Hemi Powered! 1961 Daimler SP 250

What’s a Daimler SP250? I’d never heard of it and assumed that it was a product from Germany’s famed Daimler AG. Nope. Is it notable? It was voted the ugliest car at the 1959 New York Motor show, so yes, notable for all the wrong reasons. But it has its redeeming qualities too. Let’s do a deep dive on this obscure sports car. It is located in Dallas, Texas and available, here on eBay for a current bid of $10,200, reserve not yet met.

The Daimler SP 250, produced between 1959 and 1964, was originally called the Daimler Dart. Chrysler Corporation took exception to that choice as they had trademarked the Dart name so Daimler relented and went with the car’s project number, SP 250. The manufacturer was The Daimler Company LTD, an auto manufacturer based in Coventry, England. It was sold to Jaguar, right after the SP 250’s introduction in 1960. While the original sales projection was 3,000 units per year, only about 2,600 in total, actually saw the light of day and about 65% were intended for export to the U.S.

The listing’s description is in size 6 font so I had to enlargen it, considerably, to read it. Long story short, this Daimler is a 53K mile example and the fiberglass body, according to the seller needs new gel coat, though it still presents itself well. The grille is showing some blemishes but the panel fit is straight and true. There are some chips and nicks in the paint but the white finish still has depth and is not showing any signs of fade or burn-through. This SP 250 has both a folding canvas top and a tonneau cover, the top is in good nick but the cover will require some stitch work.

Under the bonnet is a 2.5 liter, 140 HP “Hemi” V8 engine – it’s impressive looking! The seller describes this Daimler’s operating characteristics this way: “The car is an absolute joy to drive. For anyone who has never experienced a TurnerHemi head V8, it entirely makes the car. An incredible throaty engine tone out of the dual exhaust is the first indication upon turning the key, followed by incredible force when one finds some open road”.  In place is a five-speed manual transmission, harvested from a Toyota Supra, which certainly adds to the driving experience. Upgrades include electronic ignition and cooling fan, while mechanical needs are new front shocks, included in the sale, a rebuilding of the rear shocks, and some retrofit to the steering assembly as it is considered to be extremely stiff. Bringing this Hemi powered Daimler to a stop are four-wheel disc brakes.

The interior is British all the way. The instrument panel is replete with Smiths’ gauges and they all appear to be present as there are no unoccupied openings. The seller adds, “Original Connolly leather seats and dash cover are in excellent condition as are the Wilton carpets, interior door panels, and soft top”.  The SP 250 was advertised as a 2+2 but as is typical, the back seat is only useful from the waist up, or for a diminutive person sitting sideways, small children perhaps or just a place to toss stuff.

This car is a bit awkward looking for a late ’50s design in a cool sort of way; actually, the front end resembles a ’58 Packard Hawk – perhaps that was the styling influence? Whatever the case, the engine makes the car; it sounds like a fantastic drive. This was a pleasant surprise for me, a completely new discovery. How about you, ever heard of a Daimler SP 250?

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Comments

  1. alphasud Member

    Yea, she has a face on mother could love! I think Lenno owns one but doesn’t he own one of everything? If I were to come into a large some of money and being somewhat eclectic my car collection would be the following.

    Daimler SP-250
    66 Barracuda
    70 AMX Javelin
    66 Marlin

    Now what should I rename the Daimler? The Carp, Bottom feeder, or maybe the Koi.

    Like 11
    • Dual Jetfire

      How about the Daimler Douche?

      Like 3
    • Greg

      I did own a 1966 Formula S Barracuda (273 4 spd) that I bought in 1971…it was a beautiful Plymouth version of ‘British Racing Green’ with black interior…it is another in a long line of cars I should have kept…so I feel your need.

      Like 3
    • Richard Love

      Leno had his hopped up to 200 hp.

      Like 1
    • Phlathead Phil

      Yeah, the only thing it needs is a set of fender gills to vent the engine.

      I wonder how many shrimp have lost their lives to this thing?

