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British Hemi: 1963 Daimler SP250 Dart

The Daimler SP250 Dart is a sweet sports car that is often overlooked. With all of the right “Buzz words” this British built sports car has a fiberglass body and a factory “Hemi” V8 under the hood. With interesting style cues, and even a pair of fins, these classic sports cars are a blast to drive with a great sounding engine to boot. This particular Dart has been tucked away in a garage for a while, and is described as being the “lowest production number in existence.” This uncommonly seen sports car is offered for $27,500. Check it out here on craigslist out of Ketchum, Oklahoma. Thank you to reader Harlen B. for this rare and awesome find!

There is truthfully a “Hemi” under the hood, but not the Mopar you may be thinking of. This engine is a 2.5 liter V8 with Hemispherical heads. Definitely a low displacement engine, power is fair although not breath taking at 140 horsepower. A 4 speed transmission is mated to the great sounding engine, and you can make the engine sing a tune all to your liking. The production tag on the firewall would indicate that this indeed is an early car. Appearing to be car number 21 built, this is a rare and special opportunity for sure.

Despite the small and grainy photos, this Daimler appears to be in fair shape. The interior is simple, yet lovely, with its red and saddle tan coloring. The only thing that appears somewhat iffy is the steering wheel, but I believe there is a steering wheel wrap attaching to the rim of the wheel.  There is a soft and fuzzy blanket in the back of the cockpit which I would assume covers the car during its hibernation.

This is an old British fiber glass sports car, so there is cracking in the paint, and there is a more serious crack in the passenger front fender that likely resulted from an impact.  Also the trunk is a factory green color indicating that something happened to warrant replacing the original. The remainder of the body appears damage free, and is covered with paint. There is body work to tackle, and a lot of sanding ahead of whoever restores this beauty. Although not the fastest, or most well-known sports car, the SP250 has a character all of its own, and is a driving experience that should be on your bucket list for sure. Have you ever seen one of these cool British Hemi powered sports cars?

Comments

  1. Adam T45 Staff

    Having driven one of these I can confirm that when it’s working properly, the engine is truly quite sweet. However, (and isn’t there always a “however”?) the early engines were rife with cooling issues which can do some pretty horrendous damage.

    The chassis was constructed from plastic drinking straws, meaning that flexing and scuttle shake are prolific. These were never designed to run on modern tyres (Australian spelling), so the additional grip can make the whole car flex so much in corners that the doors can pop open, which can be a rather rude surprise!

    Having said that, as a top-down cruiser on a sunny day, they can be quite nice with the wind in your hair and that sweet little V8 singing in the background.

    • Stewart

      It’s actually a TR2 chassis!

      • Adam T45 Staff

        Fair call Stewart. They are the same. The SP250 just doesn’t handle as well and suffers extraordinary flex. I have seen the doors pop open under hard cornering. That suggests a huge lack of rigidity. Given that the TR2 was pretty good in this area, I’m not sure why the Daimler was so bad.

  2. boxdin

    A foreign car shop I worked at in the 60-70s had one of these in often. The front end is so ugly it was hard to appreciate the rest of the car.

  3. Coventrycat

    That grille needs a fish hook in it.

    • Adam T45 Staff

      I agree completely about the grille Coventrycat. I’ve seen a couple with the grille removed and it’s amazing how much it improves the appearance.

  4. Brakeservo

    I understand the cylinder heads are a real weak point and simply aren’t available right now . . . and the engine is the only reason to have one of these ugly butts – the overall design is so bad it makes even the Jensen Healey look good!

  5. Howard A Member

    I agree, the hemi is probably the best selling point. The only other car that looks just as unusual, is the Israeli Sabra ( with 4 cylinder Triumph engine).
    http://www.ritzsite.nl/Archive/Sabra_Sport_MkII_roadster_1967.JPG
    It’s really cool, just for the sheer unusual, but I think there’s better British roadsters out there. Finicky or not, it needs to be restored original, if possible, because, “hey, it’s got a hemi”!!!

    • Howard A Member

      Performance for the SP250 was average, at best. It did 0-60 in 9.1 seconds, and the 1/4 mile ( which this car was never intended) ran a 16.9@83 mph. So not a hemi Cuda, but certainly respectable. The biggest problem, I read, aside from “cowl shake”, was the price. You could get a big Healey for less, and a TR3 for almost half. It retailed for $3842 ( almost $32,000 today) and a tick below a Corvette @ $3875.

      • RayT Member

        Years ago (too many years ago!), I did some research on SP250s. I seem to recall that they used Triumph TR3 — or was it TR4? — chassis and suspensions. So you were paying the extra for the ‘glass shell and the V8.

        Also, the “hemi” was designed by the same chap who drew up engines for Norton motorcycles. I was told there were many design similarities between the bike and car powerplants.

        Still, it would have been very tempting to pay the extra 33 bucks for a Corvette….

      • Stewart

        Engine designed by Edward Turner who previously designed engines for triumph motorcycles

      • Howard A Member

        Hi Ray, research shows, the original “A” series, launched in 1959 did have the TR3 chassis. The V8 was too much and when Jaguar bought Daimler in 1960, they were immediately concerned with chassis flex, and strengthened the chassis with the “B” series. The “C” series, in 1963 had 3 items as standard equipment, a trickle charge socket(?), a heater/demister ( notice, they never say defroster), and a cigarette lighter.

      • RayT Member

        I learn something new every day! Thanks, Howard and Stewart!

  6. stillrunners lawrence Member

    yep….30 years or more ago I had a hard – hard time with the desire to own one….they were around….kinda glad it passed……..

  7. Rufus

    I saw one in original paint at a British car show in Woodstock NY last fall. Very cool car, and that engine does sound awesome!

  8. Karl-S
  9. Ken Carney

    Saw one of these at the MacDonald’s in Winter Haven Fl. in the fall of ’86. It had big tailfins out back and that fish faced grille up front. The car was being refurbished when I saw it and the owner told me that it ran a 392 Chrysler V-8 backed by a 4-speed tranny. Wonder how it looks now.

  10. Dave

    Here is one with a modified front end. Is it an improvement?

    • boxdin

      Obviously that is not the same model of car.

      • Dave

        Actually it is exactly the same model. It is an A spec. Dart which I modified in 2009.

      • boxdin

        Photo tricked my eye I guess, the car on right looks a lot larger.

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