A Daimler Conundrum

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THOSE who enjoyed the high-standard of casting and accuracy in the ITV documentary “Winston Churchill — The Wilderness Years” should find the follow-up book, published by Macmillan’s and written by Martin Gilbert, a scholar of Merton College, Oxford, well worth reading. All it has to do with motoring, however, apart from a picture of Churchill inspecting a Rolls-Royce armoured-car column at Pelhan Down, Tidworth, in 1927, and some others of unidentifiable cars, is that his Daimler is mentioned. It was, according to the author, given to him in March 1932, as a present from various friends and admirers, led by Brendan Bracken, owner of the Financial Times, partly as a measure of affection after Churchill had recovered from being knocked down by a car in New York, while engaged on a lecture tour (it was estimated that his jay-walldng accident was equal to falling 30 feet onto a pavement, and absorbing 6,000 ft./ lb. energy; not unnaturally, it absorbed much of even Churchill’s remarkable energy for some time).

The Daimler was awaiting Winston Churchill at Southampton on his return from America. The conundrum which Martin Gilbert sets us relates to the cost of the car. He says that Brendan Bracken had to raise £5,000 to obtain it. The car was presumably a 1932 model, which one isn’t stated, but the most expensive Dairnler that year cost from £1,650 upwards, this being the great 40/ 50 h.p. “Double-Six”, with fluid-flywheel. I can find no reference to Churchill’s Daimler in the standard Daimler reference books and have not had time to thumb through the motoring weeklies of the period, to see if they mention it. But even were it a top model, with very special bodywork, surely it could have been purchased for about £2,500 or less?

I wondered whether the author of “Winston Churchill — The Wilderness Years” had perhaps mistaken dollars for pounds. But, apart from the obviously painstaking care he devoted to his text, he says the money was collected by asking 100 of Churchill’s chosen friends for £50 each, so the total cost of £5,000 would be correct. Churchill sent 100 telegrams of thanks for the gift, in which he referred to the Daimler as “. .this lovely motor-car . . .”. Perhaps some Daimler expert may wish to set our minds at rest, as to why this commendable present to the great Statesman cost his well-wishers such a lot of money? Incidentally, I believe the Daimler used in the ITV film was a 35/120 h.p. saloon well-known to VSCC members. When it made a later appearance therein, Churchill told his wife Clementine that in spite of hard times he had had it repainted to please her. I have not found this in the book, so it seems likely that the ITV producer had to slip this piece of improvisation in, after finding that the Daimler’s owner had thoughtlessly had the colour of his car changed between “takes”, although this is pure surmise. — W.B