Rare Drophead: 1953 Daimler DB19 18 Special Sports

The 1953 Daimler DB18 Special Sports Drophead Coupe is a car with a split personality. It possesses all of the attributes of a classic British sports car, but the overall package and trim are in keeping with the luxury offerings of the period. It is also a relatively rare beast, and while this car appears to be essentially complete, its restoration will represent a significant undertaking. If you feel ready for a challenge, you will find the Daimler located in Chilhowie, Virginia, and listed for sale here on eBay. The owner has set the BIN at $6,000, but he leaves the option available to make an offer.

The more observant among you may have noticed something unusual in the exterior photos. It’s interesting how the front panels and fender skirts have developed surface corrosion, but everything from the doors to the vehicle’s rear looks remarkably clean. This is typical of some of the quirky design features of the Special Sports because while the front is steel, in-house coachbuilder Barker fashioned the rear panels from aluminum. That means many of the panels wear a few dings and dents but little beyond heavy surface corrosion on the steel, and oxidization on the aluminum. There is some penetrating rust visible in the fender skirts, but the buyer should be able to address this with little effort. From there, the news takes a severe downturn because this Daimler has some deeper problems. It has emerged from years spent in a leaking barn, and this moisture has taken a toll on the beautiful seasoned ash that Barker used to frame many of the panels. The timber will probably serve as templates if the buyer wishes to make replacements, but its structural days are well behind it. The owner has taken the effort of restoring the wheels and adding new tires. However, that represents the tip of the iceberg with this classic.

Unfortunately, the leaking barn didn’t just take its toll on the timber. When the owner unearthed this classic, he cleaned the frame and coated it with POR15. However, that does little to disguise the significant rust in the frame visible in this photo. It seems to have only impacted one area, but it will take some careful work by an experienced individual to return the frame to a structurally sound state. The owner raises the idea of this classic serving as a parts car for another project, and that is a thought that we may revisit later in this article. The cap and timber A-Pillar trims are missing from the dash, but otherwise, it looks to be pretty complete. Restoring the dash to its former glory may not be as difficult with this car as can be the case with other classics from this era. Most have timber dashes that feature a veneer, but this Special Sports received a dash of solid timber. That means that it should be able to be returned to its former glory in a home workshop.

As is the case with every other aspect of the car, it seems that this classic’s drivetrain is virtually complete. The engine bay is occupied by a 2½-liter six-cylinder engine that features an iron engine block and aluminum cylinder head. Daimler equipped these engines with a pair of SU carburetors that allowed them to produce 85hp. The transmission was an innovative design that featured a Wilson preselector automatic with a fluid flywheel. This interesting setup allowed the driver to select a gear, but the transmission would not shift to the selected gear until the driver pressed a “clutch” pedal. While the Special Sports performance was pretty respectable, it was never going to be a hard-edged sports car with a mere 85hp attempting to shift a car that tipped the scales at 3,640lbs. However, when in good health, the Daimler will cruise all day at 60mph and hit speeds of up to 85mph if required. Once again, our feature car appears to be mechanically complete. The owner says that it rolls and steers, but the state of the drivetrain is unknown. You would think that the relative rarity of these cars would make sourcing parts challenging, but with many engine components shared with the more popular Daimler Consort, the supply is better than you might expect.

The owner supplies this photo which shows many of the removed parts included in the sale. It includes items like the frames for the three seats, many trim pieces, and the carburetors. There are more parts that the seller includes, but these wouldn’t fit in this photo. The seats are interesting because they were part of an interior that featured an abundance of timber, plush Wilton carpet, and lashings of leather. The front buckets effectively serve as a bench, allowing room for three people. An additional jump seat was also situated sideways behind the passenger seat, allowing room for a fourth occupant. Sideways rear seating was a feature seen in a variety of British cars, including some budget offerings from companies like Bond. It allowed a way to maximize seating capacity within a confined space, which is the case with this Daimler.

When the Daimler DB18 Special Sports production ended in 1953, it closed a significant chapter in the company’s history. It marked the final car to roll out of their factory with a genuine coachbuilt body. Daimler followed almost every mainstream manufacturer from that point and utilized mass-produced bodies and panels. Precise production figures for the Special Sports are difficult to determine, but it is believed that less than 500 examples rolled off the production line. The survival rate has been far higher than average for a classic from this era. At the time of writing, it appears that 340 cars remain active on the Register. Returning this one to its former glory could be a significant undertaking, but that raises the question of whether it is worth the time and expense. Hagerty doesn’t recognize that this car exists, while NADA quotes a potential value of around $22,600 for a pristine vehicle. However, it seems that they’re well wide of the mark because the few examples that have hit the market in recent times have easily topped $40,000. Is this a restoration that you would tackle, or does its overall deterioration and rusty frame make you believe its destiny is to serve as a parts car?


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  1. John Walsh

    I had the saloon version of the DB18 for many years. Fantastic old cruiser.

    Like 4
  2. robert gressard

    RUN!!! These cars are VERY expensive to even get going let alone restore. 100k is not even close. The ash body frame is only done by a pro. This is a parts car If another one is even out there. 100k plus and a resale of 20k or so, good luck.

    Like 2
  3. JohnfromSC

    The lines on this body when finished are dramatic. Agree that a restoration is out of the question, but this would make for one cool resto with all modern drive train under the covers. Maybe even ditch the frame. Make an engine turned dash or burl veneer, nice leather seats with contrasting piping. Do an image search on DB18 Special convertible to see one.

    Like 2
  4. SG

    Now this is a barn find! Well presented by the seller too. These are the kind of listings that I love to daydream about buying and building. Then I walk out into the shop and remember how many other projects are waiting for me…

    Like 3

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