1960 Daimler SP250 (Dart)
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The Daimler SP250 is a sports car built by the Daimler Company, a British manufacturer in Coventry, from 1959 to 1964. It was the last car to be launched by Daimler before its parent company, the Birmingham Small Arms Company (BSA), sold it to Jaguar Cars in 1960.
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.
The manual gearbox, the first of the type used by Daimler since they started using the pre-selector type across their range in the 1930s, was reverse-engineered from the Standard gearbox used in the Triumph TR3A.
The SP250 was launched as the Daimler Dart in April 1959 at the New York Motor Show, where it was unofficially voted as the ugliest car at the show. Chrysler, whose Dodge division owned the trademark for the "Dart" model name, ordered Daimler to change the name under threat of legal action. With little time to come up with a new name, Daimler used the project number, SP250, as the model number.