If eight is good, 12 is better
THERE WAS AN AGE WHEN THOSE WHO
thought of cars as status symbols liked to drive behind long bonnets covering straight-eight rather than mere six-cylinder engines. But if eights were impressive, why not 12-cylinders? Maybe Britain lost out in this field by allowing Louis Coatalen’s first V12 racing Sunbeam to go to America
where, during the 1914-18 war, Packard studied it and brought out their impressive Twin-Six.’ In Coventry, around 1926,
• Laurence Pomeroy decided, maybe to counter the prestige of the Rolls-Royce ‘Phantoms’, to design the Daimler DoubleSix 50 motor carriage, with a 60-degree V12 7136cc doublesleeve-valve engine and wormdrive back axle for quietness.
The Autocar remarked, “Fortunate beings will, in the immediate future, survey the leisurely moving surfaces of the earth through the windows of their Daimler Double-Sixes, as they pass on in silent dignity”. Only top and third in the fourspeed gearbox were needed, this huge but dignified motor-carriage climbing Birdlip Hill in top. It cost 12450 as a
spacious luxury seven-seater saloon, when an R-R P1 cost 1.2957. Leisurely? Windows? Not quite the car for MOTOR SPORT to discuss? Except that the great engineer Reid Railton was persuaded to design, and Thomson & Taylor to build, a few 100mph sports versions with exceedingly low-hung chassis, and radiator
scarcely higher than the front mudguards. In 1966,! tracked down and drove one of these sporting DoubleSixes, all 12ft 10in of wheelbase, 7.50×32 tyres, and 2 tons 7 cwt of it. These great Daimlers made a decided impression. The King immediately had one of the new V12s put into his old 35/120hp Daimler until a new Double-Six was ready. Smaller
versions followed, the 3.7-litre Thirty (of which the Queen had one), the 5.2-litre 30/40 and the 5.5-litre 40/50, but the original 50hp was dropped after 1930. It was not until 1936 that RollsRoyce produced a V12, the not entirely successful Phantom III, with a 60deg pushrod ohv 7340cc engine. It was
an exciting move for those of us used to the V12 R-R aeroengines. The PIII did nearly 92mph in closed form, against over 101mph of the 8-litre Bentley saloon of 1930. The war killed this interesting Rolls, after 710 were made. It was not until the 1970s that Jaguar explored the 12cylinder theme with a 5.2-litre engine. I waited expectantly
to test the saloon and was again impressed — except for its thirst.
British twelves waned after that, while the eights went vee, led in the lower-price bracket by Ford’s wonderful V8s. Voisin had even ventured a straight-12 but it did not last long. And so Hispano-Suiza in France and Ferrari in Italy then became the V12 engine’s champions.