      007’s new underwater escape car?

  2. unclemymy Member

    Well, you have to admit that (snort) it is a (chuckle)(guffaw)(snicker) – oh hell! The only thing worse would be to (hahahahahahah!) have a wife that ugly!!!! You guys gotta stop diggin’ up these things, you’re killin’ me!

    Like 4
  3. DayDreamBeliever Member

    Every time I see a photo of one of these, I flash back to a National Geographic spread abut denizens from the deep, deep sea. This has always been to me the car with the most homely front end, ever!

    Like 4
  4. Howard A Member

    Here’s a noodle scratcher, ONLY $16g’s( so far) for probably the most unique British roadster ever made. I know, that’s a hefty claim, but the hemi, which has become a household word these days, was a novel plus. I’d think that alone would raise it $10g’s ( maybe it already did) Never saw’r one in the midwest, I did happen to hear of it’s distant cousin, the Sabra ( based on a Triumph ) that also had “fish” styling. In the ’60’s, it was all about V8 sports cars, the Tiger proved that, and why this wan’t a bigger success, clearly was it’s odd styling. Get past that, I bet this is a fantastic car to drive. Unbelievable find here.

    Like 10
    • CJinSD

      I think these were solid performers, and haven’t heard of the engines having any serious flaws. Has anyone ever swapped in a 4.5 liter out of a Majestic? Other than the low percentage of potential owners who appreciated the Dart’s appearance, I believe I’ve heard that they suffer considerable chassis flex.

      Like 1
      • ken tilly UK

        @CJinSD. The Daimler Majestic was a bit of a road runner back in the day, apart from it being a really nice car. It’s time for the standing quarter of a mile was just over 17 seconds which is not bad for a very heavy limo. Check out the specs here at https://www.carfolio.com/daimler-majestic-major-48587?car=48587.

  5. RGSmith1 Member

    I love this site.! I never knew there were so many oddball, yet interesting cars out there that I had never seen or heard of. Keep ’em coming!

    Like 9
  6. unclemymy Member

    Now I remember where I saw it – BATFINK!

    Like 3
  7. Will Fox

    A neat little roadster, until you need engine work and parts. Then what?
    No thanks. Being in the states, you’ll never find parts for one of these; too obscure and no one keeps parts for these. Good luck waiting on your parts order coming from the UK. You might get it back running in 3-4 years.

    Like 1
    • local_sheriff

      C’mon – this is 2020, not 1920. You won’t need to order parts by telegram and wait for the ocean liner to arrive with your bits in 6 months.

      Literally thousands of enthusiasts in Oceania, Japan and Europe order bits for their vintage US cars on a regular basis that are shipped from the States to their respective locations. Shouldn’t be too challenging to arrange it the other way around

      Like 6
    • KEVIN L HARPER

      There are two wonderful inventions one is called the internet and the other is called DHL, between those two I can get parts from the UK in 2 to 3 days. It works so well that I can frequently get parts quicker from the UK than I can from a neighboring state in the US. Try it sometime.

      Like 8
  8. RichieRich

    A jewel of an engine! And you won’t see yourself coming and going on the way to cars and coffee. These are underrated and undervalued. GLWTA!

    Like 9
  9. jokacz

    I have 2 memories of these things. A beautiful woman name June used to drive around in one in the 1960’s. And the grill looked like something the Marx toy company would have rejected. I think they came with that deplorable Moss gearbox, which explains the swap.

    Like 6
  10. Francisco

    A grouper

    Like 6
    • Paolo

      Lanternfish.

      Like 3
    • alphasud Member

      I think you nailed the name. When I buy one I will join the Daimler club so we groupies can school together.

      Like 1
  11. 370zpp

    Now if the parents had just paid for braces when it was a kid . .

