cars by country
UK cars
Daimler history
Daimler Double Six
Daimler Double Six 50


Daimler history


It can rightfully be said that Daimler provided the foundation stone for the British car industry but the name, now thought to be as typically English as afternoon tea, has its origins in Germany. Gottlieb Daimler, the father of the motor car was befriended by an Englishman, Frederick Simms. They met at a German engineering exhibition in 1890, where Simms had been greatly impressed by the Daimler single-cylinder four-stroke engine.


 By 1893, Simms had established the Daimler Motor Syndicate in London. British law at the time restricted the use of motor cars, so the engine could only be used in motor launches. The growing band of motoring enthusiasts eventually managed to gain the ear of those in power and when HRH the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, showed his support for the cause, it was obvious the motorist's future was more promising. A financier, Harry Lawson, approached Simms and managed to persuade him to part with the Daimler name to establish in February 1896 the Daimler Motor Company Limited. This was a bold move, typical of Lawson's dealings, but one that paid off.

Premises were bought in Coventry, then at the heart of the cycle and engineering industry and the Motor Mills, as they became known, were to be the centre of several of Lawson's enterprises. These activities included Daimler, the Great Horseless Carriage Company, Pennington, and for a while at least, Humber.

Early in 1897 some cars started to roll from the Motor Mills, using Panhard & Levassor chassis, locally-built bodies, and engines made under licence to the same specification as those used by Panhard.

 The first royal car was a Daimler, bought by the Prince of Wales which undoubtedly helped to create the quality image it presents to this day.

1898 4 hp

After the turn of the century, Daimler had earned a reputation for high quality and was making some exceptionally good models.

As if to confirm its place at the top of the British industry it often entered hillclimbs and other speed competitions. Wins at Shelsley Walsh and at the first race meeting held at Brooklands were important to reputation building. Entries in the Kaiser Cup, the Herkomer Trophy, and the legendary Targa Florio, all produced good results.


 The Edwardian period was much better for British manufacturers in the race to catch foreign competition. The car was starting to boom, and by 1910, Coventry had over 50 manufacturers though hardly any were destined to survive later.

1911 12 hp

This popularity attracted the attention of big engineering concerns, one of which was the Birmingham Small Arms Company. BSA had tried to build cars but with little success.

Daimler was seen as the perfect target for BSA. Both companies were held in high regard throughout the engineering world, and had a proven pedigree that few could doubt. The recent acquisition of the rights to make the Knight sleeve-valve engine was important in terms of refinement and would put Daimler far ahead of the competition.

Daimler was part of the massive BSA by 1910, but maintained a great deal of automony and self-determination.

Most of the larger car makers were moving towards mass-production by this time, but Daimlers still boasted coachbuilt bodies, often crafted by outside specialists such as Hooper and Barker.

War Time

The First World War soon interrupted plans for change and cars made way for trucks and aero engines.

After the war, production restarted with pre-war models until new ones could be designed. The Daimler reputation was now at an all-time high and it had few rivals. Rolls-Royce had only the Silver Ghost on the market and Bentley had just been founded.

Daimler still had the added kudos of being the royal car. By 1919, the royal family had taken delivery of 30 Daimlers for state service by King Edward VII and King George V.

1920 45hp Daimler convertible saloon

 On the technical front sleeve-valve engines were the norm, usually as straight-sixes. In 1926, Daimler introduced the legendary Double-Six designed by Laurence Pomeroy, comprising two six-cylinder engines operating on a common crankshaft to form a V12. It was without doubt one of the finest engines built in England.

Such technical advances could not be matched commercially and the Wall Street Crash obviously hurt sales.

1926 45hp Barker bodied Daimler all weather tourer. This one was used in India by the Maharajah of Rewa and used for tiger hunting

Another innovation came in 1930, when a new form of transmission, the fluid-flywheel, was announced. This hydraulic coupling was combined with a pre-select gearbox to give unrivalled smoothness when compared with a conventional manual transmission.

In 1931 another respected car name was added to the business. Lanchester had been building high-quality cars in Birmingham for over three decades, and were widely credited with creating Britain's first four-wheel petrol-engined saloon.

A stylish 1931 Daimler Double Six 50

In the early days, it was largely the work of Dr F W Lanchester that gave the Lanchesters an unique character and a technical edge over the competition. He was a genius who could direct his skills toward any field of engineering, from motor cars to aeronautics at a time when flight was considered only a distant dream even by respected scientists.

The Lanchester car was good, but never built in enough numbers to satisfy the financial needs of the business.

For a little while at least, the Lanchester Forty, a straight-eight with superb performance and refinement, was continued but soon Lanchesters became small badge-engineered Daimlers. The market for the big luxury cars had dwindled to such an extent that it was the only commercial option left open. In 1936 the Daimler Fifteen was introduced as a 2.5-litre six-cylinder car aimed directly at the people who wanted the prestige but not the expense of running a larger car.

The Fifteen saved the Daimler marque from premature extinction but to compensate for this change in standards a new Straight-Eight was introduced for the luxury market. This model was inspired by Lanchester's Forty and featured poppet-valves instead of the expensive sleeves to add to its refinement.

