Daimler Automobile History

Contrary to popular belief, the Daimler Automobile Company is NOT part of Mercedes Benz. The confusion arises due to the fact that in 1896, when the Daimler Company of the U.K. was formed, it was an agent for Gottlieb Daimler's 1 horsepower motorboat engines. When the company purchased the UK patent rights, it retained the Daimler name. The marque has always been British. In the early years, Daimler automobiles were known for their association with the British Royal Family. Until 1950, the primary transportation of the Kings and Queens (and their sons and daughters) were Daimler autombiles. Heads of State worldwide also own and use Daimler Limousines. Such is the case of the royal family of Thailand, who were using this DE36 model Limousine with what is guessed to be a Windovers or Freestone/Webb custom body as recently as 1971. Patrick Tillery, who snapped this photograph reports:

I caught this magnificent beauty in 1971 carrying the King and Queen on an outing. They were preceded with great pomp and ceremony along with guards and mounted police. Notice the trumpet sticking out of the passenger side (the driver is on the right in Thailand.) Notice, also, the characteristic fluted grill, the sweeping rear, the smooth covered spare tire, and the open windshield and passenger windows (no air conditioning - and it's always hot there.) If you look closely, you can also see the King and Queen in the back seat. And you can also see one of the motorcycle policemen reflected in the paint on the rear door.

Another car of similar vintage is this 1953 Hooper bodied Empress model limousine on a DE24 chassis. The Empress model was fitted to many different chassis including Rolls Royce and Austin during the 1950's.

Due to an unfortunate incident with the tranmission of the primary car in 1950, the British Royal Family began riding in Rolls Royce motorcars. Today, the Queen Mother is the only member of the Royal Family to regularly ride in a Daimler, a handsome claret and black DS420 limousine with her personal mascot fitted to the bonnet. The Royal household has five DS420 limousines in their fleet of motorcars. For non-state occasions, the royal family even rides in them. In 1960, the Jaguar company purchased Daimler for the prestige the marque has developed among heads of state worldwide, captains of industry, and yes, even rock stars. Their new production facilities were a big bonus to Jaguar who was then selling all the cars they could produce.

In the immediate post-acquisition period and for the next 6 years Daimler was run as a division and enjoyed the opportunity to sell their new SP250 Dart sports cars against Jaguar. With the shake up of the British auto industry in the 1960's came the addition of several prominent names to the Jaguar/Daimler firm, now called "BMC". These included the coachbuilding firm Vanden Plas, MG, Austin, and Triumph. A few years and serious management and economic problems later, Jaguar divests itself, Daimler, and Vanden Plas from the others. Vanden Plas is assigned to Daimler, since together they had created the DS420 Limousine.

Since that time, most Daimler automobiles have simply been "badge engineered" versions of current production Jaguar sedans. The main differences between the Jaguar automobile and the Daimler automobile is the distinctive Daimler fluted grill, upgraded upholstery, and woodwork. Because of the Daimler history, you'll find the Daimler versions to be the most expensive available, with few options left out. Such is the case of the 1987 Daimler Double Six shown in a Jaguar publicity photograph.

The only truly unique to Daimler model from 1967-1992 was the DS420 Limousine. The Daimler variants of the current Jaguar models today are far and away the most luxurious, with the "double six" (12 cylinder) being the current top-of-the-line Jaguar sedan available. In the United States, the Daimler variant is known as the "Vanden Plas", a reference to the venerable coachbuilders (originally merged into BMC, Vanden Plas was assigned to the Daimler group in 1966).

Copyright 2000 Craig Tiano, craig@vandenplas.com
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