The 2½-Litre Daimler Saloon

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24

A ROAD TEST OF A VERY REFINED, HIGH PERFORMANCE CAR OF MODERATE PRICE, EXTREME SILENCE AND EFFORTLESS SPEED

A DAIMLER has not previously been tested by MOTOR SPORT since 1925, when we tried the sporting version of the then current 16 h.p. sleeve-valve model. For a considerable time after that the Daimler Company Limited was mainly associated with large and luxurious closed cars, amongst which the V12 “Double Six Thirty” and “Double Six Fifty” were notable cars. Then came the quite sensational news that the Knight double-sleeve valve engine which this historic British concern had adopted in 1909 and used consistently ever since was to be dropped in favour of modern, Pomeroy-designed, push-rod o.h.v. units in all models of the Daintier range. Even then, these fine cars did not appeal directly to the sportsman, except as typically British cars of medium size appealing as auxiliary to the sports job, or for general family use. The Daimlier Rally Debut altered all that, introducing as it did the new sports Daimlers of advanced design and excellent performance. We have not yet been able to try these cars, but, in view of the interest which they have aroused, a test of the standard 2½-litre six-cylinder saloon, from which the sports 2½-litre is developed, over 350 miles under war-time conditions, is a valuable and very acceptable experience.

Here is a big and imposing car, with sober, yet beautifully balanced lines, very spacious and nicely appointed as to interior, and an effortless car on long, hurried journeys. Right from the start, as we slid into the driving seat after a twelve hour spell of A.R.P. duty, the quiet dignity of this modern Daimler was apparent. The big, thin-rimmed wheel, with 3 inches of column adjustment, is nicely placed, the leather-upholstered bucket front seat easily adjustable and very well-shaped, the preselector gear lever comfortably reached through the wheel by the right forefinger, and the near side sidelamp just visible below the long bonnet, ahead of which the traditional Daimler radiator flutings and “real” large-sized filler cap seem entirely reassuring. Even a momentary glance at the external lines of the car serves to explain the appreciative glances to which one becomes accustomed from passers-by, while although the interior arrangements of the four-door six-light saloon follow conventional practice, they are very effectively carried out. Even as you commence driving, other attributes of the Daimler become apparent. The preselector lever of the Wilson box is moved to second gear position (bottom being used only on a gradient), and the clutch pedal let up. There is a slight re-action, but the car remains stationary, until the hand-brake is released, when it steams off as the fluid flywheel takes up the drive. A perfectly smooth start is thus obtainable in any gear, as it is practical, indeed normal tactics, to hold the car on the brakes, with the engine idling, even in top. Later we demonstrated to an amused audience in a seaside car park that the Daimler could be held by getting out and leaning on the radiator, although still in bottom gear. This combination of fluid flywheel and preselector gearbox (Vulcan-Sinclair and Daimler patents) renders driving practically fool-proof, and must be a god-send to women who now have to get on with the daily driving, not only from behind the wheel, but entirely alone. On the other hand, of course, an enthusiast can use the clutch-pedal in the ordinary way, avoiding holding it out too long, while still benefiting by the cushioning action of the fluid drive and epicyclic bands. It is worth mentioning that the writer had had very little previous experience of the Wilson box, but he found gear changing simplicity from the commencement, given a little practice in avoiding altering the throttle setting while changing down. In any case, moving the Daimler off is rendered even more absurdly simple because she will take top gear after a very few yards— we soon found ourselves going straight from second into top and very early at that, not so much with our minds on “Pool,” as because the engine is so very willing. To be strictly honest, this 2½-litre engine pulling 1½ tons of motorcar is a bit more noisy towards maximum on the gears than some engines in silent luxury cars costing upwards of three times what you pay for the Daimler. But you only realise this from very recent experience of such super-cars, and ordinarily the Daimler 2½-litre would be considered 100 per cent. silent. It is inaudible when idling and barely more evident at cruising speeds of 60-70 m.p.h. For a car the chassis of which is valued at only £400, even in these hard times, such under-bonnet silence is certainly something to write to the Front about. It is a characteristic that adds very greatly to the pleasure of handling what is in any case an impressive car. Moreover, it is a silky, responsive engine which can be forgotten. Slight tappet noise could be heard at the end of the test, but only with a window down, or when standing by the radiator, and no flat-spot was experienced anywhere, acceleration being quite consistent all through the range, save for a slight hardness on occasion, possibly as the fluid drive adjusted its torque. After only a brief experience of it, you come to warmly respect this neat unit, with close-set distributor, coil, enclosed h.t. leads, dip-stick and starter in the near side, and S.U. carburetter feeding through a polished, buffer-ended, four-branch manifold on the off side. The finish smacks of good marine practice, being in grey paint. There is abig oil filler in the valve cover, and a large air-cleaner for the carburetter.

