The two-door 2

Saturday 4th April 1959

The two-door 2.5 litre V8 140hp Daimler Dart sports car was launched at the 1959 New York Motor Show, where it was unofficially voted as the ugliest car at the show. Daimler were soon forced to drop the Dart name when threatened with legal action by Chrysler’s Dodge division, and the car was then renamed the Daimler SP250.

Shortly after being appointed Managing Director (Chief Executive) of BSA’s Automotive Division in 1956, Edward Turner was asked to design a saloon car powered by a V8 engine. The engine drawings were finalised by March 1958, but the saloon prototype, project number DN250, was not available for examination by the committee formed in 1958 to report on the feasibility of the V8 cars. The committee’s evaluation centred on the prototypes being tested at the time, which were for the SP250 sports car project. According to the feasibility study conducted by the committee, the SP250 would generate a profit of more than £700,000 based on a projection of 1,500 cars being sold in the first year of production and 3,000 cars per year for the second and third years of production. Two-thirds of the sales of the car were expected to be in the United States.The study also determined that the body should be made from fibreglass, with shorter time to the beginning of production, tooling costs of £16,000 as opposed to £120,000 for steel bodies, and lower cost to change the styling.

The original version, later called the A-spec, could reach a speed of 120 mph (193 km/h), but the chassis, a “14-gauge ladder frame with cruciform bracing” based on the Triumph TR3, flexed so much that doors occasionally came open, marring its reputation. Bumpers were originally an optional extra. With the basic specification not including full bumpers, the A-spec. cars have two short, chromium-plated ‘whiskers’ on the body on either side of the front grille and two short, vertical bumpers, or “overriders” at the rear, which were not included if the rear bumper was optioned. Early A-spec. cars had recesses behind the door handles, but these were phased out.

Between twenty-six and thirty black SP250s were used by the British Metropolitan Police in London. These were used by the Traffic Department to catch up with speeders, especially café racers. The police cars used the Borg-Warner Model 8 3-speed automatic, which the Metropolitan Police found to be better for town work and high speed chases, and was also found to be more economical, avoiding the clutch wear that a manual car would develop with usage between 18 and 24 hours a day. Traffic police in Bristol, Cambridge, Liverpool, Manchester, Southend and Surrey also used the SP250 for speed enforcement, as did police forces in Australia and New Zealand. After the opening of the first section of the M1 in 1959, the Bedfordshire police used the SP250 for motorway patrol.

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