Plastic Fantastic: 1961 Daimler SP250 Dart

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What do you get when you step outside your box of making limousines and hearses, and jump head-first into fiberglass sports cars? In the late 1950s,  you might come up with something as unique as the Daimler Dart! This one is up for sale here on eBay in Sarasota, Florida- keep reading to find out more!

Daimler (not to be confused with Daimler-Benz a.k.a. Mercedes-Benz) was founded in 1896 by H. J. Lawson as an independent British automobile manufacturer. After a rocky start, it eventually found its footing, but changed hands multiple times over its nearly 100 years, and the name was finally shelved in 2007. They mostly made high-end, posh autos, and were the preferred builder of cars for the British monarchy for nearly 50 years. When that prize was lost to Rolls-Royce in the mid-20th century, Daimler was allegedly pretty desperate to have something else to offer the public, so they decided to follow the lead of their domestic rivals and jump into sports cars.

As their sports car, they went with a uniquely-styled vehicle from 1959 to 1964. In that time, only about 2,500 units were produced, wearing a fiberglass body over metal frame similar to that of the Triumph TR3, motivated by a 2.5-liter aluminum-hemi-headed v8 that made 140 horsepower and 155 lb-ft of torque. Power went to the wheels by a four-speed manual gearbox with optional overdrive, and 9-second 0-60 with top speed of 120 mph could be achieved. Controlling all of that chutzpah in a 2,900-lb package were disc brakes on all four corners.

All of that established, we turn our attention to the example at hand. We’re given lots of technical details about Daimler SP205 Darts in general, and only a basic overview of rust-free-but-repainted condition in the “Seller Notes”, so we have to depend on the pictures to tell their proverbial thousand words. We can see that it’s white over red and wears some newer-looking wheels. No obvious flaws show in the pictures, and we’re told that it only has 26,000 miles on it.

Overall, it looks like a really nice example of an apparently rather rare car. I wish the pictures were better, but they suffice for now. They’re asking for $38,500 which, if you follow Hagerty’s valuations, is a fair price for a #3 condition vehicle. Obviously, I haven’t seen it in person, and I didn’t know the first thing about these cars before writing this for you, but I personally think it’s a reasonable ask. I’m all about the rare and obscure, whether or not I “like” the vehicle, so I kind of dig it. That’s what I think, what do YOU think? Let us know in the comments!

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  1. ClassicCarFan

    Gem of an engine apparently…designed by Edward Turner of Triumph Motorcycle fame ( designed the speed twin 500 ). …not sure if the rest of the car was so special. I can never really get past the slightly bizarre ugly-bug styling.

    I believe Daimler had to cease using the “Dart” name pretty rapidly when Chrysler complained that they held the rights. “SP250″ was originally the internal project codename and they ended up using it for the actual model name. a similar thing happened with the Triumph Stag…”stag” was the factory project codename and they kept it as the official public model name…

    Like 8
  2. Bluetec320 Bluetec320

    I think the nose looks like a big mouth bass, but I like it! With a Hemi V8, 4/5 speed manual, and 4 wheel disk brakes, I would think that this car would be a fun ride. Unfortunately, judging by the horrible EBay pictures, I would be cautious of plunking down almost 40K .

    Like 3
  3. chrlsful

    they reming me a lill of an Allard. A sm sports car w/big engine that was rare at the time in USA and is a rare car.

    A guy near here has a garage full of them as he’s a nationally known (internationally?) rebuilder.mechanic

    Like 1
  4. Classic Steel

    Where’s the front windshield and frame?
    Its kind of like riding a motorcycle at high speed with a helmet but getting beat on without it.
    I checked fleabay pictures and skimmed write ups but didn’t see it.

    These are definitely a fave car of mine .

    Like 1
  5. sir_mike

    Worked on and drove one in 1968…nice cars…does this one come with the windshield and top??

    Like 0
  6. Chas H

    That V-8 engine also appears in a big sedan, but at 4.5 L displacement. The blocks are the same size. A swap would go far to offset the ugly.

    Like 0
    • Jim

      Big sedan motor is physically larger

      Like 0
  7. MorleyMember

    How much?????? This is in the realm of burnt Chryslers. I would pay 3500 for the power train. It would be perfect for a 32 highboy.

