How Daimlers are made
The Editor visits a famous Coventry Manufacturer
Last year we described a visit to Rolls-Royce of Crewe. Not everyone can afford “the best car in the world” and, cost apart, from time immemorial in a motoring sense, the British Royal Family has shown its preference for Daimlers. Since Jaguar took over the long-established Daimler Company in 1960 the 4 1/2-litre V8 Majestic Major has nobly upheld the reputation of this highly respected Coventry-built make. Indeed, the modern big Daimler is remarkable for the manner in which dignity, luxury, stability and very high performance have been blended, so that this relatively inexpensive car (at £2,703 for the saloon, £3,497 as a spacious limousine — both inclusive of pt.) represents a sort of sporting version of the motor-carriage of tradition, and it is not unusual to see a straight-backed chauffeur thrusting through the late-morning or early-evening traffic with such a combination of speed and imperturbability that young men in sports cars drop behind abashed, while the Daimler’s owner sits unruffled, immersed in The Financial Times.
How is this splendid motor car made ? Before going into details, what may not be generally appreciated is that much of the quality inbuilt into the Daimler Majestic Major is exactly the same as that found in all Jaguar models. Consequently the Daimler owner benefits from the price reduction made possible by this overall high standard of manufacture and inspection blanketed over an organisation building approximately 600 cars a week and, conversely, Jaguar customers can feel proud and confident of the luxury-class construction employed in making their type of car.
Certainly the Daimler is still very exclusive. Of the aforesaid weekly output of 600 cars, Daimler Majestic Majors represent but ten a week. (Incidentally, about a hundred 2 1/2-litre V8 Jaguar-Daimlers are made in that space of time.)
Of these, as in the case of the 2-seater and 2+2 Jaguar E-type, the sub-division between saloons and limousines is approximately 50%. The limousine is in demand by organisations such as B.O.A.C., the National Coal Board, the Co-Operative Societies, hire-firms and funeral directors, etc., while there is practically no substitute for a Majestic Major saloon amongst Company Directors, retired tycoons, affluent heads of sizeable families and similar discerning owners who have need of a status-symbol luxury car and consider a Rolls-Royce an unjustifiable extravagance at £6,557—or, quite frankly, cannot afford one. . . .
The Majestic Major’s origins go back prior to Sir William Lyons’ take-over of the Daimler Motor Company, which incidentally cost him a cool £3.4-million. Edward Turner, talented designer of racing motorcycle engines, evolved for the Daimler Company his 2 1/2-litre V8 engine, which gave 140 b.h.p. at 5,800 r.p.m. for a dry weight (exclusive of flywheel) of 419 lb., and was installed in the Daimler SP250 sports car. At the London Motor Show of 1959 the DQ450 4 1/2-litre version of this engine appeared in the Daimler Majestic saloon, then called the Majestic Major to distinguish it from the former 6-cylinder Daimler Majestic which it closely resembled, although the boot was larger and the frontal appearance slightly changed. The larger version of Edward Turner’s V8 engine developed 220 b.h.p. at 5,200 r.p.m. for a comparative dry-weight of only 498 lb., thus having the exceptionally good power/weight ratio of 0.442 b.h.p./lb.
The layout of these engines is conservative, but aluminium alloy castings are used for heads, rocker covers, tappet block, inlet manifolding and sump, and the maximum torque of 282 lb. ft. at about 2,700 r.p.m. of the 4 1/2-litre engine with a corresponding b.m.e.p. of 153 lb./sq. in. can, in the words of The Automobile Engineer, be regarded as creditable for an 8-cylinder engine with a fundamentally tortuous inlet manifold and only two single-choke (S.U. HD6) carburetters. In fact, the Daimler DQ450 power unit has a modest cr. of 8.0 to 1 (the smaller version a c.r. of 8.2 to 1) and at full power the piston speed is only 2,730 ft./min., with a maximum piston acceleration. of 48,700 ft./sec.2—figures implying dependability and long life. Inclined o.h. valves in hemispherical combustion chambers, pushrod actuated, contribute to this high efficiency, and a 5-bearing crankshaft in an engine which is only 31 1/4 in. long in its larger form, to the notably fluidity of functioning.
After Jaguar had absorbed the age-old Daimler Company the 2 1/2-litre engine was found entirely suitable for installation in a small Daimler saloon which is listed as a 2 1/2-litre Daimler but which I prefer to describe as a V8 Jaguar, the body shells being identical. For this purpose the engine required very little modification, although air-cleaners larger than those under the bonnet of the SP250 were possible, changes were made to the inlet and exhaust manifolding to facilitate installation, and just recently a fluid coupling type of cooling fan has been adopted; the power characteristics proved well suited to the Borg-Warner Type 35 automatic transmission.