    Like 1
  12. gaspumpchas

    Cool car with some nice upgrades. Friend of mine restored one in the 70’s, black. That little hemi sounded so sweet but it lacked guts. Most unique.
    Parts are out there.
    Cheers
    GPC

    Like 5
  13. scott m

    I’ve always liked quirky cars, but this was a little too far at first- but I have come to really lust after one of these. Famously used by the London police to keep up with speeders and bankrobbers
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daimler_SP250 There is another designer it reminds me of that made hideously overwrought cars, Spone, Spode? Ah well, would love to have this!

    Like 2
  14. junkman Member

    There is a guy around here with a green one, see it around from time to time. Not sure but it may have a SBC in it. Sounds nice.

  15. Miguel

    That is one hell of an underbite.

    Like 2
    • ken tilly UK

      Good one Miguel!

  16. David Ayer

    There’s a SP 250 parts specialist in Massachusetts. I used to know the guy through an old job selling MGB parts. Nice, honest guy who knows these cars inside out. You can find him on FaceBook.

    As ugly as these cars are, you haven’t lived until you’ve heard that little hemi wind up.

    Like 5
  17. Greg

    I think this might actually have a slightly better looking front end than the 1958 Packard Hawk mentioned in the write-up…

    Like 1
  18. luke arnott Member

    Several UK Police Forces used these – they were Quick cars.Jaguar bought Daimler to get their hands on the engine,and then produced a saloon with it which was really a Mk 11 Jag.

    Like 2
  19. Karl Sisson

    It was nicknamed “The Catfish”. I always wondered how the car would handle in corners with that big lump up front. I think it’s basically a Triumph TR3 and would have been better off with an aluminum Rover 215 ci motor.

    Like 3
  20. ken nelson Member

    A friend has one stored in San Jose – black, nice shape, but when I tried to get into it, I literally could not! I’m 6′ 3″, long legs, and there was no way I could get into it, and I don’t think the seat tracks could be moved back anymore. Any bidder should very thoroughly try the fit before going for this one! I had to sell a ’65 Matra Bonnet Djet 5S, along with two Renault Caravelles as I couldn’t really fit those either, and the Djet is a gorgeous car – whose shape was copied by the Opel of the late ’60s. Hated to sell that
    one, with its 4 whl discs, mid-engine design, super sleek fiberglass body and Gordini hemihead 1100 cc engine sporting 10.4:1 compression and producing 94 HP out of that small Renault engine.
    There was also a Daimler 250 sedan – a la – Jaguar sedan style body – with the same hemi. I had a chance to resurrect one of these engines just enough to know it could run after fixing the cracked water crossover casting –

    Like 1
  21. Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

    These look best when finished in a dark color and with better wheels. I think someone in my club has even taken the “catfish” effect down a notch by powder-coating the ugliest trim in body color, including that awful snout.

  22. mikec

    I had a mk11 Daimler Jag – 1968 – with the same v8 2.5 litre engine. Fantastic motors and smoother than a Rolls Royce with plenty of go in it when the foot was put down

    Like 1
    • Gaffen Charles

      First one I ever saw was in the mid 60’s. I must first admit I like the Packard Hawk. I call it designed by Hoover. Anyway I saw this and appreciated it immediately as well as picking on it. My first thought was ‘aren’t fins over with’?
      I noticed the dual exhaust quickly and then I did get lucky. The owner walked over to the car and I decided to take the time to wait. I wasn’t disappointed. That little V8 started up and I said WHOA! to myself. I did do some research and learned quickly they were out of my league since I was driving a $200 Fiat 1100(which Leno also owns). I’ve always liked them for the oddity and the engine. The addition of a 5 speed doesn’t hurt, and I’d love to own one if I had more than a ‘virtual garage”

      Like 4
  23. Wen

    There was an excellent evaluation of this car as collector car in one of the Hemmings publications a few years ago. Every one agrees that the engine is a jewel but the fiberglass body was not considered well done and presented real issues for durability and for restoration.
    Still, it could be fun project, especially if you like quirky cars like me.

