Elevated State

The Mark 2’s better bred cousin.

Daimler 2.5 litre V8. Image: carsaddiction

The British Daimler Motor Company (as opposed to the better-known German one) was one of the most venerable names in automobile history, tracing its roots back to 1896, and with a long-standing Royal warrant, amongst Britain’s most prestigious. Part of the Birmingham Small Arms (BSA) Group, a combine which incorporated military hardware, cars, commercials and motorcyles, by the mid 1950s the carmaking side of the business was starting to struggle against rising costs and stronger competition.

In 1956, Chairman, Sir Bernard Docker was forced to cede control over the BSA Group owing to a financial crisis at Daimler, one which was exacerbated in no small measure by his wife, Lady Docker’s rather extravagant spending habits. Succeeded by Jack Sangster, upon taking control of the business, the new BSA chief appointed former Ariel and Triumph motorcycle engineer, Edward Turner to head the vehicle division, giving him overall responsibility for the entire motor division[1].

With the existing range of Daimlers fading in the marketplace and humbled by rivals such as the upstart Jaguar marque, Turner investigated a new range of cars to be powered by new compact 90° aluminium V8 engines of 2.5 and 4.5 litre capacity. Primarily intended for a new saloon, Daimler’s straitened financial position and a number of false starts meant the project never quite got off the ground.

Judging from the few images available, the putative saloon was no great loss, but the V8 engine was a gem. According to Daimler club sources, Turner had been driving a Cadillac at the time and admiring its power unit, it is believed that he based the bottom end of the V8 upon the GM design, while adopting his motorcycle experience for the cylinder head, employing hemispherical combustion chambers, pushrod operated valves and a single central camshaft for compact dimensions and lightness.

While the V8 was very much Turner’s brainchild, the bulk of the design work and modifications were carried out by Turner’s deputy, Jack Wickes. Indeed, it is stated that the V8’s excellence is as much down to Wickes’ contributions as it was to Turner. The engine debuted in 1959’s (‘Major’) version of the previous year’s Majestic saloon and in 2.5 litre form, the SP250 ‘Dart’ roadster, the latter a classic case of a fine engine in search of a decent chassis. By then, Daimler’s losses had forced Sangster to place the business up for sale. Following a brief courtship, it was acquired by Jaguar.

Having tried and failed to make something saleable from the SP250, Jaguar engineers, who were highly impressed with both Daimler V8 engines, soon turned their attention to the smaller of the two, one finding its way into an unsuspecting development ‘Mark 1′ around 1960/61. The results were startling, the V8 powered car proving considerably quicker than Jaguar’s own XK unit. Hardly surprising, being a more modern, lighter and more responsive engine than Browns Lane’s essentially pre-war design.

With a bore and stroke of 76 x 70mm, the 2547 cc unit developed 140 bhp at a free spinning 5800 rpm. Turner’s motorcycle experience showed in that valve bounce was said not to have occurred until after 7000 rpm. With only minor changes to allow for the installation into the Mark 2 bodyshell and being mated to a Borg Warner Type 35 automatic transmission, the decision was made to introduce it as a production model in the Autumn of 1962 as the Daimler 2.5 V8.

Technically, little else was altered. Owing to there being slightly less weight over the front wheels, spring rates were changed, and softer dampers fitted. Steering effort too was reduced; however, power assistance was still preferable. Externally, differences were confined to the fitment of a fluted Daimler grille, while aft, badging apart, the number plate lamp holder received a similar treatment. Inside, it was largely business as usual, although the Daimler received a slightly elevated standard of trim.

A usefully and notably quicker car than the 2.4 Mark 2, the Daimler V8 quickly gained a niche amongst those for whom the leaping cat was perhaps a little infra dignitatem. This positioning of the Daimler as sedate luxury carriage somewhat belied its performance potential, but this could be said to have suited Jaguar’s purposes.

Developments included a fully engineered marine version, which was completed but not proceeded with and the investigation of fitting the 4.5 litre unit into a Mark 2 body, which would have made for something of a hot rod – in a straight line at least. However, it was never a serious project. In 1967, along with the rest of the Utah range, the Daimler received a mild facelift, along with a new name – V8 250.

