Five Clas­sic Tri­als

Daim­ler Re­gency Em­press

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - This Week - Words Paul Larkins Pho­tog­ra­phy Richard Gunn

Driv­ing a Daim­ler Re­gency is very much a po­lite af­fair. It’s as if char­ac­ter ref­er­ences are re­quired in or­der that you may ob­tain the nec­es­sary in­tro­duc­tion to the bird­s­eye maple-adorned in­te­rior. In­vi­ta­tion duly ac­cepted, it is time to make your­self com­fort­able with the Wil­son pre-se­lec­tor trans­mis­sion and only then may you en­quire if the en­gine would like to com­mence.

It is a stun­ning car com­pletely at home in an era where eti­quette still in­sisted that the man of the house mowed the lawn wear­ing a tie. Gen­tle­men drove and – as this car so su­perbly il­lus­trates with its fine touches – ladies were driven. Why else would there be a Daimle-rem­bossed um­brella next to the pas­sen­ger seat or a Max Fac­tor-filled van­ity case in the back­seat’s cen­tral arm­rest?

The Hooper-bod­ied Re­gency – the Em­press – was very much a Docker Daim­ler. The Dock­ers, Sir Bernard and Lady Docker – No­rah, a for­mer dancer and a for­mi­da­ble char­ac­ter (much to the de­light of the 1950s pop­u­lar press) – had a grand vi­sion that in­cluded a line of re­gal-look­ing cars, com­plete with su­perb coach­work; ex­pense was not an is­sue.

And while the Re­gency wasn’t gold-plated, as the DE36 fa­mously was as per Lady Docker’s in­struc­tions – ‘please don’t call my gold­plated car vul­gar,’ screamed one head­line – the alu­minium body, leather up­hol­stery and snake­skin par­cel shelf, drinks and van­ity cab­i­net with, of course, the beau­ti­fully smooth Daim­ler fluid fly­wheel gear­box mated to a hefty six-cylin­der en­gine, cer­tainly turned plenty of bowler-hat­ted heads. It still does to­day.

Our Re­gency hadn’t graced – Re­gen­cies do no less – the roads for more than 40 years but now, af­ter a slow restora­tion over sev­eral decades, it’s time to re­turn it to the high­ways. A sim­ple flick of the pre-se­lec­tor to sec­ond, build the revs to a suit­able healthy level and blip on the gear pedal level and the car serenely moves up to speed. There is first gear, but such is the power that pulling away in sec­ond is the pre­ferred method for this car.

Not a mur­mur of dis­con­tent, not a hint that this 3.0-litre en­gine had un­der­gone 26 years of ren­o­va­tion by its owner Ed­ward Smith and would per­haps un­der­stand­ably be re­luc­tant to play ball.

Yes, there’s an ever-so-po­lite cough as the over­drive gear­box reac­quaints it­self with the al­tered spa­ces of the gears – built so to ac­com­mo­date the huge en­gine – but from there it’s plain sail­ing. The torque is enor­mous and it’s easy to feel that speed is avail­able should it be needed. What’s more, as own­ers would dis­cover, over­drive would prove jolly use­ful for those new-fan­gled dual car­riage­ways which were be­ing in­tro­duced at the time.

This car is all about the fin­ish­ing touches. It’s a lit­tle warm, so you need to wind down the win­dow – but this is a state-of-the-art 1950s ma­chine, so you press a but­ton to lower them us­ing new­fan­gled elec­tric­ity. You don’t even need the en­gine run­ning to do so. Thirsty? Well, the cham­pagne glasses as stan­dard sug­gest the tip­ple pre­ferred by pas­sen­gers, al­though it does run hap­pily on un­leaded. And it’s dif­fi­cult not to fall in love with the rail­way car­riage door thud the Re­gency doors pro­vide. And as for that ra­di­a­tor grille, com­plete with its trade­mark flutes – just su­perb.

Of course, given that barely 50 were made and at the time they cost the equiv­a­lent of three houses, not many saw much ac­tion. A few were owned by celebs; pop star Su­san Maughan, who sang Bobby’s Girl, had one, but not too many others did. Our test car fea­tured on the Hooper stand at the 1951 Earls Court Mo­tor Show and just 27 of the Hooper-bod­ied ver­sion of the Se­ries II were built, with per­haps just two or three sur­viv­ing to­day. The rea­son for the low build num­ber? A lack of in­ter­est. It was as sim­ple as that; no­body wanted to buy the car so pro­duc­tion ended. We reckon buy­ers didn’t know what they were miss­ing out on.

Daim­LeR Re­Gency em­PRess FivE Clas­siC tri­als

elec­tric win­dows were the height of 1950s lux­ury.

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