1938 James Young saloon

Motorsport was again taken seriously, and a number of these new Daimlers were prepared for rallying. Smaller, sportier Straight-Eights were developed and different chassis lengths introduced.


 Daimler's first post-war cars in the forties were the new Straight-Eight - the DE36, and two new six-cylinder cars, the smaller DB18, and the DE27. For several years this was the basic range, although coachbuilders added special touches to make some great and attractive cars.

At the 1948 Earls Court Motor Show, the public was given a first idea of what was to come. The Green Goddess was a massive drophead coupe, with coachwork by Hooper - by now, part of the BSA/Daimler empire, as were Barker whom Hooper had taken over some years before.

The 1951 show was the next to have a special Daimler, commissioned by the chairman, Sir Bernard Docker, in the name of publicity for the marque. In reality, it was probably more for Lady Docker's publicity, as it was often used by her after the event. This first Docker Daimler, christened the Gold Car, was elegantly finished in black, with tiny gold stars, and all chromework plated in real gold.

The Docker gold car

Another three memorable cars followed, Silver Flash in 1953, Stardust in 1954, and the Golden Zebra Car in 1955. This was to be the final Docker Daimler but regarded as just too extravagant for the other BSA directors to sanction. Sir Bernard and Lady Docker were ousted from BSA and Daimler amid accusations of unnecessary expense and a trail of newspaper headlines all over Europe.

1951 DE 36

Sir Bernard Docker did at least bring the Daimler Conquest into being. This was a modern 2.5-litre car, aimed squarely at the middle income market. It offered a good pedigree refinement and, as was proved in rallying and on the race track, a respectable performance as well.

Conquest roadster


1956 will always be remembered by Lanchester enthusiasts. The Lanchester Sprite had been in development for some time but for some unknown reason the new management decided to drop the Sprite project completely - and with it died the Lanchester name.

BSA had grown tired of supporting the Daimler marque by now and when Sir William Lyons of Jaguar offered to buy the Daimler factory in Radford, he not only secured more production space but obtained another useful subsidiary and one he would use to its maximum potential.. Daimler.

 For some time, Jaguar continued to develop original Daimler projects by refining the SP250 sports car and introducing the big V8 saloon, the Majestic Major. The first Jaguar-Daimler appeared at the 1962 Earls Court Motor Show. The car was the 2.5-litre V8 and was basically a Mark II Jaguar with the small Daimler V8 engine. 


The first new model to emerge from the Jaguar-Daimler conglomerate was the Daimler DS420 Limousine, built on the 420G platform. The new model had a 20 inch section added behind the front seat and was powered by the legendary 4.2 litre XK engine. The Jaguar influences on this car remained under the surface. The body was pure Daimler, bearing more than a passing resemblance to Hooper designed Daimlers of the past. The much respected model was built from 1968 to 1992 and maintained a continuing link with the Royal family and heads of state across the world. 

In 1972 a new Jaguar V12 engine went into production and this enabled the revival of the Daimler 'Double Six'. In addition, a very attractive two-door coupe derivative of the XJ saloon was also produced in Daimler guise between 1974-78.

In 1984, Jaguar was returned to the private sector and two years later the company launched a completely new saloon range, the XJ40 with a new 'AJ' six-cylinder engine. Daimler versions of the XJ40 were available from announcement and the Daimler Double-Six III remained in production until the end of 1992.

Following the acquisition of Jaguar by Ford in 1989, there began an intensive product development programme. October 1992 saw the launch of a new Majestic range at the NEC Motor Show. The new model had a five inch stretch in the wheelbase to improve rear legroom.

In September 1994, the first Jaguar-Daimler range to be announced since the Ford takeover was revealed. The new XJ-series, topped by a new 6.0 litre Double-Six Daimler, was inspired by the classic, curvaceous lines of the earlier Series III saloons. Just nine months later the X330 long wheelbase saloons were announced. The Daimler Six and Double-Six, flagships in the new XJ Series saloon range, have the long wheelbase body as standard to retain the essential elegance that is traditionally Daimler.


In 1996, the Daimler Century was launched as a limited edition model to celebrate 100 years of the Daimler marque. Distinguished by original and uniquely comprehensive equipment, the Daimler Century is the ultimate Daimler and one of the finest cars ever made. To ensure lasting exclusivity and distinction, availability of the Daimler Century was limited to the centenary year 1996.

Now over a century after the creation of Daimler the marque epitomises quality, craftsmanship and refinement, which are upheld as a commitment to the traditions established for excellence in engineering at the outset of motoring history. Daimler is still very much a part of our future model plans to perpetuate the timeless qualities of craftsmanship and exclusivity.

The range of V8 engines created for Jaguar's acclaimed XK8 has been developed for Daimler to offer a 4.0 litre normally aspirated engine and now a 4.0 litre V8 Supercharged developing 370 bhp.

The new engines are matched with a new electronically controlled 5-speed automatic transmission, with 'J-gate' manual over-ride.