Changes were minimal, mostly reflecting those of the equivalent Jaguar model, but the car could now be specified with Jaguar’s manual gearbox. Marles Varamatic power steering was also now available, replacing the older lower geared system. Like most of its Jaguar siblings the V8 250 was phased out in Autumn 1968 to make way for the XJ6.

The Turner V8 took on a whole new life beyond the grave, being widely used in motorsport and drag racing (where it developed prodigious power outputs), suggesting that both engines had the capability to be developed further. That Jaguar failed to do so, especially as regards the smaller capacity unit remains both a mystery and what can be seen in retrospect as a missed opportunity.

The Daimler 2.5 V8 meanwhile was largely dismissed as little more than an ennobled Jaguar, but it was more than that, proving a refined, capable and satisfying saloon with a subtly different character to that of its Browns Lane stablemate. And that character was wholly defined by Turner and Wickes’ superb engine. Nobility will out.

[1] This incorporated Daimler (cars and commercials), Ariel, BSA, and Triumph (motorcycles) and Carbodies (taxis).

Data source: Daimler and Lanchester Owners Club

Read the Jaguar compact saloon story in full.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

19 thoughts on “Elevated State”

  1. Well, this is pure revisionism to me, I’m afraid.

    Even back in the very early 1960s, it was obvious to me that the Turner V8 engines were copies of the 1950’s Chrysler Hemi engines. Nothing to do with Cadillac whatsoever. Turner copied the way Chrysler operated the pushrods, requiring a high-mounted cam to get the very different angles required of the pushrods to operate the intake and exhaust valves for the hemi-head. GM never wasted money on fancy-pants hemi-heads or designs requiring such wildly splayed pushrods. Two rocker shafts per bank would have sent GM accountants into a frenzy, and the expenditure simply not countenanced. So claiming Cadillac lineage from reading some repair manual to me is pure bunk. A fairy tale. All Turner needed was a subscription to SAE papers and he’d have got all the detail he needed to design the engine, and as an industry engine design professional it’s inconceivable he didn’t have both an SAE amd IMechE subscription. Lovely cutaways in US car enthusiast magazines of the V8 engines were available anyway. That’s where I saw both them and the Daimler V8 – the SP250 Dart turned heads over here, and there’s still a couple well-kept examples locally.

    The people at the Daimler and Lanchester Club need to google some cutaway images of various Dodge and Chrysler hemi V8’s from the 1950s. Then compare them to the Chinese copy of the Daimler V8. There are many cutaways on allpar.com of various Chrysler units. I’m not even going to spend the time to give URLs, because to me the matter was settled 60 years ago, and it’s easy for anyone with an interest to do. It is also worth remembering that 1959 was the last model year for the Chrysler Hemi. Their accountants also prevailed because of cost and inability to get anything like a hemi combustion chamber when compression ratios are 10 to 1, so bar a polysherical head V8 that lasted a couple of years on Plymouths, Chrysler V8s went to wedge combustion chambers or minor varaiations thereof, just like GM and Ford . Bristol and Jensen used the later wedge-head Chryslers.

    The Turner engines were cast iron blocks, not aluminium. From Wikipedia: “Aluminium alloy pistons with steel connecting rods run in a cast chrome-iron block”. Of that there is no doubt, anyway. They had no money to dabble around in alloy requiring liners or for more than basic machine tools. These were limited production units with no great capital investment. The heads were alloy, though, they say. As for Turner’s special expertise in avoiding valve float, well that if true, overlooks the fact that Chrysler was far more capable than some tiny British company, and nobody ever complained that Chrysler Hemis floated the valves at 6K. Unlike hydraulic lifter GM engines which hadn’t a hope of revving that high. Derivations of the Chrysler 392 still power top fuel dragsters today.

