Daimler Motor Company

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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.
Daimler Motor Company
SuccessorJaguar Cars
HeadquartersCoventry, West Midlands (county), United Kingdom
Holding companyJaguar Cars
SubsidiaryLanchester Motor Company

The Daimler Motor Company was a United Kingdom motor vehicle manufacturing company, founded in 1896, and based in Coventry. The company became a subsidiary of Birmingham Small Arms 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 Automaker. The history of both companies can be traced back to the Germany engineer Gottlieb Daimler, who patented an Internal-combustion 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 Motor 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 Mércédès Jellinek. 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 (car) 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 Automotive 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.[1] 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

1898 Daimler car in Bristol Industrial Museum, England
Daimler TB 6-21 Drophead Coupé 1923
Daimler BD 10 Saloon 1951
Daimler Consort Saloon 1951
Daimler Drophead Coupé 1951

Company origin

The United Kingdom Patent rights to the Gottlieb Daimler's engine were purchased in 1891 [2] 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 J. Lawson bought the company for £35,000[2] 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 of the United Kingdom, 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 House of Windsor during World War I.

Scott-Montagu, as a Member of Parliament, also drove a Daimler into the yard of the British Palace of Westminster, the first motorized vehicle to be driven there. Every British monarch from Edward VII to the current Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom have been driven in Daimler limousines although, in 1950, after a transmission failure on the King's car, Rolls-Royce Limited 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 Tank 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 AEC (Associated Equipment Company), formed the Associated Daimler Company to build commercial vehicles.

In 1930 Daimler, through BSA, took over Lanchester Motor Company. Although at first the marques produced separate ranges of cars with the Daimler badge appearing mainly on the larger models, by the mid 1930s the two were increasingly sharing components leading to the 1936 Lanchester 18/Daimler Light 20 differing in little except trim and grille.[2] The Daimler range was exceptionally complex in the 1930s with cars using a variety of six and eight cylinder engines with capacities from 1805 cc in the short lived 15 of 1934 to the 4624 cc 4.5 litre of 1936.

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.

Bernard Docker was the Managing Director of BSA from early in WWII, and married Norah, Lady Docker 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 (coachbuilder), 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 Limited.

In 1951 Jack Sangster had sold Ariel (vehicle) and Triumph Motorcycles 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 Daimler Majestic Major, with a lightweight Hemi engine Daimler 2.5 & 4.5 litre. 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.

Daimler model 104
Daimler DB18 (1952)

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

  • 1896 First Daimler Vehicle
  • 1926-1938 The Double Six
  • 1933-1936 Daimler 15
  • 1936-1953 Straight Eight (covering a variety of models)
  • 1938-1945 Daimler Dingo — a BSA design
  • 1939-1949 Daimler DB18
  • 1940- ? Daimler Armoured Car
  • 1946-1952 Daimler DE27/DH27 (straight 6)
  • 1946-1953 Daimler DE36 (straight 8)
  • 1952-1971 Ferret armoured car
  • 1949-1953 Daimler DB18 Consort and DB18 Sports Special
  • 1952-1954 Daimler Regency
  • 1953-1956 Daimler Conquest
  • 1954-1957 Daimler Regency
  • 1954-1957 Daimler Regency
  • 1954-1958 Daimler Conquest
  • 1954-1960 Daimler DK400
  • 1958-1962 Daimler Majestic
  • 1959-1968 Daimler Majestic Major
  • 1959-1964 Daimler SP250 (Dart, A-spec.)

Jaguar and British Leyland

Daimler V8-250
Daimler DS420 Limousine

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 Daimler SP250, already in production, were continued for a number of years, using the Daimler V8 engine. In 1961 Daimler introduced the Daimler DR450 , a limousine version of its Majestic Major with a longer chassis and bodyshell and higher roofline. It continued in production until the Daimler 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 Cars.

It is said that Jaguar put a Daimler 4.5L V8 in a Jaguar 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 Daimler 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 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.

1972 Daimler Sovereign 4.2 (XJ6 Series 1)

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:

  • 1959-1968 Daimler Majestic Major
  • 1959-1964 Daimler SP250 (B and C spec.)
  • 1961-1967 Daimler DR450 Hemi V8 Limousine
  • 1962-1969 Daimler 250 V8
  • 1966-1969 Daimler Sovereign (badge-engineered Jaguar 420)
  • 1968-1992 Daimler DS420 Limousine
  • 1969-1983 Daimler Sovereign (badge-engineered Jaguar XJ6)
1988 Daimler Double Six

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, and the Leyland 680 was offered as an option on the Fleetline (designated CRL) after the merger with Leyland. 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)

Further information: Premier Automotive Group

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 XJ is known as the "XJ Vanden Plas" — the company may have feared that the American market would confuse Jaguar Daimler with DaimlerChrysler.

In 2002, with the arrival of the new Mark III XJ, the Daimler name (seen on the Mark 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. However, the Daimler marque was brought back with the "Super Eight" model.

Significant Daimler Models for that period include:

  • 1996 Daimler Century limited edition
  • 1996 Jaguar XJ concept car
  • 2002 Daimler Super V8 for HM Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom


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 XJ.

  • 2005- Jaguar XJ

Daimler in the media

  • A Daimler Limousine was the Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon favourite car, and – as befitted her position – was typically the car immediately following Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom's Rolls-Royce (car) during official events.
  • The Queen's own car for personal use is a 2002 Daimler V8 Supercharged (based on the Mark II XJ).

See also

  • Daimler-Benz
  • DaimlerChrysler
  • Premier Automotive Group
  • Wilhelm Maybach


  1. Ford names Tata Motors preferred bidder for Jaguar, Land Rover
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Georgano, N. (2000). Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile. London: HMSO. ISBN 1-57958-293-1. 

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