About eighteen months after the advent of the 2 1/2-litre 76 x 70-mm. engine and the 4 1/2-litre 95 1/4 x 80-mm. engine the latter power unit appeared in the new Majestic Major limousine. There is no doubt that the tooling facilities laid down for production of the smaller V8 had encouraged Daimler to produce the 41/2-litre version, which showed a reduction in piston speed at full power and a maximum piston acceleration of 380 ft./min. and 1,200 ft./sq. sec., respectively, over the 3.8-litre 6-cylinder engine used until then in Daimler Majestic cars, at the same time developing 73 more b.h.p. for an increase in crank-shaft speed of 800 r.p.m. Edward Turner, who is now with the B.S.A. organisation, could well be proud of these almost-pioneer British production vee-eights. So far as the chassis was concerned the Majestic, with its coil-spring i.f.s. was virtually unaltered when the V8 power unit was installed to give it “Major” status. It was the work of Cyril Simpson, who retired two years ago after doing yeoman work in the Daimler commercial vehicle field. I am sure he will not mind me expressing the opinion that the sports-car standards of cornering and roadholding which the 120-rn.p.h. big Daimlers possess were more a matter of luck that the new engine did not upset the car’s balance, than carefully premeditated design. But it certainly works and Jaguar have been concerned only to give the car Hydrosteer power-steering, Girling disc brakes, and to refine the Borg-Warner automatic transmission with its driver-controlled intermediate gear holds.
Since Jaguar acquired Daimler a complete re-organisation of production arrangements has been made, to increase efficiency and provide more space for the construction of the well-known Daimler commercial-vehicle chassis. Much of the Daimler plant at Radford was destroyed during the war and has been rebuilt, to incorporate a fine reception/showroom hall, but Jaguar and Daimler engines are now built up in the older Daimler shops, where rows of machine tools in closely-serried ranks are redolent of an older regime, although the lighting and spaciousness of the factory compare favourably with best modern practice, and the engines come together in an unhurried atmosphere that spells competent efficiency.
Jaguar has no foundry, so rough castings are bought out, remain in the open to weather in the best pre-1914 tradition, and are then brought in for machining on a variety of grinding, milling and drilling machines that include Ward, Asquith, Spenshed, Maximanc, etc. In-line twin-cam 6-cylinder Jaguar and both sizes of push-rod V8 Daimler engines are assembled on the same line. The con.-rods and Brico pistons are matched in sets before arriving at the site of the engine assembly line, crankshaft journals are hand-lapped and crack-tested, and the combustion chambers acquire a decent polish before the engines are built-up and the valves are lapped-in by machine; the Borg-Warner gearboxes, incidentally, are supplied to Daimler’s special requirements.
Completed engines go to a most impressive test-shop, with rows of Heenan & Froude DPX3 water dynamometers along each side, forty in all. On these every engine is first run light for three hours at 1,500 r.p.m., then at varying speeds and at up to 70% full load for another three hours, clean oil being fed to them meanwhile from a common supply. Jaguar and Daimler engines share their running-in and testing procedure indiscriminately. They are then taken in Guy transporters (another product of the Group) operated by the Company to the Jaguar factory at Browns Lane, for installation in the appropriate cars.
The big Daimlers retain separate X-braced chassis frames. Their assembly is entirely divorced from the Jaguar assembly lines, and there are separate, hand-moved, floor-level lines for the Majestic Major saloons and the regal limousines. The saloon body shells come in from Carbodies; the limousine bodies consist of the saloon pressings with additional sections welded-up by Park Sheet Metal, a subsidiary of Carbodies, both of Coventry.
The bodies for 4 1/2-litre Daimlers are painted at Radford, the process being identical with the high standards set for Jaguar painting, except that cellulose finish is specified instead of the opal synthetic finish used for Jaguar bodywork, to enable conservative Daimler customers to have a choice of the older shades of colour not always available in the synthetic finishes. The body shells undergo a preliminary degreasing and zinc-phosphate rust-proofing process before taking a dip in a slipper-bath of rust-inhibiting paint. They then receive two coats of filler and two cellulose-spray coats. Finally, after all assembly and checking has been completed, a further two coats of wet on wet are applied and the bodies go through the drying ovens again, before being finally inspected and waxed polished. Sound damping is much in evidence, especially in the luggage boot, but not beneath the bonnet.
As with all Jaguar cars, each Daimler is taken for a 25/30-mile run on the road, A test divided between two independent test-drivers, and devised not to check performance but specifically to assess the correct functioning of the controls and the quietness and smoothness of operation.
