Daimlers during the vintage years


There was a foretaste of the 1925 range of Daimler models comparatively early in 1924, when, at the Wembley Exhibition, the latest 35 hp was shown with a nickel radiator with a plated cross-strut to the frame and front-wheel-brakes, the latter now being standardised on the three larger models; that is, on the 30, 35 and 45-hp cars. When the 1924 Show came round it was seen that the new radiator was slightly higher than before. A Daimler salesman had to keep his wits alert!

The separate frame to accommodate the body was retained, delivered in advance to the client’s coach-builder, while Daimler bodies ranged from the open-fronted landaulette de luxe at £425, upwards, while a Weymann fabric saloon on the 35-hp chassis, catalogued as “The fastest of the quickest cars,” was available for £250.

Early in 1925 special 7.3 x 37 in Dunlop tyres were approved for the 45-hp Daimler (inflation pressures: front 33 lb/sq in; rear, 45 lb/sq in) and were supplied for the King’s 57-hp. Daimler.

Fine coachwork continued to be a feature of Daimler chassis— for instance, Pass & Joyce Ltd supplied Worthington’s director, Mr Ernest Manners, with a palatial 35-hp long-chassis Park Ward limousine. HM King George having been supplied with his new 57-hp Daimler, as recounted last month„ his 1915 car was acquired by Charles Y Knight, inventor of the double sleeve-valve engine, and shipped to America, where it was put on exhibition.

By mid-1925 Daimler had come out into the open over the use of light steel sleeves with larger rectangular ports and alloy pistons, and at the same time they announced a new range of long-stroke engines having full pressure lubrication and dual ignition. These were the 16/55, 20/70, 25/85 and 35/120-hp power units. Only the N30 model retained trough lubrication. The smaller ones would maintain 4,000 rpm and the new 25/85 model was said to give performance equal to the 1924 35-11-hp. car. The new lubrication system was a conventional system with gear-type pump driven by vertical shaft and skew gears, a dismantleable filter being fitted on the left-hand side of the engine and sump oil-level being indicated by a tell-tale plunger which was novel only in that it protruded through the ramp-board so that the driver could test it with his foot.

A new straight inlet pipe on the right-hand side was fed by a single carburetter drawing warm air from an exhaust-pipe muff, and oily vapour from the crankcase in lieu of the usual breather. The carburetter retained a triple regulator acting as primer, controlling petrol flow to the jets and adjusting cooling water temperature from a steering-column control. Some experts regarded this new manifold as a retrograde step, giving perhaps 1 to 11/2 mpg better petrol consumption but none of the advantages of the former 3-branch manifold and multi-jet carburetter.

The distribution gear at the rear of the crankcase gave a line drive to dynamo, magneto and water pump and the ignition system was novel, inasmuch as a distributor at the front of the engine could be fed either from the magneto, which lacked its own distributor, or from a separate battery and coil system. The Lanchester torsional vibration damper was retained. The 35/120-hp tourer was priced at £1,300, the 16/55-hp tourer £650. Bodies, metal panelled below the waistline, of Weymann construction above, such as the “Y” saloon on the 35/120 chassis, were tried for a time.

Steel sleeves seem to have given Daimlers a new lease of life, for Joseph Mackie of Stratton-Instone had a sporting 16/55 2-seater for which 70 mph and 28 mpg were claimed. Motor Sport tested just such a car, which proved capable of 45 mph in 2nd and 65/70 mph in top gear, gave 30 mpg, accelerated from 10-35 mph in 8 sec and went over the steepest part of Kop Hill at 38 mph in middle gear. The tester criticised the steering as too quick, and absence of clock and automatic screen-wiper.

The Autocar again took a Daimler to cover a Six Days’ Trial. They were given a 20/70 saloon (RW 4147) with only 38 miles to its credit and, stiff though it was, this 7-bearing 73.5 X 104 mm (2,648 cc) 11 ft 1 in-wheelbase car ran at 60 mph (3,476 rpm), accelerated well and had given up smoking. The car was thrashed over Welsh passes, including BwIch-y-Groes, but gave 18 mpg in ordinary running, 15-16 mpg in the hills and used 7 pints of oil in 840 miles. It had gear ratios of 21.7, 13.5, 8.7 and 5.43 to 1, weighed 35 cwt 3 qtr 2 lb, and was shod with 6.00 x 33 in Dunlop Cord Balloon tyres at pressures of 28-32 lb/sq in. Incidentally, all 1925 Daimlers had a new dropped front axle, front brakes, shock-absorbers all round and the deeper radiator to give a horizontal bonnet line. All had single-plate clutches and 4-speed gearboxes except the 16/55, which had a double-plate clutch and 3-speed box. The reason the Company retained the antiquated trough lubrication (which, however, persisted far longer on Terraplane, Railton and Chevrolet cars) was no doubt to use up existing parts before going over universally to drilled crankshafts.