    When I lived in England again in the 1970s, my second “industry” year, I worked at Cambridge Consultants in Bar Hill. The middle of fields on the A604. I lived in St Ives, the back of beyond. I had to cadge lifts from Bar Hill to St Ives from employees to get to and from work. One had a Utah 2.5 V8, so I’ve had a fair few miles in one. Nice car, busily geared, smooth engine without much real go as it was automatic of course – after all it was only 2.5 litres and a heavy car to haul around. But remember, I had come from Canada where cheap big capacity V8 power was the norm, whereas in England a V8 in those days was exotic. I never have been in a 2.4l XK engined Utah, but as you’ve detailed, it was a bit of a slug anyway, although I doubt there was a night and day difference in performance. The V8 was merely much nicer to ride behind.

    As I also detailed in my last comment where I offered up the site that has thousands of old road tests, in the real world the Daimler 4.5 litre wasn’t any quicker than the Jag 4.2. However, instead of being a long stroke chuffer, it was a modern short stroke V8, and I’m sure it felt much nicer and more sophisticated to drive.

    1. Bill is right. Almost direct copy of the 392 Hemi except for aluminum heads.

      I suspected the Cadillac reference was to the short block of the engine.

      But no. The Daimler block and main caps look like the Hemi engine as well. Right down to the Daimler block copying the bay to bay breathing holes.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lRhxuFhp8AU t~=3:24

    2. Hi Bill,

      Agree with you entirely for it seems when you were roaming Cambridgeshire in the seventies so was I, also in a Daimler v8.
      I arrived in the UK along with an imported SAAB 99 which was quickly changed for a RHD proper UK product an immaculate Daimler V8. I went on to have a succession of mark twos with the V8 and 2.4 six and later moved on to the last revision of this body a Daimler 4.2 which finally gave this car some performance.
      I remember the V8 as being the poor neglected cousin with prices reflecting this, also engines were not fully understood or desirable on the used market partly from poor fuel economy or added complication.
      I once purchased “for a pittance “a quite respectable example with a misfire only to discover this was only due to a faulty spark plug extension tube a simple fix.
      As I already owned another this car was sold on to an airman at a nearby airbase who used and enjoyed it trouble free during his tour of duty, he subsequently sold it back to me for the princely sum of £25 a mere pittance partly because our paths crossed as he was rushing to catch a flight and that was all the cash I had on me!

    3. Revisionist? Really? Isn’t this article’s basic summary–“it’s believed that he based the bottom end of the V8 upon the GM design, while adopting his motorcycle experience for the cylinder head”–entirely consistent with what was written by contemporary historians and Turner’s biographers? I understand the superficial similarity to Chrysler’s pushrod hemi V8 engines, but from my perspective it’s always been easy enough to write off any attribution of design inspiration as the sort of thing said by Americans of a certain age who’ve never actually seen a pushrod hemi design outside of a Chrysler engine compartment. Doesn’t the original Chrysler “FirePower” engine arrange all of the pushrods in one plane (per bank), whereas Daimler’s design does not, with intake and exhaust pushrods coming off the cam at different angles? It seems to me that should be the telltale feature of any design drawing inspiration from the Chrysler engine. (Of course even that hallmark isn’t truly unique to Chrysler–the Lancia Aurelia V6 could make that claim a year or so earlier, but its rocker arrangement and combustion chamber design is unique [odd?] enough that I wouldn’t actually suggest that they inspired the Chrysler arrangement, which was almost certainly being designed concurrently with no knowledge of Lancia’s V6.)

  2. Was the fully engineered marine version of the Daimler V8 dieselized by any chance?

    Find the Daimler V8’s potential links to the 1st gen Chrysler Hemi engine intriguing, along with its potential to form the basis of both 90-degree V6 and Slant-Four variants in better circumstances (sans Lady Docker and some better post-war decisions*). It was indeed a shame Jaguar did not slot the Daimler V8 above the XK6 / AJ6 yet below the Jaguar V12, though wonder if Chrysler expressed an interest in acquiring BSA / Daimler before going on to acquire Rootes?

