Speedy to catch speedsters
A special Daimler SP250 two-seater changed hands at auction in Britain last month, after a career that had once included feeling the collars of ne’er do wells on the highway. DAVE MOORE explains.
The Daimler SP250’S tour de force was its jewel of a 2.5- litre pushrod V8 engine, designed by Edward Turner, of Triumph parallel twin fame.
When fitted to the light, nimble fibreglass-bodied sportscar, the V8 acquitted itself very well in terms of outright performance.
It was at first known as the Daimler Dart, but the moniker ‘‘Dart’’ had been used for some time by a huge dinosaur of a Dodge sedan, so after a complaint from Chrysler Corporation, it was SP250 from then on, even though the Daimler was the more appropriate user of the name.
It was the first sports car to be allocated specifically for police pursuit duties in Britain, following the opening of the M1 motorway, as it was felt that with the then open speed limit, the run of the mill Ford Zephyrs and Austin Westminsters would not be able to keep up with, never mind arrest, quicker criminals in the latest machinery.
Recently, Win Percy – famous in New Zealand for his forays on racetracks behind the wheel of various Jaguars, Holdens and Rovers during the 90s and a former Bathurst winner and British and European touring car champion – paid more than $NZ90,000 for a Daimler SP250 at auction.
The sale, at Historics at Brooklands in Surrey, England, involved the Daimler SP250 registered as: 670 ELL, which means it’s one of just 26 examples acquired by the Metropolitan Police that year for chase duty.
The police provenance was probably responsible for the £43,450 world record price.
The car worked with the police for a good five years, though during its career the main benefits that saw the car being hired became redundant as the M1 speed limit and every other dual carriageway in Britain was reduced to 115kmh.
That limit, which remains to this day, came about after Britain’s red-top tabloids carried a story about AC sports cars’ Le Mans team being caught testing a 427 Cobra Coupe on the motorway at more than 300kmh.
The car was retired to private ownership, complete with an operational Winkworth bell, driving light, radio, microphone, aerial, passenger footrest and radio interference suppression kit.
Meticulously maintained by the same owner for 32 years, the black, soft- top Daimler, whose styling is of acquired taste was adopted as an official course car at the annual Goodwood Revival in 1998, and after 13 successive appearances, has become synonymous with the event.
Despite being partially disabled following a non- racing related accident in 2003, 68- year old Percy now plans to have the car sympathetically adapted in order to allow him to drive it, and to return to Goodwood in 2012 to continue the car’s legacy in what will be its 50th Anniversary year, in his unpaid role as driving standards officer.
Commenting on his new car, tin- top star Percy remarked: ‘‘Although my role at Goodwood is a labour of love, I am effectively there to police driving standards, so what better way to keep an eye on proceedings than from behind the dash of an ex-constabulary car?’’
Meanwhile, news of its anticipated return to the Revival was welcomed by the event’s creator and custodian of the Goodwood estate, Lord March, who commented: ‘‘It’s great to see such a beautifully kept car, with such a unique history, at the Goodwood Revival each year.’’
Fit for the chase: The Daimler SP250, introduced in Britain to help catch speedsters on the open limit M1.