At first we set this Daimler down as a nice, but rather stately carriage, trying it solely in built-up areas. Later we found that it has a very brisk performance, the power coming in usefully once the speed rises, so that at over about 30 m.p.h. in third or 40-45 m.p.h. in top, there is ample reserve for instant increases of speed. On the open road 60 becomes the normal gait, or 70, with no more effort, if time presses. The absolute maximum (speedometer readings) was 74 m.p.h., or 80 m.p.h. assisted by slightly favourable gradients. So this big saloon is a really fast car on2,522 c.c., although the ease with which it reaches, and holds, these speeds, running with no noise save that of the air-rush over the body, is even more worthy of comment. On the gears, as we have said, it becomes usual to do a few yards and then change up, getting top at about 40 m.p.h. if you wish to hurry; the maxima, for record purposes, were: 1st: 17 m.p.h.; 2nd: 35 m.p.h.; 3rd: 47-54 m.p.h. The gears are quiet, but the sun and planet wheels purr happily in neutral. When accelerating, in the gears or at over 20 in top, audible pinking occurred, which could be cured by going on half-retard at the expense of power—the test was made on Pool petrol, of course. Taking the Eastbourne road, delightfully deserted even on a warm Sunday morning, the Daimler was extended with no regard for fuel-preservation, in order to assess its qualities as a means of rapid transport. The suspension gives an extremely fine ride over the worst surfaces and there is no particular fore and aft pitching tendency, any shocks which are transmitted being more in the nature of short, sharp bumps. Further experimentation off the beaten tracks confirms the exceptional nature of this springing, yet there is no suggestion either of undue suppleness, or of the presence of independent wheel movement at the front end. Fast cornering was freely indulged in, and the Daimler showed up very well indeed, the coil-spring i.f.s. undoubtedly contributing much to the general stability, while there is no tendency to undue roll. On one bend the car got into a double slide on a dry surface, and in trying to analyse what occurred we decided that the very manner of the car’s running resulted in over-fast cornering—so effortlessly does this car perform that you are apt to go into a bend of the 45 m.p.h. kind at a cool sixty. When this happens, the tail comes round, and there is some tendency to over-steer when correcting. On all other occasions, the car goes round clean, with a slight suggestion of floating outwards as a whole, on long, acute bends. At first we put this down to tail float, but more pressure in the rear tyres, while lessening the music, did not effect a complete cure, and it seems possible that the supple independent springing does allow the car to float at times. In any case, this only becomes evident when going really fast down narrow lanes, where it is essential to keep close to one’s own side of the road, and in general, the road-holding and all round stability is above reproach. The steering is rather low-geared, needing 3¼ turns lock to lock, against which the lock is very generous, giving a turning circle of 40 feet, which is appreciated times without number. It is light steering, with full and fast castor action. Only occasionally, as bad undulations are met, does any column-movement develop, while only very slight reaction is felt at the wheel, probably more in the nature of regular vibration along the spokes than return road-wheel movement, as the steering action is quite divorced, from the placing of the front wheels. The wheel might be set a trifle lower and slightly higher gearing used, with advantage to fast drivers. Remembering that this Daimler is primarily a luxury car, controllability is of a high standard, and over 19 miles of winding and varied going we averaged over 38 m.p.h. while definitely driving with a view to conserving fuel, which speaks for itself. The 6.00″x16″ Dunlop E.L.P. tyres are rather susceptible to changes of surface so far as noise is concerned.

