A-Z of marques: No.15 Daimler

The marque: Britain's oldest car brand

The history: Ever wondered what the link is between Daimler in Britain and Daimler-Benz in Germany? It happened at the end of the 19th century when Frederick Simms, an Englishman born in Hamburg, became the British agent for the {I}Motor-Wagen{I} being built by Gottlieb Daimler. He was later granted the patents to make Daimler cars in the UK, and then sold the rights to roguish motor entrepreneur Harry J Lawson who attempted to the corner the car market, including licences for imports, with his British Motor Syndicate.

From 1900, the Daimler became the royal car of choice, an arrangment which carried on until 1941 when the German connection, by now minimal, was deemed politically incorrect. During the period of royal patronage Daimlers were large, impressive cars typically with sleeve-valve engines, a design which was smooth, quiet and massively smoky. Post-Lawson, Daimler became part of the BSA (Birmingham Small Arms) combine, which also made BSA cars and motorcycles and Lanchester cars (another venerable British marque, noted for unusual soloutions to problems).

After the second world war, Daimler's millionaire chairman was Sir Bernard Docker. His flamboyant wife, Lady Norah, sought to liven up Daimler's image, and a series of extraordinary one-off cars with gold stars on the paintwork, crocodile-skin interiors and names like Stardust and Silver Flash was the result. Eventually the excesses cause Sir Bernard's resignation, and in 1960 Daimler ended up under the control of Jaguar.

It had a few last gasps of independent thought, though - a new saloon based on the be-finned Vauxhall Cresta was canned, fortunately, but the Daimler SP250 sports car mixed odd looks with a neat little V8 engine designed by Edward Turner, a former motorcycle engineer. That engine found its way into the Jaguar Mk2 to make a delightful, if crossbred, sports saloon, and thereafter all Daimlers were upmarket Jaguars with the trademark fluted radiator grille. Even the familiar DS420 limousine was really a rebodied Jaguar 420G.

Will Daimler ever return? Jaguar might use the badge on an extended XJ saloon, but don't hold your breath.

Defining model: Daimler Majestic Major, a V8-powered hot-rod and the last true Daimler saloon.

They say: We still exist, you know.

We say: But only as a Jaguar in a smart whistle and radiator flute.

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