It is often thought that Daimler was in direct competition with Rolls-Royce but, in fact, their range was much larger, consisting of five different chassis to two Rolls-Royce models. There is no doubt that the big 6-cylinder Daimlers were very fine cars and although few have survived those that have appear to be mainly the 25/85 and 35/120-hp cars.

The R and N 30-hp and 45-hp cars were carried over into this year but were virtually defunct. I cannot do better than quote the words of The Autocar in a preface to a road-test of a 25/85 model R enclosed landaulette de luxe (RW 6163) which they carried out in 1926, for they endorse the esteem with which vintage Daimlers were (and are) regarded :—

“Of all cars on the road today there is not one more easily recognised by the average man than a Daimler. Seen in towns or in the country, at rest or in motion, there is a stateliness, a dignity of progression, wholly characteristic of the make. The appearance does not belie the actual luxury in which the passengers travel. To rest reposeful and serene in the embrace of the rear seats, surrounded by interior carriagework of excellent taste, and idly to watch a countryside of glowing greens roll past in spring sunshine, to catch with surprising clearness a murmur of the conversation of a chance pedestrian, by reason of a seating position higher above the ground than normal to see more than usual of a familiar landscape—these are some of the pleasures of Daimler travel.” Certainly it sounds far nicer than observing rows of concrete lamp-posts when ensconced in a Mini-Minor. . . .

This 25/85 cost £1,525, weighed 2 tons 7 cwt 1 qtr empty, pulled a 5.8-to-1 top gear and gave 15 mpg. The speedometer read slow, yet would go to 43 mph in 3rd, to some 65 mph in top gear, and 10-30 mph took 14.5 sec in top, 9.5 sec in 3rd: Edge Hill was ascended in 3rd speed. But this 6-cylinder Daimler had a vibration period, felt in the back seats at 45 mph—could this be why the Double-Six was designed ?—and above this speed its springing was regarded as rather supple.

During 1926 HM The King of Siam took delivery of a 25/85 Charlesworth limousine, the Maharajah of Rewa a remarkable Barker saloon-cabriolet on a specially-adapted chassis, HM The King a 35/120 Hooper saloon for his personal use, while a Charlesworth light alloy saloon on a 20/70 Daimler chassis was supplied to the Alifin of Oyo in Nigeria. Mr Ardran, whose 35/120 was illustrated last month, recalls that about this time the City of Liverpool Ambulance Service, operated by the police, included a fleet of 35/120 Daimlers fitted with narrow polished-wood bodies, which the police drivers handled in a dashing and sporting manner, in direct contrast to the staid chauffeur-driven private Daimlers of the same period.

As in 1919, so in 1926, King George V used his Daimler to bring him home in two days, from Deeside to Buckingham Palace, on the occasion of the General Strike.


Four models, the 16/55, 20/70, 25/85 and 35/120, were continued for 1927, an important innovation being vacuum-servo assistance for the four-wheel-braking system. In all, 74 separate models were catalogued! Before the end of 1926 two new models were announced for the coming season. The first was a lightweight version of the 20/70, using a lower edition of the 16/55 chassis frame„ in three wheelbase lengths. This was an attempt to introduce a high-performance Daimler. Usually heavy bodywork defeated the object but Mr Ardran recalls one tester in the Liverpool area who drove both the new Daimler and a 41/2-litre Bentley in chassis form and dismissed the latter as disappointing in comparison. Wheelbases of 10 ft 1 in, 10 ft 11 in, and 11 ft 7 in were offered, priced from £550 to £650, while a tourer cost £1,250.

Far more revolutionary, however, was the new 12-cylinder, or “Double Six” Daimler also made public in October 1926. Undoughtedly the late Laurence H Pomeroy, Daimler’s chief engineer was responsible for this imposing motor carraige. The V-12 engine had been introduced much earlier and Rolls-Royce, Voisin and Hispano-Suiza (and Lagonda) were to turn to it later, almost too late, when luxury cars were indeed a luxury, while the Edwardian Packard “Twin-Six” was before its time. Packard, when they re-introduced a V-12, and Daimler, timed the introduction of their big multi-cylinder models much better. What Daimler did was to use two 25/85 cylinder blocks (cast in blocks of three) at 60° on a common crankcase, using forked connecting rods on the right-hand side, on a 7-bearing crankshaft. This resulted in a 7,136-cc engine rated at 49.4 RAC hp. The aim was absolutely smooth running at all speeds between 2 and 82 mph on the 4.37-to-1 top gear.

