Last week’s Prime Find of the Week championed the Lotus Seven S4 as the affordable way into Lotus Seven ownership, offering much greater value than the original S1 in return for accepting a less desirable shape. With this thought in my mind, I considered which other cars still offered such an opportunity for undercutting, but without compromising on the appearance to such a dramatic degree as with the Seven. Of course, simply settling for a smaller engine or more basic trim makes this possible most of the time, but what if you don’t want to? Is it possible to have one of the most iconic classics on the cheap and retain all the grace, space and pace that makes the “original” so desirable?
I’ve previously presented a slightly careworn Bentley T1 as a budget alternative to a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow, but being realistic either of those could lead you into a financial crisis as deep as the Marianas Trench. More affordable classic luxury has long since been available in the form of the Jaguar Mk2, and although they can still potentially empty your wallet out in the blink of an eye, the sheer volume for sale at any one time means you can afford to be choosy, and there is a whole industry providing spares and technical back up should it need some attention. Perhaps the biggest risk with a Jaguar Mk2 is that for a while it became the very definition of an investment car, where a weekend with a bucket of filler and a quick blow over in resale red could net you a big profit from an unsuspecting buyer. The prospect of discovering your hard-earned cash had been squandered on such a pig with lipstick would not be at all welcome, and the risk is highest with the top of the line 3.8 litre and all of eulogising it attracts. If you enjoy sticking your hand in a bucket of piranhas, trying to find a cheap Mk2 Jag may be the sort of thrill seeking you enjoy, but perhaps there is a way to minimise the chances of total financial ruin by seeking out the less obvious and more cost-effective variants. Sure, the 2.4 or 3.4 litre engined Jaguars may seem to be the answer, but surely the smart choice has to be the Daimler 250 V8.
The Daimler has long been overlooked and as improbable as it may seem, remains so to this day. There doesn’t seem to be any rational reason for this as the bodyshell is the same as the lauded Jaguar, so the visual appeal is very much the same. The engine was the last Daimler unit to be used in a Daimler car but is by no definition a dud. First used in the SP250 sports car, the 142bhp 2.5 litre V8 was lighter and more compact than the inline six Jaguar motor, which reduced the nose weight and correspondingly improved turn-in. Transmission options came in the form of a Borg-Warner three speed automatic or a Moss four speed manual with overdrive, whilst power steering ensured driver fatigue would be minimised around town. It retained the Dunlop disc brakes and well proven coil front and rear leaf suspension of its stablemate, so the power and handling could be exploited just the same. With no real technical shortcomings compared to the 2.4 and 3.4 Jaguars, there is no obvious reason why the Daimler would be less favoured, and with production volumes around 80% lower, it has exclusivity on its side too. I suspect the real reason is that Jaguar has cultivated an image of sporting prowess and excitement, whereas the Daimler brand was more associated with the establishment and “old money”. The Mk2 was a stablemate of that most overhyped of 1960’s cars, the E-Type, and people still make the connection with Mike Hawthorn even though he raced and ultimately met his demise in a visually similar Mk1 rather than an actual Mk2. The Daimler had none of this and the actual technical facts of the case are totally overruled by notions of marketing and heritage whether false or otherwise.
We’ve found this attractive 1968 Daimler which illustrates my point entirely. For start, it’s not red which is a major plus point in my book. Red has a habit of cheapening these cars and the Light Blue paint of our featured find shows off the lines in a beautifully period and understated manner. Being a second-generation facelift car, it has the slimmer bumpers for a cleaner look and, joy of joys, it sits pretty on steel wheels with chrome hubcaps. Due to this alone, the lack of the usual chrome wire wheels which plague these cars and diminish any ounce of subtlety, the previous owner must be applauded. I can only hope the eventual buyer takes the same wise view of the matter. Whilst we’re on such topics, you’ll also notice that it’s also wearing period correct number plates which are white at the front and yellow at the back rather than modern repro black and silver jobs. The practice of retro fitting black and silver plates “because it’s a classic” should be punishable by 20 years in prison and shows a wilful misunderstanding of motoring aesthetics. Yes, yellow plates only became mandatory on 1stJanuary 1973, but they became available from 1968 so the Daimler dates from the very beginning of the period when buyer preference was a factor. Anyone with enough confidence to order a Light Blue 250 must have wanted to show it off, and what better way to advertise your purchase of a new car than having the new style of number plate? This was a Daimler owner who looked ahead and didn’t dwell in the past. The absence of wire wheels makes perfect sense if you consider this. See, it all adds up. Our Daimler is therefore unpretentious and unusual. With a low mileage, lots of history and coming from long term ownership, it could make a cracking purchase. It appears to be in very usable condition and looks like a much better bet than a tarted up Jaguar, especially at an estimate of only £7,000 – £9,000.
Here are a few pictures borrowed from the auction catalogue:
You’ll find the 250 V8 at the CCA Auction on 15thSeptember at the Warwickshire Event Centre, and we’ll be interested to see what price the hammer drops at. More photos from the auction catalogue and further details can be found by following the link below. Truly, this must be the thinking man’s Jaguar.
With our Saturday instalment of Prime Find of the Week, we’re offering our services to the classic car community, by passing on our favourite classic car for sale from the week that passed. This top-tip might help a first-time-buyer to own his first classic, or it could even be the perfect motivation for a multiple-classic-car-owner to expand his garage with something different. We’ll let us inspire by anything from a cheap project to a stunning concours exotic, and hope that you will do the same.
Just remember – Any Classic is Better than No Classic! We obviously invite our readers to help prospective buyers with your views and maybe even experiences of any given model we feature. Further to that, if you stumble across a classic which you feel we ought to feature as Prime Find of the Week, then please send us a link to email@example.com