There are André-Girling brakes, and they act as is expected; a test stop on a tarred road from 30 m.p.h. showed a stopping distance of 26-27 ft. in a commendably straight line, in spite of evidence of locked wheels. No real pressure was used, and in ordinary applications, a mere touch on the pedal is called for, while the action is silent and delightfully progressive. The right hand, “umbrella handle” hand-brake is easily reached by stooping forward slightly, slows the car without being especially powerful, which is all a parking brake need do, and releases quite well.

Owing to the clear floor space, easy entry and exit is effected on either side, and three persons can be accommodated on the front seat, with the two seats level. The radiator remains steady at all times, and the bonnet, which has well-acting single catches, does not ripple, while only over really bad going is any scuttle movement evident. As we have said, the car pulls away at once, if not very rapidly, in top gear and it follows this out by hanging on to top very manfully up steep gradients. It never dropped below 30 m.p.h. up River Hill, near Sevenoaks, three up, after entering the hill at 55 m.p.h. or so, and it took Tilburstow at about 45 m.p.h., all but holding a 20/25 Rolls-Royce coupé, of greater capacity. At anything above 40, there is ample response on top gear and, coupled with the excellent brakes and stable cornering, very decent averages can be realised with an entire absence of effort. The unusual silence of the engine disguises any sense of hurrying, but the beautifully made body shares in this claim. Only one almost insignificant rattle was present, and the deep, leather-upholstered seats are most accommodating, that at the rear having a wide, fold-up arm-rest and individual footrests. The thick doors shut very nicely, and the six windows and deep screen provide full visibility. In the Daimler one senses an impression of luxury, both actual and implied, under all conditions of motoring, and envy for owners of American tinware changes to pity in the initial miles. The big luggage locker has a downward opening lid, with a delightfully balanced action, and the spare wheel lives in a locker beneath. The Weathshields sliding roof works freely, and contributes to real ventilation, the windows wind easily and have rain shields, there is ample ash-storage, and the rear blind acts well, though appearing to be of rather thin material. The facia has a large locker on the left, with lock able walnut lid. The rear locker and doors lock; the fuel filler and bonnet do not. The big radiator cap has a screw action; the fuel filler is quick action, but seemed to release some fuel under surge-action. From left to right, the instruments and controls are:—panel with dash lamp switch, cigar lighter, ignition lamp, oil-warning lamp, reserve fuel tap, advance and retard lever, and standard Lucas lighting switch; Jaeger speedometer with trip and clock; water thermometer, ammeter and fuel-gauge dials within one big dial, and, below the facia, ash-tray, hand throttle and mixture controls, the latter with a fairly good pull-out action. There is no oil-gauge. The fuel tank holds 12 gallons, of which 1½ are trapped in reserve, but no contents are shown for reserve, which, with the reserve tap control pulled out, constitutes an excellent reminder. The gear and brake pedals are well-spaced, perhaps a trifle high from the floor, and the right hand accelerator is of treadle type. All the pedals have a fairly light action. In the wheel centre is the horn button and direction indicator switch on normal Lucas lines. The indicators were not automatically cancelling, but worked positively and audibly; the wind horn beneath the bonnet was rather loud. The central rear-view mirror is fairly well positioned, but the shallow rear window somewhat reduces the rearward view. The electrical cut-outs are accessible under the bonnet on the off side and the starting handle lives in clips on the near side. The lamps are 9 in. Lucas Biflex, good in spite of the mask. The sidelamps have visible indicator tops, which were still uncovered. When the ignition key is removed, everything electrical save the horn and interior light goes dead; a good point. The interior light is very adequate and each facia dial has separate lighting which shows up the readings very clearly. The doors are hinged from the rear pillars. The A.C. fuel gauge is affected by camber, but otherwise seems quite accurate. There is Tecalemit chassis lubrication from the engine sump, the action being entirely automatic upon operation of the brake pedal. Fuel consumption is a sore point these days. Over a truly varied 850 miles we used under 23 gallons, and checked over 250 miles, mostly with no attempt to save fuel, we recorded 14-15 m.p.g. No water or oil was added; normal water temperature is 170° F. The engine always started instantly in spite of Cesspool fuel and pulled away at once with a minimum of mixture-control attention and very little protest from the single S.U.

