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Daimler SP250

Daimler SP250 Published: 2nd Aug 2019 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

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Not the prettiest sports car ever, the Daimler SP250’s real beauty and charm lies under its skin and where the Dart scores a bulls-eye

Launched 60 years ago and based broadly on the TR3, this drophead Daimler ranks as a worthy alternative to that more popular Brit plus benefits from a superb V8 engine for TR6-like power and yet the SP250 is almost as simple and easy to run as any Triumph. Furthermore, being made of fibreglass, the body can’t rust – another double top for the dignified Dart that’s much better than its dowdy decor depicts.

History

1959 Unveiled as the Daimler Dart but as American car maker Dodge had already registered the name it quickly complained, forcing Daimler to come up with the SP250 moniker instead.

1960/61 A B-Spec SP250 was introduced with a beefed-up chassis to reduce body flex, adjustable steering column, a stronger rear axle front and rear bumpers (previously optional!), a reserve fuel tank, windscreen washers and a revised interior. UK buyers could now specify an auto; previously this was only available to export markets and the Police force.

1963 C-Spec replacement, features a standard heater, cigarette lighter and built-in trickle charger socket.

1964 Production ends after Jaguar toyed with a totally restyled SP52 but discarded it fearing that it might hurt E-type sales.

Driving

Think of the SP250 as a sort of bigengined TR3 and you’ve almost hit the bulls-eye. Thanks to its novel (at the time) GRP bodyshell, the Daimler weighs roughly the same as a four-pot TR and with that superb V8 under the bonnet gives the Daimler TR6-like pace with it cracking 60mph in nine seconds and trucking on to 120mph.

Popular in drag racing, the 2.5-litre V8 has enormous potential for tuning and some owners (albeit only a handful as it’s not a simple drop in) have even slotted in the larger 4.5-litre found in Majestic saloons for V12 E-type-like performance!

Despite strangely no overdrive option even though the SP250 uses a TR3 transmission (but it can be fairly easily added), it’s a good cruiser with a supple ride, that’s better than a TR. The fl ip side is severe body fl ex that can be as bad as any pre-war sports car. Couple this with heavy steering and on twisty B-roads you have to work hard at the wheel for your fun although a conversion to rack and pinion is available along with power steering from specialists and both mods transforms the Dart as a driver.

Best models

Condition counts the most although earlier B and C Spec cars are ranked as best. Many earlier cars are already converted to latter spec chassis modifi cations and it’s well worthwhile having done. Automatic transmissions suits the V8 really well, so if you come across one don’t dismiss it as a good buy. Less than 3000 were made and 1200 were left-hand drive; it’s easy to convert to UK tastes if you wish. Parts supply is very good indeed thanks to dyed-in-thewool- fan David Manners.

Prices

Hardly a beauty but that hasn’t stopped demand outstripping supply to a sizeable degree although most buyers want something really nice that needs little doing rather than a restoration project. Even a complete box of bits will cost at least £10,000; expect to pay at least three times this for a usable car that’s a bit ratty and needs work. Really nice SP250s cost the best part of £37,000 and absolute minters can carry 50 grand price tags.

Verdict

SP250s are now rightly being hailed as blue chip classics that wear a prestigious badge yet are as easy to maintain as the TR3 this Daimler is based loosely upon. To us that’s the real attraction of the delightfully different Dart. No longer the bargains that they once were, it’s a trend that will only continue – so it is better to buy now if you want one or a Dart will remain a fl ight of fancy .

Top 5 faults

Bodywork

Crazing of the gel coat, commonly affects forward of the windscreen the most so check for repairs. Thanks to the inherent body-flexing that’s worse on the earliest cars, don’t be surprised to find significant stress-cracks either. Door and bonnets known to fly open

Chassis

Box-sectioned chassis rots with ease; usually suspension pick-up points. Because of body flex strengthening members were fitted to B and C-Spec cars around the windscreen. If the strengthening members are badly rotted, they don’t have to be replaced to comply with the MoT but it’s wise to…

Engine

While Mk2 V8 saloon sometimes suffered from worn engines, the lighter SP250 is less stressed but can still overheat (mainly from furred up waterways) and suffer from valve guide wear, more so than V8 saloon it appears. Low oil pressure? You need to see in the region of 40psi if good

Transmission

Not the direct TR unit some claim. it struggles to cope as does fragile crown wheel and pinion. Fitting proper Triumph hardware (2000/GT6 etc is regarded best) isn’t a straight swap. It’s worth persevering though, particularly if it features overdrive. Autos generally reliable

Suspension

The Triumph-cloned front suspension suffers from similar maladies, such as 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



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