    Like 0
  8. MikeC

    Had a 1968 2.5 v8 Daimler Jaguar saloon version. Fantastic, smooth engine. Great motors

    Like 0
  9. Robert W. Lovell

    Greetings All.

    Far too many styling cliches here.

    That V8 is an amazing mill.

    Reminds me of that expression not a stunner, but it has a nice personality.

    Like 0
  10. Eric_13cars Eric_13carsMember

    When I was in college (late 60s) a rich kid came to school with a Lotus Elan convertible. He drove it for a few weeks and then it sat waiting for parts from the UK (for several months). The next year he came to school with a Daimler sp250…drove it for while, and then it sat waiting for parts from the UK. That was the year and summer when the sales manager at Long Chevrolet in Lake Forest, IL offered his 19 year old sweep/car wash/dealer trade boy (me) a traded-in 1960 MB 190 convertible for $600. Working 2 jobs from 7am to 9:30pm every day, I managed to save $500 for school.

    Like 3
    • DonC

      Awesome story Eric! Good for you. I have a similar story, but some other time.

      Like 0
  11. Will Owen

    I had the use of one of these for about five months in 1965, up in Anchorage AK, in an informal swap with the owner; he’d suddenly become a family man and needed a car like my Hillman Husky. This was in late winter, but the first thing that struck me about the car was how readily it would start in sub-freezing conditions. In fact, I was cautioned to keep the choke knob pushed in for the first few turns of the engine, just to make sure it was free, and then pull the knob out … and it would fire right up.

    That was one of the good things about the car. Its fine front-rear balance made it easy to drive on slippery stuff, and the un-servo’d 4-wheel disk brakes were astonishingly good, even on glare ice. Its evil side did not appear until the roads thawed out …

    That primitive steel frame, fastened to a rather flimsy plastic body, was as far from rigid as you could get; the car’s fancy factory clamp-on hardtop lost its irreplaceable glass wrap-around rear window one night when I drove over some ripples in the road, and it popped out and shattered. And while the car was easy to drive hard on loose surfaces, such as dirt, sand and gravel, at the limit on dry pavement it couldn’t decide between understeer and oversteer, so it went back and forth between both.

    My suspicion that this thing meant to kill me was all but confirmed when a pump jockey didn’t get the gas cap (in the middle, right behind the cockpit) on right on fine day, and I was running at about 80 with the top down and the windows up, smoking a cigarette. I had just flipped the butt over the side when we hit a big bump, and the cockpit was suddenly full of a gasoline fog. I had to pull over and walk around a bit …

    There are upsides. The engine was Turner’s first water-cooled design, and he got it mostly right. The bottom end is the only weak point, complicated by the engine’s eagerness to rev well past its 6200 or so redline, but it’s a wonderful long-legged cruiser. That square trunk is bigger than it looks – I got two guitars (in cases) and a portable grill in there one night, plus other stuff – and unlike some road testers I found those leather seats just fine for long stretches. We are told that before Jaguar gave up on the car they’d stiffened up the frame pretty well, so I’d expect a later model (which I think this one is not) to be less prone to popping its doors open. I am not anxious to have another, but I’d sure like to drive a good one.

    Like 9
  12. Claudio

    $38,500 american dollars can buy you a lot of fun , speed and much more security in a package than this death trap
    The 5000 mile gto comes to mind …

    Like 1
  13. IanC

    Isn’t this the Daimler Dart (“Chrysler other”) sold on Copart in July 2019, now with exactly 40k miles less?

    Like 0
  14. Terry Evans

    I’ve been driving my 69 Daimler V250 saloon, same V8 as the Dart, since completing restoration in 1993. Love that little girl. Incidentally, I’ll be in Sarasota this afternoon and am almost afraid to take a look at this ugly cousin. I might fall in love again.

    Like 1
  15. Coventrycat

    Put a fish hook in the grille for the next car show.

    Like 1
  16. John Payne

    I have both a ‘dart’ and the V8 250 sedan.
    Loved them both. The Dart however was a monster to steer at low speeds.
    It was I believe part of the original batch sent to the US and then sent back to get the scuttle shake Strengthened with hoops. It behaved admirably with no door popping and the lovely Turner V8.
    It was converted to right hand drive (Australia) and was so flawless the only way to tell was the heater control was back to front and the tonneau had a patch on the left.
    Fun car

    Like 0

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