    Like 1
  24. Alan Dempsey

    These were de riguer kit in the early 60s in any British Commonwealth country ( well, probably not Canada, given that they had enough salmon in their rivers) . My uncle had one , and then his son, which that son raced and generally hooned around in. They were fast cars in the day,(120mph?) with “brave” handling characteristics one would have to say. Here in Auckland there was a famous mini-canonball point to point … 25 miles from the harbour bridge toll gates north to a well known beach,country roads before it was all freeway… that cousin of mine held the record in his Dart… ~20 minutes if I recall.

    Like 4
  25. Paolo

    Racer Mark Donohue had one of these. It was the last race car that he both owned and raced. He had previously owned an Elva. He only had the Daimler a short time before he got rid of it. He had nothing good to say about it. It came up short in every way.

    Like 1
  26. cotobob

    I’m dismayed the editor had not heard of a Daimler SP-250! I spent a year in UK 1960-61 and first saw it as a police car with a hardtop. They were quick, around 120 mph in stock condition, on the race track with some modifications, maybe 130 mph. Not a car of beauty but it grows on you. I’m surprised to read the seller says 5 speed as I have only seen 4 speed. Typo? If I had the garage space I would consider it. Yes, Jay Leno has one (I have seen his collection in person) and he likes it a lot!

    Like 1
  27. Federico

    Daimler was british manufacturer

    Like 2
  28. Al

    I well remember these racing in SCCA races at Watkins Glen. That was soured by an extremely unfortunate event at one of those races costing the driver his life. Ended any interest I had.

  29. Paolo

    I’m thinking of that dumb Don Knotts movie, “The Incredible Mr. Limpett” where he is a fish enthusiast who is transformed into fish and goes off to fight the Nazis.
    If Don Knotts had transformed into a car instead of a fish he would have looked like the Daimler SB250

    https://richmondmom.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/0e73a01daa3df6b030066e68a4ef295b.jpg

    https://i.ytimg.com/vi/HcNnTcAf7uI/maxresdefault.jpg

  30. Scott

    Catfish!!

  31. ken tilly UK

    @Scott M. After looking at the websites that you supplied I have come to the conclusion that the Daimler SP 250 is not the ugliest car ever as that accolade must go collectively to the Spohn cars. I wonder what Spohn was actually thinking, or smoking, when he “designed” these cars?

    Like 1
    • scott m

      Yes, one wants to look away but can’t! Although there are a couple when he must have been ON his medication that aren’t bad, like the Maybach SW35, and the Veritas Scorpion Kabriolet. I guess even Spohn had his bad days :^}

  32. GeneB

    I had this engine in a Jaguar. Ran good, SU carbs needed work

    Ive hot a 67 1/2 Jag E-type roadster project car I would trade for this, tho

  33. Charles Sawka

    Most of my career was,service and restoration of British cars. Factory authorized Rolls Royce technician. While the little Daimler Hemi was a cool engine, the rest of the car was pretty much dreadful.

    Like 1
  34. Alan Dempsey

    All you guys are going on about how dreadful the Dart was… ok… name a car below exotica that wasnt that was 1950s tech ( for want of a much more appropriate word)… Basically almost all cars built during that era were pre-war design construction principles…except maybe the Frenchventurism and advance der Panzer of Mercedes. Look at Vettes and even Jaguars of that time… drays. The Dart was styled tragically perhaps, biut in 1957 it was the cutting edge of avant garde. Spit on the Citroen ID too if you dare to , insofar as what style was.. .see the similarities? It wasnt desinged for you.. it was designed for the avant garde set of 1957. If you cant see that, you’re not ahead of the game and never were. Cheers guys… and I can tell you something for free… 120MPH in one of these dinosaurs is a hell of lot more exhilarating ( some would say frightening) , than 150MPH in anything post 1990.

    Like 3
    • ken tilly UK

      I totally agree with you sir, as I’m sure a lot of other contributors to BF’s will.

      • Alan D

        Cheers Ken…. desperate fanboys without a skerrick of depth as to what auto evolution is about, need exposing. I’m on mission from God ;-)

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