The general design followed that of the 6-cylinder engines, but dual water pumps, magnetos and ignition distributors were provided and the exhaust manifolds were inside the vee of the cylinder blocks, the carburetters on the outside, feeding into water-warmed manifolding. This great power unit was suspended at four points and drove via a plate clutch to a separate 4-speed gearbox with central control, final drive being by open shaft and, of course, a worm back axle. Owing to the width of the engine special steering gear had to be devised, the steering box being carried on the stout alloy dashboard and connected to the steering arm by link levers and a bell-crank, rather after the fashion of the steering gear of the defunct Leyland Eight.

This sensational new Daimler was made in two wheelbases, of 12 ft 111/2 in and 13 ft 7 in, respectively Types W and P, with 4 ft 9 in or 5 ft 01/4 in track to suit and choice of high or low radiator. Tyre size was 7.3 x 37 in, or 6.75 x 33 in, or 6.75 x 35 in on the 12 ft 111/2 in wheelbase Type O. The chassis alone weighed some 2 tons and cost from £1,850 to £1,950, complete cars, with magnificent carriagework having ebony interior woodwork, from £2,450 to £,2,800. The staunchest Rolls-Royce fan must have wavered. . . .

The new “Double Six” engine was very favourably received, and HM The King’s 35/120 Daimlers were converted to take the new 7.1-litre V-12 engine,

The Autocar received a “Double Six” enclosed landaulette (RW 9801) for test by April 1927 but published no performance figures. They emphasised the ability of the big car to go everywhere in top gear except when starting from rest—it even climbed Fish Hill, Broadway, at 18 mph in this ratio. Priced at £2,800. the car pulled gear ratios of 55.7, 10.1, 7.6 and 4.86 to 1, was 18 ft 7 in long, 6 ft 4 in wide and 6 ft 10 in high, and gave approximately 10 mpg, as Daimler claimed it should. Incidentally, the petrol tank held 24 gallons, of which six were held in reserve.

All Daimler clients were not ordering “Double Sixes”, HRH the Duke of Connaught, for instance, preferred a 25/85 Hooper limousine, and the well-known entertainer, CN Johnstone (Layton and Johnstone) had a very fine 35/120 Maythorn coupe to his own design (YH 8246). However, mere sixes seemed a bit outmoded and when King Fuad visited Lord Derby a Daimler “Double Six” was placed at his disposal, while before the end of 1927 HM The King was supplied with a “Double Six.”


The Autocar had declared that “fortunate beings will leisurely survey the moving surface of the earth through the windows of their Daimler Double Sixes as they pass onward in silent dignity,” and to enable more people to do so the Daimler Company announced, in the summer of 1927, that a smaller V-12 car would he available in 1928. This used 16/55 cylinder blocks, giving a capacity of 3,744 cc. and an RAC rating of 31.4 hp. Four sizes of chassis were available, with respective wheelbase and track of 10 ft 11 in x 4 ft 4 in, 11 ft 9 in x 4 ft 4 in, 11 ft 10 in x 4 ft  6 in, and 12 ft 1 in x 5 ft 0 in. (Types Q, M, V and O). Whereas the least expensive 50-hp “Double Six” cost £2,450, the cheapest of the new models, a Coupe de luxe, could be had for £1,570. The bigger V-12 was now called the “Double Six 50,” the smaller one the “Double Six 30,” and to distinguish them from the unchanged 6-cylinder models a vertical line ran down the centre of the radiator. This did not apply to the earliest “Double Sixes”-and so is not necessarily an identifying feature. The saloon had four in place of the former six side windows and leg room increased from 40 to 45 in, in the front compartment. Fuel feed was by an engine-driven air-pump, whereas the “30” relied on Autovac feed.

Following King George V’s illness one of the Royal Daimlers was converted into an ambulance and took him over cleared roads from London to Bognor to convalesce.

