Daimler Car History

Written by rob wagner
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  • Introduction

    Daimler Car History

    The United Kingdom-based Daimler Motor Company travelled a complicated path in its 112-year history. It was once the Royal automobile for all British Royal family members, but was ultimately rejected in favour of the Rolls-Royce. It went through a series of owners, and its design was once supervised by a wealthy socialite whose opulent styling sense didn't sit well with financially struggling Britons in the postwar era.

    (Tata Motors, Ford Motor Company, Jaguar)

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    Multiple Daimlers

    The Daimler Motor Company, based in Coventry, was founded in 1896. Its origins are traced to the legendary Gottlieb Daimler, who with Wilhelm Maybach built in 1889 the first four-wheel automobile. Daimler, however, sold licenses to several companies to use the Daimler name, creating confusion of what exactly constituted a true Daimler. The Germany-based Daimler Motor Company solved the problem by naming its cars Mercedes-Benz and operated as Daimler-Benz AG.

    Gottlieb Daimler ()

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    BSA Ownership

    Motorcycle manufacturer BSA acquired Daimler in 1910. The marriage worked because of BSA's sterling reputation as a motorcycle and engine builder. With the outbreak of World War I, Daimler manufactured tank and aircraft engines, trucks and ambulances. By 1930, Daimler had acquired the Lanchester Motor Company, producing a wide range of popular cars.

    1903 Daimler Phaeton ()

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    Since 1898, the Daimler was the official car for the royal family. It served all royal family members, including the queen, through 1950. But a failed transmission prompted Buckingham Palace to switch to Rolls-Royce, leaving the Daimler as auxiliary transportation.

    Ultra-luxury 1948 Daimler ()

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    Lady Collins

    The staid Daimler received a jolt in 1949 when Daimler and BSA president Bernard Docker married Lady Norah Collins, a wealthy widow of two billionaires. A former dance hall performer with an astute business sense, Lady Collins thought few Britons could relate to a royal auto as personal transportation. She suggested marketing the Daimler to Jaguar owners and other upscale car owners.

    Daimler Empress MkII ()

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    Docker Daimlers

    Yet the Docker Daimlers were anything but subtle. The 1952 Blue Clover featured a two-tone powder blue and grey coupe spotted with delicate four-leaf clovers. It had gold finishing instead of chrome. Gray-blue lizard skin panelled the interior. Gold fleurs-de-lis graced the sides of the 1953 Silver Flash, and the 1954 Stardust had tiny stars incorporated into the paint scheme. The '54 Golden Zebra was upholstered in authentic zebra hide.

    Daimler 250 V-8 ()

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    Royal Displeasure

    The Docker Daimlers were a bit much for the royal family. They were too ostentatious and in poor taste for Britons suffering through food rationing in the 1950s. The Daimler was relegated to infrequent use. Daimler's image was further tarnished by Lady Collins' behaviour in a disagreement over a wedding invitation from Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly that led to her and Docker's ban from Monaco.

    Daimler DS420 ()

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    Inglorious End

    BSA sold Daimler to Jaguar in 1960. Daimler remained a subsidiary of Jaguar when the Ford Motor Company bought Daimler and Jaguar in 1989. In 2008, Daimler and Jaguar were sold to Tata Motors of India. Only a single model, the Daimler Super Eight, remains today.

    Sporty Daimler Dart V-8 ()

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