    Apparently Leonardo Fioravanti’s (of Pininfarina 1800 fame) thesis includes engineering drawings where his hypothetical unbuilt car was powered by one bank of the 2.5 litre Daimler V8, an engine he much admired for its compactness and power. With the crankshaft and cylinders suitably modified by Fioravanti, whose engineering skills perfectly complemented his design talents, the engine was mounted transversely across the nose and inclined to the rear to keep the bonnet line as low as possible. As part of his studies, aerodynamic tests were carried out in the Breda wind tunnel and the design changed to incorporate numerous lessons learned there. https://www.landcrab.net/mainframes/main_pinafarina1800.htm

    *- Including acquiring a British-held DKW F9 prototype as war reparations and selling it as a new BSA Scout replacement, just like the BSA motorcycle division did by appropriating the DKW RT125 design and selling their version as the successful BSA Scout (despite the latter not properly being updated/developed).

    A DKW-ized to Audi-esque BSA being to Daimler, what DKW / Audi was to Mercedes-Benz when it owned DKW even down to a Daimler V8-derived Slant-Four evolving into a rough British equivalent of the DKW 2-stroke replacing Mercedes-Benz M118 later Volkswagen/Audi/Porsche EA831 4-cylinder.

    Even if some say a thriving BSA / Daimler would have entailed a pre-war point of divergence involving a better conceived BSA Ten and Lanchester Ten.

    Speaking of Lanchester perhaps a thriving Audi-esque BSA would have taken a different approach by utilizing large displacement inline-4s for its larger models, thanks to utilizing a Porsche/Mitsubishi-like solution of using two counter-rotating balance shafts running at twice the engine speed to overcome roughness caused by the unbalanced secondary forces that are typical of inline four-cylinder engines (thereby making a four-cylinder engine feel as smooth as an inline-6 engine). Which was invented in 1904 by British engineer Frederick Lanchester, and further developed and patented in 1975 by Mitsubishi Motors.

    1. Meant to say – “…just like the BSA motorcycle division did by appropriating the DKW RT125 design and selling their version as the successful BSA Bantam…”

  3. I find my interest in these somewhat difficult to explain (away), since I am not really a great fan of Mk IIs and am fairly resistant to the charms of most V8s in general. Perhaps it is the simple contrarian in me who considers it a plus that a lot of Jaguaristi tend to get a bit sniffy about them. But then, I am also the kind of person who thinks that the appeal of Mk Is is rather overlooked in the general rush towards larger-engined Mk IIs.

    Separately, the conrods from the 4.5-litre Daimler V8s were repurposed by Repco in putting together the title-winning Brabham engines in 1966-67.

  4. British car manufacturer in not entirely original engine design shocker…

    I’m put in the mind of the words – questionably – attributed to Samuel Johnson: “Your work is both good and original, but the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good”:

    After dabbling with overhead camshafts, Morris copied Ford’s ultra-simple side-valve designs. Austin re-used – in three sizes – the GM design they produced under licence during WW2. Standard-Triumph copied Citroën’s wet-liner design, Rover copied Standard-Triumph’s ohv diesel engine for the Land Rover, but made it worse. Rolls-Royce and Rover took inspiration from Hudson’s OISE (F-head) design. For the XK6, Jaguar perched on the shoulders of Edouard Ballot and Vittorio Jano.

    Regrettably, in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s the British industry tried to be mildly original and came up with far too many engines which were not at all good: Rover OHC four, Triumph slant-four and V8, BL E-series, PE146/166 (the SD1 six), Rover K-series – I’m looking at all of you…

    1. Did not know the early Land Rover diesel and petrol engines (including Santana’s inline-6 variant) were essentially a copy of Standard-Triumph’s Wet-Liner engine that was in turn copied from Citroen. Given the latter planned to also develop a V8 from said engine for first the Traction Avant and DS, it is also surprising neither Rover nor Triumph were influenced to develop a similar V8.

