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.
The car was discovered by former Scout master Harold Wilson in 2009 following a forty-year stay in a garage in Brighton. He’d first spotted the Daimler in 2002 and after seven years of persuasion, Harold was finally able to make the car his own.
Harold is a long-time classic enthusiast and owns a huge collection of vehicles that ranges from a Bentley to an Austin J40 pedal car so he knew the Daimler was something special.
“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.”
Harold’s car has travelled the globe and is described by him as a ‘pre-prototype’- only 100 were ever made and with Harold’s car being a pre-production example, it’s arguably as rare as a car can get.
“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.”
The race wasn’t recorded however and Harold has struggled to find further 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 time as a racer, the car had five different owners, none of which really understood nor appreciated the Daimler’s rarity. 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 a 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!”
The Daimler seemed destined to a life in rural exile until one day, in 1969, it was spotted by a Daimler enthusiast, who immediately 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 farmer’s son kindly offered to trailer and deliver the car to Mr Beal’s home in Brighton where it was put straight in to his lock-up, and that’s where it stayed for forty years until Harold was finally able to pull it out in 2009.
Harold also found that the rear end hadn’t collapsed at all, instead the fuel tank had dropped, something he was able to rectify quickly and easily. “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.”
Harold’s Daimler is part of the Heritage Insurance Barn Find display at the show which ranges from a rare 1936 MG TC and an ex-demo AC four door two litre to a 50s Standard Vanguard and a rare Triumph Stag Saloon. Every classic car fan dreams of discovering their own barn find so to see these cars in their ‘as found’ state is an opportunity not to be missed.
For more information on the Practical Classics Restoration Show and to book tickets, visit www.necrestorationshow.com or call 0844 858 6758.