I have no wish either to cross swords with my old friend Dennis Flather or to set myself up as the poor man’s Dennis Field, but I really cannot let pass Mr. Flather’s unqualified assertion that his car is the oldest Daimler in the world.
This assertion appears to be based solely on the engine number. As Daimler engine numbers were up in four figures in 1897 a difference of one or two is not very significant, and it is accepted by dating experts that engine numbers, on their own, are not definite proof of age. Even in the early days I doubt if Daimlers bought their engines one at a time and it is reasonable to suppose that when Charlie wanted an engine for the car he was building he went to stores and took the one nearest the door, regardless of the number.
What is more important than engine numbers is differences in chassis design. Now the Flather car has dumb-irons and semi-elliptic springs at the front. My car has no dumb-irons and fully elliptics. I can hardly believe that Daimlers started off with dumb-irons and then “progressed” to full elliptics. As far as I know there are only three early Daimlers with full elliptics, mine, Mr. Murcott’s, the ex-Skinner car plus possibly the Coventry Museum model.
One can disregard method of steering since, while all the early Daimlers were tiller-steering, they were apparently called in by the works in 1898/99 and converted to wheel steering. A few avoided this fate, including the Murcott and ex-Skinner cars. The Flather car is also tiller steering but this is a conversion from the steering wheel conversion carried out by the works—in fact, a “double-conversion”. Without quibbling as to which is actually the oldest car you can take the oldest ten or so and hardly two of them will have the same wheelbase, the same front axle, or even the same diameter wheels, but, sticking my neck out, I think the oldest is likely to be either mine or Mr. Murcott’s. Murcott’s engine number is 1197, mine is 1196 so according to the Flather theory mine is older by a few hours, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
Please do think about those dumb-irons, Dennis, and please don’t risk your luck too much on engine numbers because I can show you a Daimler the engine number of which is lower than both yours and mine but the back axle is stamped “Made by Kirkstall Forge 1898!”
Meysey Hampton E.D. WOOLLEY