      It is also interesting to note how Citroen managed to further evolve the above into the petrol / diesel Citroen M-Series motor for the CX with twin-cam versions of the previous DS engine (intended for the DS Sport) also being investigated. Especially given Rover’s attempts have fitting the Rover P6 OHC into the Land Rover (though do wonder whether they attempt to dieselize the Rover P6 OHC engine), yet seem to recall Triumph managing to enlarge the Wet-liner engine to a Dry-Liner 2.5-litre. – https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moteur_série_M_Citroën

      Not sure to what extent the 2.1-litre V6 prototype engine like the 3-litre V8 prototype was derived from the DS engine. – http://www.citroenet.org.uk/passenger-cars/michelin/ds/engines.html

      Morris’s version of the Ford Side-Valve makes one question the wisdom of Morris using both the XP and 1.5-litre Riley engines, given Ford converted their engine to OHV and enlarged it to 1758cc for the Taunus P3 until late 1964. With the Alta-headed 918cc Morris putting out around 38-49 hp and the related 918cc Wolseley OHV being intended for enlargement of around 950-980cc pre-BMC, an 1758cc Alta-headed version of the former would theoretically put out around 72-94 hp (without even mentioning the potential involvement of Harry Weslake in updating the engine).

      Nissan did a decent job of further building upon Austin’s work with the latter’s reversed-engineered GM designs, though have to wonder to what extent Isuzu’s G petrol and DL diesel engines (used in the Bellel and Bellett) were derived from the GL petrol that still showing unmistakable Rootes / Hillman origins and given an indication has to how the Minx OHV could have further evolved.

    2. One of the things about copying in production designs is there is a real world test size of hundreds of thousands if not millions of units that can never be matched in manufacturing testing – no matter how many “millions” of test miles they claim.

      If auto manufacturers would stick to design formats that many other companies have had success with, and few had failures, they would do a lot better.

      For example, it’s amazing how many manufacturers have had problems with: cam phasers, open deck blocks, aluminum blocks, overhead cam chain drives, tensioners and guides (especially for V-type engines), direct injection pumps, intake deposits on DI engines, head gaskets with turbos etc. etc….

      And only a few ever had big problems with cast iron pushrod engines, and many had great success with those engines being some of the most durable and robust ever created.

      Yet look at what the manufacturers do. They put huge money into fancy, failure prone engines and steel bodies, instead of cheaper cast iron engines and lighter bodies using aluminum and composites.

    3. Agreed. One wonders how the British would have fared had they followed the example of the Japanese when it came to the latter basically taking a conservative approach to building engines / etc by building upon British developments for many decades, which in some cases were reverse-engineered from the Americans.

      Instead the British and others sought to develop mainly clean-sheet designs in order to stand out with mixed results at best (though there obviously room for improvement in some cases), even Renault played it safe with the C-Type becoming the E-Type that in turn became the K-Type (and reputedly the D-Type).

  5. in my family, the arrival of the SP 250 at the Melbourne motor show,
    and later the Majestic Major with the bigger V8, aroused some excitement
    as we’d had a few older Daimlers in the family and a brother was
    stripping down a DB17 to make something of a street rod.
    looking back now, with a little detachment, I have to wonder about the
    virtues of Turner’s V8. contemporary tests of the SP250 and the Majestic
    in the pages of dear old Motor Sport indicate extravagant oil consumption.

  6. Bob – the Rover ohv engine, which was made in petrol and diesel forms, was strongly influenced by the 2092cc Standard-Triumph diesel engine produced mainly for Ferguson tractor use from 1951. The diesel has conventional direct bores with steel dry liners and no parts in common with the wet-liner engine, and weighs around 45kg more than the wet-liner petrol engine, itself no lightweight.

    Rover had access to the design drawings for the Standard-Triumph diesel engine as a result of a 1954 merger proposal with S-T, and needed a larger and more suitable engine for the Land-Rover than the 1.6 litre OISE petrol unit.

    The ohv diesel engine they came up with in 1957 was strikingly similar to the Standard-Triumph diesel, but to add confusion, its block was of wet-liner construction, although the later 2.25 litre engines changed to dry liners to allow the required 4.8mm bore increase.

    The Land Rover four was blighted by a weak bottom end, a deficiency not addressed until 1980 with the upgrade to a five main bearing crankshaft.

    1. Understand, can now see the context of how the Rover ohv unit was conceived. It is funny how the Standard engine would end up powering a Rover SD1 via the Indian-built Standard 2000, yet have read of Rover fitting a Land Rover turbo-diesel prototype engine putting some 90 hp or so in a Rover P6.

