front, leaf spring rear but with discs all round) although the chassis wasn’t as rigid compared to the Triumph one as a quick change to B Spec in April 1961 demanded by parent Jaguar proved. Extra outriggers, plus a strengthening hoop between the A-posts, largely addressed the worries over the doors flying open. Full-width bumpers with over-riders were now fitted as standard, where previously they were a £33 option. A heater and demister system was still optional but the previously optional adjustable steering column became standard. A C-Spec version for 1963 was chiefly its detailing.

A quoted 2654 models were made and, amazingly, as many as 1800 are thought to survive so there’s still a fair choice although there’s very few A Spec cars around that haven’t retrospectively been uprated to the later specifications.

Strangely, despite using the Triumph gearbox, overdrive was never made an option yet it transforms the Dart’s already good touring abilities. Automatic transmission was available and it does suit that V8 quite well.

SPs used to sell for a couple of grand but that’s long gone as even a basket case is worth £7000-£10,000 as a box of bits, with half decent roadworthy alternative worth double with the most desirable of Darts now sit comfortably in the £30-£40,000 bracket.


The Dart doesn’t feel dissimilar to the Triumph TR3 which provided most of the groundwork. Most of the original batch should have been modified to stiffer B-Spec by now and, in fact, Jaguar, after the takeover, brought back unsold original specification cars from the USA simply to upgrade them.

As you’d expect from a 1950’s design, this Daimler is a fairly heavy car to drive, particularly when parking unless you opt to go rack and pinion or electric power steering, but provided you don’t expect it to feel like an Elan or an MX-5, it rewards on the open road. On a summer’s day with the hood down, you can hear that truly wonderful V8 in full cry, providing pretty good performance levels even by today’s standards. The ride, handling and steering are all well up to the Healeys and TRs of the same era and the (four wheel disc) brakes far better than other cars of that period. The interior is wonderfully 1950s yet the bucket seats are surprisingly supportive plus there is plenty of room in the 2+2 cockpit for touring.


A Healey 3000, Triumph TR3A/4 or Jaguar XK/E-type may be easier to own, with better specialist and parts support, but running an SP250 is not difficult – see David Manners’ website. The V8-powered 250 is entirely orthodox much like the rest of the car and mechanically it’s easier to work on than many other rival classics. Rebuilding a V8 costs around £6000 to do properly but if okay you don’t need to take the heads off for an unleaded conversion because it runs fine on the juice already.

The fibreglass body is a good quality (better than an Elan!) so should be okay. Some of the chrome or stainless steel trim parts cost a fair fortune and are hard to find but that’s about it although be warned, a Dart can become a very expensive car to restore. The good news is that there are specialists, such as Essex-based Robert Grinter (01787 222188 http://www.robertgrinter. who rebuilds them plus can also dial in some tried and trusted tweaks including better chassis reinforcements.


The SP250 comes with a pretty good hood and wind-up windows, so winter driving shouldn’t pose a problem. The Daimler is certainly roomy and comfortable enough to use daily, and on long runs, with relaxed cruising (70mph@2500rpm) particularly with an overdrive or five-speed gearbox grafted on where 30mpg becomes fairly attainable. There is a reasonable boot and the bonus of so-called seats in the back that can accommodate extra luggage, or small children. There are lots of upgrades to make the daily drive even better, with rack-andpinion steering kits, EZ power steering, antitramp bars, brake servos, radial tyres, electronic ignition (a worthy mod to get rid of the quirky ‘twin points’ set up) and electric fans with overflow tanks to keep you cool in hot weather congestion. Specialist David Manners is your man for all things SP250.

That engine is a gem and if 140bhp isn’t enough then 200bhp is easily achieved while the handling is easily improved by orthodox methods. It’s not unknown for the larger 4.5-litre V8 from the Majestic to be slotted in (220+bhp) but it’s not as simple as it first appears says specialists. Let’s talk safety for a moment as the SP’s bonnets can still fly open, so a £20 safety latch from the owners’ club has to be pretty well essential.



Débuts in America at the New York show, but Dart name upsets Dodge so it’s changed to the SP250 at short notice. Almost a clone of the TR3 in terms of running gear design, it used a delightful 2.5-litre V8 engine clothed in a fibreglass body. Original plan was to convert production to metal but slow sales meant that production costs could not be justified.


To counter the numerous criticisms and design shortcomings, such as a floppy chassis a B-spec model is launched, which made the chassis more rigid, plus the car had detail styling changes to improve those old fashioned looks and build quality. Jaguar, who bought Daimler a year before, launched the sexy E-type that April and had its mind on other things…


Revised C-spec is introduced, the changes majoring on added equipment than any mechanical improvements. Jag head Sir William Lyons has a go at improving the looks by way of a major facelift and a much prettier Daimler emerges but in the end he decides to cull the car to protect E-type sales and the last SP250s leave the showrooms during 1964.

We Reckon...

Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder when talking Daimler Darts but beyond those dubious looks which are striking rather than attractive lies an excellent sports car that’s as good as an XK and even an E-type in many ways yet appreciably cheaper to buy and easier to own. Add increasing values and the SP250 looks an increasingly attractive proposition.

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