A Daimler occasion

The Daimler & Lanchester OC visited the Daimler 80th Anniversary Exhibition at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in Coventry on the occasion of its “President’s Evening” on October 2nd. After refreshments had been consumed and the exhibits inspected, some historic Daimler films were shown and Peter Mitchell, the Museum’s Curator, interviewed 13ob Crouch, who has had long associations with the Daimler Company and has only recently left the post of Commercial Manager of British Leyland’s PSV Department to become Sales Manager to Dennis of Guildford. The films included one of the 1939 RAC and Scottish Rallies in which Mr. Crouch competed with the latest open 2 1/2-litre Daimler and in which some very large Daimler motorcarriages sportingly took part; I wish Roger Clark could have been present to see how sedately they were driven round the hairpin bends and through the timed special-tests! There was also an amusing publicity film on behalf of the fluid-flywheel, with attractive girls being shown how to drive the then-new Lanchester Tens, but their aunt preferring her circa-1924 Daimler landaulette; this one would have been better with a sound-track. (It reminded me Of how, in 1947, having become accustomed to the fluid flywheel on a mad-test Lanchester Ten in a week of clutchless driving, I afterwards left the factory in the Editorial Austin 7 with its tricky clutch action in a series of prodigious kangaroo hops!) Another film, which was unfortunately cut short, was an instructional one made for Daimler Hire, showing how their chauffeurs were briefed to handle all situations impeccably. The film-showing concluded with a colour film of King George VI and the Royal Family on an overseas tour in 1947, in which post-war Daimler saloons and landaulettes showed up as dignified and handsome vehicles, entirely suited to representing Great Britain in what was then her Empire. Alas, the film had been incorrectly wound, so that all names appeared back-to-front and the salutes and hand-shakes were done with left hands. . .

Mr. Crouch had been present on these Royal tours and he told an amusing story relating to an electric driver’s window on one of these Royal Daimlers: refusing to function properly because red dust had got into the slides and mechanism jug when the King was driving this particular car, and of how understanding the Sovereign was. Mr. Crouch also recalled how a racing Crouch car ran away with him in the factory when he was a small boy, of his experiences with Daimler cars and public-service vehicles after he had gone from Rover to the famous Coventry Company, and of the memorable time when he had to take the then-new Daimler Scout car to the War Office in Whitehall for its inspection by Army “red-tabs”, with the steering taking the vehicle in the opposite direction to that in which the steering wheel was turned—” Soapy” Sutton was driving and Mr. Crouch says that you can still see the grooves in the ornamental entrance-arch to the Parade-ground made by this wide vehicle, as it made its triumphant entry after a hectic journey. He spoke, also, Of driving Daimlers in the aforesaid pre-war rallies and recounted many other interesting anecdotes.

This occasion, which was attended by Mrs. George Lanchester, who as usual took an intelligent interest in everything, and representatives of the Daimler and Vanden Plas factories, etc., should have launched the Club’s President’s new book “Royal Daimlers”. But all he had to show of it was a blank dummy. We hope to review it in next month’s “Books for Christmas” feature if it is published in time.

The Coventry Museum had assembled their Daimlers to form an impressive reminder of some of the important cars of this make in the 1896-1976 era. In the foyer we met a splendid 1937 straight-eight limousine finished in tan and cream and a modern Sovereign coup& In the Exhibition hall, along with the generous’ refreshments, were the 4 1/2-h.p. 1897 and 1898 wagonettes, the 1911 12-h.p. tower, a 1931 M-type 16/20 saloon, and a 1950 DTh.18 saloon in sober black raiment. The cars were supplemented by one of those excellent Turner-designed Daimler V8 engines and a modern jaguar/Daimler Double-Six power pack. There was, in addition, a great array of photographs, including one of Instone on a giant chain-drive Daimler at the first Brooklands meeting and a 1911 Coventry street-scene which proved, as someone pointed out to me, that the “Double Diamond’? beer trade-mark is at least 65 years old! Reverting to the Daimlers on show, the most exciting is the 1906 hill-climb car Which, if Peter Mitchell keeps a long-standing promise, I hope to try out, if possible up Shelsley Walsh; when it is eventually put back into running order. If you go to Coventry, try not to miss visiting this pleasing Daimler display. In the discussion from the floor which concluded a crowded evening, one Club member, who had joined Daintier as an apprentice in the same year as Mr. Crouch went there, was trying to discover whether he could claim to have worked on the last of the sleeve-valve Royal Daimlers (he expressed regret, endorsed by Mr. Crouch, that Daimler went over to poppet valves, which he dismissed as a “load of old nails”). More pertinent questions revolved round why Daimler used Gardner diesel engines and why they discontinued the Fleetline single-decker ‘bus. Praise was bestowed on that fine car, the V8 4 1/2-litre 220 b.h.p. Daimler Majestic Major, and I was glad to learn that one member at least is using one of these cars as family transport with considerable satisfaction.—W.B.