The Daimler should be a very easy car to clean, as the lines are smooth, and the wheels are spoked discs. From the front the lines are particularly well-balanced, and the car as a whole is dignified and smart. A slight improvement could possibly be effected by bringing the rear window down a trifle nearer to the waistline, if by so doing luggage locker space would not be seriously curtailed, but that is a very minor point, as is the fact that we rather dislike a forward-radiator setting, even in 1940. There are “pulls” for the rear seat passengers and excellent, taut-lipped pockets in each door.

Turning to the specification, the six-cylinder 69.56 x 111.5 mm. (2,522 c.c.) engine is rated at 18.02 h.p., and has a 5.5 to 1 compression-ratio. The coil ignition has automatic as well as hand control of advance and retard. Cooling is by fan and pump with temperature control by Smith thermostat. The crankshaft runs in four bearings and the cam shaft is driven by roller chain. The Daimler fluid flywheel and self-change gearbox are in unit with the engine, and the drive goes by open propeller shaft to an underslung worm rear axle—one of the few cars now using worm drive. No foot wells are needed in the rear compartment in consequence. The box-section chassis frame has cruciform bracing, and there is a built-in jacking system. Front suspension is independent, with transverse pressed-steel swinging arms, located by radius arms and damped by large, vertical coil springs. Rear suspension is by half-elliptics, with antiroll bar, damped by Luvax shock-absorbers. The rear axle is three-quarter floating. Fuel feed is by A.C. pump. The steering is Marles cam and double roller. Tyres by Dunlop. The complete car weighs 30½ cwt.; the chassis 21 cwt. The gear-ratios are 19.82, 11.27, 7.58 and 4.86 to 1, with 26 to 1 reverse. The engine revs up to about 5,200 r.p.m., and 1,000 r.p.m. in top=16.5 m.p.h. At 70 m.p.h. in top the crankshaft speed is 4,242 r.p.m. The gearbox capacity is 5 pints, the flywheel 8.5 pints, automatically fed from the engine sump; the rear axle holds 4 pints. The car we tried was in all black finish and very attractive. Maroon, blue, light grey, slate grey and green finishes are listed.

In conclusion, the Daimler provided us with a welcome week-end away from present-day anxieties. Three of us drove her and found complete confidence in the car, whether crawling along a seaside promenade or driving flat out over difficult roads. The silence of engine, and coachwork imparted a sense of luxury in keeping with the house of Daimler, and the top gear performance worthily upheld tradition. Until we lifted the bonnet we were not certain whether the engine was the standard or sports version; certainly we thought the price was £550 before the war and reasonable at that. Now we find that this standard 2½-litre saloon is priced at only £525, even with the recent war-time increase, with a four-light sports saloon available at the same price, The Rally saloon at £615, the Salmons coupé at £580, Salmons cabriolet at £645 and the Abbott coupe at £605. We can well understand why Daimler owners are enthusiastic, and we imagine that those who still motor many miles under war conditions with business worries on their minds must find the 2½-litre Daimler a real god-send when seeking a restful and economical means of fast travel–which probably explains the numbers we saw on the road in a single week-end. At their Kensington depot Daimlers say they are as busy as ever, and a fine array of modern Daimlers you find there. Amongst them was an open sports job with overdrive top and a maximum of 90 m.p.h. Judging by the Daimler saloon we have recently returned, the sports models must be very interesting cars indeed; a belief we hope to be able to prove in the near future.