The chassis frame of the Daimler Majestic Major is a Thompson product, the back axle is a Salisbury 4HA, the i.f.s. comprises Daimler-Andre-Girling units. The propeller-shaft is divided, Metalastic engine mounts are used, and the locking mechanism of the Borg-Warner gear selector was developed by Daimler to ensure precise movements of the lever.
After the saloons and limousines leave their separate assembly lines they move along a single floor-level trim line. Daimler make their own seats, which are sent as sets to the trim line to ensure matching grain in the Connolly leather, darker hides usually having a coarser grain.
The polished wooden facias and door cappings, etc., of Jaguar and Daimler cars are made entirely at Browns Lane. The carefully selected timber is stored in open-sided sheds and the veneers in cases. Swedish ply is favoured for facias, and I was impressed by the size of the wood-working shop and the separate veneering bay with its two radio-wave bonding presses. In yet another shop the wooden components are buffed on french-polishing lines, a synthetic gloss is applied, and final polishing is done by women operatives using electric buffing irons. Each car has a tray in which its wooden components are stacked after being carefully matched, and veneer patterns have to be consistent along a panel, while much research is done in conjunction with the timber industry in matters such as preservation of the finish and veneering under the wide extremes of heat and humidity which the cars have to endure in Overseas’ use. The steering wheels are proprietary products but Jaguar put the gloss on their wood rims —too much for the liking of one E-type driver I know!
As has been said, much of the manufacturing process is common to both Daimler and Jaguar cars, so that the high quality essential to the maintenance of the Daimler reputation rubs off on Jaguar products and the comparatively large output of the latter enables Daimler luxury to be offered at relatively modest prices. (These processes, as they were in 1957, were described more fully in Motor Sport of June that year.) Even so, I was intrigued by the extent of the Browns Lane upholstery and trim department, with its upstairs gallery where carpets and similar items are cut and shaped, until I remembered that real leather upholstery is used for the seats of every car made by the Jaguar/Daimler organisation, not as an optional extra for certain models only. Door casings are done in p.v.c. but, everywhere that it matters, Jaguars and Daimlers have real hide upholstery. The rear compartment of the Daimler limousine is the exception, tradition demanding that this be trimmed in West of England cloth, although leather can be specified throughout if required.
Another impressive aspect of the Browns Lane factory is the manufacture of their own window frames, door fittings, radiator shells, etc., impressive articles .of “ironmongery” in gleaming copper after the joints have been jig-brazed and then hand filled and filed smooth, before being communally plated in a vast fully-automatic plating vat made by the Electro-Chemical Engineering Co. The largest parts in terms of area to go through this plating process are Jaguar Mk.10 door frames, the smallest the nuts for Jaguar cambox covers. A radiator shell takes a bath of some hours’ duration in this enormous plating vat. By making such parts themselves, Jaguar/Daimler have accurate control of quality, cost and rate of production, and are independent of outside sources in their aim of maintaining 14 days’ supply of all components.
Only the stately Majestic Major radiator shell comes in from an outside supplier. The Daimler radiators, fluted of course, are protected by masking tape during assembly of the cars.
There is a fairly wide choice of colours for the Majestic Major, and separate radio installations, bench-type or separate occasional seats, and manual or electrically-lifted division on the limousine, are optional on the big Daimlers.
The Daimler factory at Radford somehow exhudes the atmosphere of the older era, when its products wore sleeves and trailed blue smoke ! About one-quarter of the main assembly hall at Browns Lane is devoted to customer service of Jaguar and Daimler cars, with a separate section for the latter. (A London service depot is also maintained for Daimler passenger cars, at Willesden.) Historic Daimlers still find sanctuary at Coventry and I saw a 1933 Lanchester Ten saloon in process of restoration and an Edwardian Royal Daimler shooting brake awaiting resuscitation.
Railway sidings still run through the factory roads and Daimler passenger vehicle chassis—notably the famous rear-engined Roadliner with its V6 Cummins diesel engine and the likewise rear-engined Fleetline with transverse Gardner 6LX diesel engine, both using a fluid flywheel and air-or electrically-controlled epicyclic gearbox—still go away on trucks using these tracks. At least a dozen ‘bus chassis leave the Radford factory per week. But I am assured that Daimler have no intention of giving up private-car production. Which should be good news for tycoons, V.I.P.s or just those older motorists who appreciate hush and luxury in a highly accelerative 120-m.p.h. saloon or limousine and the opportunity of enjoying excellent value-for-outlay while indulging such tastes.—W.B.