During 1928 the Daimler Company improved its servicing facilities at its London depot at The Hyde, Hendon, NW, and instituted a 3-day training course for chauffeurs with proficiency badges, so that those who drove behind the fluted radiator need feel no inferiority when encountering those whose masters owned “The best car in the World”! The course cost merely a 10s insurance fee. Some 500 badges were awarded during the first year of the course, the chauffeurs of HM The King and the Duke of Connaught receiving special gold badges. On August 1st Stratton-Instone Ltd. became sole distributors of Daimler cars for the whole of England and Wales.


For 1929 the range remained unchanged except for minor details. It was possible to buy a 16/55 four-door saloon for under £600, a chauffeur-drive 20/70 limousine for less than £1,000. Largest Daimler was the £2,700 “Double Six 50” Royal 7-seater limousine, also available on the 35/120 chassis. Three new body styles were introduced, a fabric and panelled saloon on the 20/70 chassis and this fabric saloon and a tourer on the 16/55. There was also a fast touring saloon with detachable trunk on the 20/70 and “Double Six 30” chassis.

The Autocar road-tested a “Double Six 30” £1,300 saloon, which did 47 mph in 3rd (8.22 to 1) and 75 mph in top gear (5.14 to 1), took 8.2 sec to go from 10-30 mph in 3rd gear, and gave a petrol consumption of 161/2 mpg. It proved possible to start on the level in top gear and in this ratio it would run down to 3 mph or less. A “Double Six 50” was exibited at the New York Show, and JA Mackle, of Stratton-Instone Ltd., who had proved himself addicted to sporting bodywork on Daimler chassis, had a new decked 2-seater made for him by Hoyle on a “Double Six 30” chassis. He called it the “Magic Carpet.”

In May 1929 a new type of aluminium piston was released that controlled oil loss in Daimler engines. Whereas a 20/70 type MI engine used 5.6 pints of oil (0.067 pt/bhp/hr) while running at 2,800 rpm for two hours on the bench, developing 42 bhp, after 20,000 miles on the road, the same engine with the new pistons consumed only 3.6 pints of oil (0.038 pt/bhp/hr), an improvement of 431/2%. Customers were encouraged to have their old engines converted.

During the year the King was supplied with a 25/85 and a “Double Six 30” Daimler, both Hooper-bodied. The former replaced a 25-hp Daimler that had been in Royal service since 1923. Stratton-Instone, who supplied these cars, also decided to standardise a modern close-coupled 4-door Arthur Mulliner sports saloon on the 20/70 chassis.

Laurence H Pomeroy was appointed Daimler’s Managing Director and under his command a very refined new owner-driver 25-hp 6-cylinder car was developed for the 1930 season, perhaps as a step towards less expensive-to-manufacture cars than the complex “Double Sixes,” for a recession was just round the corner and the prices of most Daimler models became slightly inflated before the end of 1929.


The new 25-hp car was a 6-cylinder of 81.5 x 114 mm (3,568 cc), having a monobloc aluminium cylinder block, sleeve valves (naturally) and coil ignition. The steel sleeves were now in contact with aluminium of both pistons and block. The lubrication system incorporated dual pumps in the sump, one of which fed the system with oil at 30 lb/sq in pressure while the other circulated oil through a vertical oil cooler incorporated in the near side of the water radiator. An interesting feature was troughs beneath the big-ends which filled when the oil was cold, so that the dippers distributed oil over the cylinders when starting up; hot oil automatically seeped out of the troughs before the level rose to a height that the dippers could contact. An electric level-indicator told the driver if the sump-contents fell below normal.

The carburetter was located at the front end of the exhaust manifold, mixture passing through a hot-spot consisting of a passage in the exhaust manifold, across the front of the engine and round a right-angle bend into an inlet tract integral with the cylinder block. The carburetter drew air from an exhaust muff.

The cooling system included a glandless water pump, to the crankshaft torsional vibration damper was added a balancer on the front end of the sleeves eccentric shaft, and it was claimed that decarbonisation wouldn’t be needed in under 40,000 miles but was easier to undertake than with the average poppet-valve power unit.

The drive went to a separate, central-control 4-speed gearbox, the push-on right-hand brake lever and under-bonnet main adjuster for the compensated braking system were retained and the chassis followed established Daimler design. It had a wheelbase of 11 ft 1 in, a track of 4 ft 9 in, weighed 22 cwt and stood on 6.00 x 32 in tyres. The price was £700.