      Had Land Rover managed to match Citroen in development a more potent 2-litre+ ohv petrol as fitted to the 90-108 hp 2-litre DS and CX, they would not have needed to consider fitting the 90-115 hp 2-2.2-litre Rover P6 OHC engine into the Defender.

      Also have to wonder whether an inline-4/6 version of a more Citroen-like Rover wet-liner / dry-liner engine would have been a better suited alternative than the Rover IOE used in the Rover P4 and Rover P5.

  7. What really was Jaguars intention with the Daimler acquisition in the first place? Was it just a matter of expanding the factory floorspace using the Daimler factory to make Jaguars, thus destroying the competition at the same time? Besides the Utah based Daimlers it was a dead man walking with the axing of the sports car line in 1964 and the Majestic Major in 1968. Except for a trickle of limousines being made for the next thirty years, Daimler had been demeaned to become a Jaguar trim-line. They really missed the boat with that one and they were all the worse for it.

    What if Jaguar had kept the Mk II and the S-Type, and sent the 420 and the MkX to become solely Daimler badged cars? What if the Daimler Sovereign had gotten both the 2.5 litre V8 and the 4.5-litre V8? What if Jaguar had offered a Daimler version of the MkX with the 4.5 and an automatic transmission? And perhaps named it The Majestic? What if Jaguar had kept the MkX for the home market and exported only the Daimler-badged version to the US? The bulk of the MkX/420G production was in its earliest years, with 19000 cars produced untill 1966 and the re-introduction of the car as the 420G with only 6000 cars produced until 1970. A V8 slush box could have given the car a new lease of life starting in 1966 and bringing home much needed income, say at least another ten thousand cars or thereabout. I would even be bold enough to say increased demand would’ve kept it in production until 1973 and the introduction of the V12 in the XJ6 bodyshell. What if the MkX had been sent to Pininfarina in 1968 for a much needed makeover á la the Series III XJ6? A heavily revised bodyshell would’ve kept it á la mode at least the entire seventies. What if the David Ogle-designed SX250 coupe had replaced the SP250 roadster in 1964? The car would’ve probably evolved to become the Reliant Scimitar GTE that we know of, but Daimler-based and with a V8, and less kit car and more Chipping Norton set. It would’ve been a more credible 2+2 than the E-Type 2+2 ever was. Ah, the possibilities are endless!

    1. I think the consensus is that Lyons wanted the nearby factory space for expansion going cheap, yes. But at the same time it is also hard for me to envisage Lyons voluntarily giving up the prominence of the Jaguar name to strengthen Daimler – don’t you think? (Even if they were the same company.)

      Actually, all this reminds me of the line that did the rounds back in the day:

      “Daimlers are owned by people of substance within the community. Typical owners are bank managers, prison governors, barristers and chief constables.

      “Jaguars are driven by their customers.”

  8. I’m intrigued by the Turner V8s. The 2.5 and 4.5 appear to be the same block and presumably have the same mounting points. By this definition they must have been about the same weight. Is there any history of anyone retrospectively fitting the larger bore into the Jaguar MK2 bodied Daimlers? If so, what if any are the reported outcomes in terms of subsequent car performance?

    1. Richard: I seem to recall from one the the Jaguar histories in my possession that the boys at Browns Lane Experimental did shoehorn a Daimler 4.5 into a Mark 2 body. Given what it did for the larger and heavier Mark 10, I expect that performance was rather vivid, although whether the chassis could handle the power is another matter entirely. I’m afraid I cannot recall any further detail and am separated from my archive at the present time. A lot of things were tried experimentally at Jaguar, but very few had a business case.

    2. The engines look similar but are different in every dimension with the 4.5 being longer, wider and taller.
      It is just about possible to shoehorn a 4.5 into the space intended for a 2.5 but adapting the environment requires a lot of work.
      Because Daimler kept investment into production tooling to a minimum capacity was very limited. They would have been able to make many more engines than they did in the given time.
      At least that’s what the Daimler club says.

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