A unique Daimler racing car is set to take centre stage at the inaugural Practical Classics Restoration Show at Birmingham’s NEC on Saturday 12th and 13th April.
Having first seen the Daimler in question in 2002, it took 7 years of persuasion by former Scout master Harold Wilson to finally make it his own in 2009 after 40 yeras in a Brighton garage. The 1953 Daimler Roadster is described as a ‘pre-prototype’. Only 100 were ever made and Harold’s car being a pre-production model, it’s certainly a rarity.
“Daimler saw how good the Jaguar XK140 was selling and decided they wanted a piece of the market,” explains Harold. “So with only six weeks to go before the 1953 Motor show, they set about to making a sports car, which was a first for them.”
“They put Ken Wharton in charge of their new racing team,” adds Harold. “They went on to place the new Conquest engine in six saloons and the race team was born. The Roaster could not race at Silverstone, as there wasn’t any classes for prototypes. Through the pressure of Daimler a last-minute prototype race was put on.”
As the race wasn’t recorded, it has been difficult to acquire more evidence of the car’s history. “We have witnesses that saw the car race but no pictures have come to light as yet. The team went on the tour of the race tracks Silverstone, Tulip Rally, Monte Carlo etc. But in all these races the cars were listed as Daimler Conquests, so it’s hard to know which car was in which race. Daimler gave the car to Ken who kept it for three years, taking it with him were ever he went. In those days if you turned up for a race you just entered.”
After its race days, this 1953 Daimler Roadster has had 5 different owners. Harold explains, “One owner left it in a local village garage at Wisborough Green, in Sussex. It was left unloved for many years until the garage owner threatened to scrap it. It was then sold to a farmer in the local pub, a Mr Reilly for the price of two pints. He bought it and his son towed it home, were he set about getting it going. He saw that the rear end seemed to be very low on the ground and presumed that the back end was rotten and had collapsed.
His solution was a strong length of wire rapped around the chassis and under the back end under the petrol tank. He then wedged half a brick between the wire and the tank to keep it up!”
In 1969, it was spotted by a Daimler enthusiast who recognised the car. “It was parked outside a pub when John Beal drove past it. Being a Daimler man, he recognized it as the pre-prototype straight away. His excitement was too much and he bought the car, not for 10 bob but £1,500. In those day could buy a small house for that!” exclaims Harold.
The fuel tank had dropped in all these years of storage, and was fixed by Harold Wilson. “Within two hours I’d sorted the tank. The rest of the car is as good as the day it was made – it still has the under seal on the chassis.”