This new 25-hp light-alloy Daimler (Pomeroy had specified this alloy for several chassis parts as well as the engine and, incidentally, dispensed with chassis greasing by using Silembloc bushes throughout) had a top speed of about 65 mph, would start in top gear and accelerate to 50 mph in 23 sec, or go, more conventionally driven, from 10-50 mph in under 9 sec. The accelerator had ball-bearings in many of the spindle bearings, for sensitive control, a nice contrast to the Bowden cables of 1961. In spite of this new model the “Double Sixes” continued to attract attention. Reid Railton evolved a special underslung, low-chassis version for Thomson & Taylor (Brooklands) Ltd. which gave 150 bhp, had a very low radiator, and a strikingly compact open sports body (UW 53). It was sold to Capt Wilson. Apparently more than one was constructed, for recently I encountered a semi-derelict Corsica dh coupe on a similarly lowered and tuned chassis in Hertfordshire, and Stratton-Instone supplied a similar fixed-head coupe.

Meanwhile, Pomeroy had been busy on the revolutionary fluid flywheel, in conjunction with a 4-speed pre-selector gearbox, and although this did not go into serious production until 1931, it was announced in June 1930 in conjunction with the new 25-hp car, now termed a 20/30. Otherwise, the Company reverted to single hp designations, the range now consisting of the 20-hp (nee 20/70), new 25-hp, 35-hp (nee 35/120) and the 30 and 50-hp V-12s. The 16/55 was dropped for 1930.


This history is concerned only with the vintage years but it is interesting to note that for 1931 the 20, 25 and 35-hp model’s were continued with conventional transmission, the 25 termed the 20/30 when endowed with the fluid flywheel and pre-selector gearbox, this automation being applied to the two new V-12s, the 6,511 cc “Double Six” 40/50 and 5,296-cc “Double Six” 30/40 but not to the “Double Six 30.” The 30/40 was announced in September 1930 and followed closely the design of the lightalloy 25-hp 6-cylinder car, coil ignition being provided, a distributor protruding upwards from the rear of each cylinder bank. The sleeves were coupled to their eccentrics by links accessible through cover plates, the eccentric shafts being driven by triple roller chain from the crankshaft. It was claimed that 15 minutes sufficed to remove a cylinder block and dismantle the sleeves, This fine 30/40 chassis cost £1,200, or £1,350 in long-wheelbase form. One of the first of these fluid flywheel V-12s was a Windover sedanca with tall ribbon radiator (GH 3442).

The Daimler range got little less complicated down the years. In 1935 a straight-eight of 3.7-litres joined the sixes and “Double Sixes.” It had poppet valves, which Pomeroy had re-introduced in 1933 on a 1.8-litre 6-cylinder and which by 1935 were used for all models except the persistent 40-hp and 50-hp V-12s.

The famous “Double Sixes” had faded from the scene by 1936 to make way for two new straight-eights, a 3.4 and a 4.6-litre, -but the “Double Six” re-appeared, with poppet valves, in the same cylinder size as the former 40/50, in 1937. Engines of this kind were short-lived but were put into the Royal Daimlers.

Yet another straight-eight, a 4-litre, came out in 1939 and today I sometimes think I have met a vintage Daimler, only to find I am looking at a post-1945 5.4-litre straight-eight, so dignified and undated are all Daimler models.

Unfortunately all too many of the old sleeve-valve cars have been fitted with some form of replacement engine, often a commercial vehicle unit of alien make, petrol or diesel, not only because of the oil and petrol thirst of the original Knight engines but because in cold weather their sleeves would easily gum up, making them difficult to start and all too prone to fracture the sleeve-actuating links if you tried jumping on the starting handle or tow-commencing them.

But all Daimlers were dignified, rather complex, typically English specimens of automobile engineering and I hope this article will encourage enthusiasts for good cars to preserve, search for and restore such examples as remain of the Royal cars from Coventry.—WB.

Correction.—Once again the printers have altered my copy and made me say something I cannot substantiate. In the caption to the illustration of Mr. Ardran’s 1925 35/120 Daimler published last month on page 352, I wrote that this car has the largest wellbase wheels and tyres ever used on a private car.” For reasons best known to himself the compositor changed this to “the largest wheelbase, wheels and tyres.” Apart from the fact that I am not in the habit of referring to largest wheelbase, the correct adjective being longest, I have no idea which private car has the longest wheelbase—this could be an absorbing subject for research and maybe the compositor does know the answer, but I don’t, and I hereby disassociate myself from any suggestion that the 35/120 Daimler necessarily holds a record in this respect, although Mr. Ardran says that it does so in respect of its wellbase wheels and tyres, the size of these tyres being 7.3 x 37. WB.