V8-powered 1963 Daimler Dart roadster, a rare and unique find

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Daimler
The styling of the Daimler SP250 Dart has improved much over the years

One of the strangest little roadsters of the British sports car invasion of the 1950s and ’60s was the Daimler SP250 Dart, an amalgam of unique styling, a fiberglass body and a British V8 engine that emulated those of the Yanks across the pond. 

The Pick of the Day, a 1963 Daimler SP250 Dart, has been completely restored and rebuilt by an enthusiast owner, according to the Tampa, Florida, dealer advertising the roadster on ClassicCars.com

Daimler
The Daimler Dart wears an attractive set of alloy wheels

Thankfully, it is one of the second “B series” models that are built on a solid Jaguar-derived chassis, unlike the original “A” models underpinned by Triumph TR3 ladder frames that tended to flex badly and create all kinds of havoc, including doors springing open at inopportune moments.

The Jaguar replacement frame came about after the Coventry automaker acquired Daimler in 1960, and set about improving the Dart, that company’s last independent design.

The SP250 has a checkered history.  After a tepid introduction at the 1959 New York Auto Show (where it was reportedly voted ugliest show car in an unofficial ballot), the Dart trundled out for public sale, powered by a 2.5-liter hemi-head V8 designed by the acclaimed Edward Turner, who also had a hand in the styling. 

Daimler
the Edward Turner-designed V8 gives the Daimler solid performance

Aside from the flexible-flyer chassis, the body design was something of a weak point. It looked at the time like a thrown-together collection of trendy styling cues without much integration, and a front hood and grille that more resembled a catfish than a sports car. 

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But to modern eyes, the Daimler has shed its bottom-feeder fishiness and instead looks quite cool. With the second-gen Jaguar-derived chassis and the sonorous exhaust note from the 140-horsepower engine, the Dart has become a desirable collector car, with plenty of performance and handling finesse.

As further evidence of the SP250’s classic car credentials, the seller notes in the ad that none other than Jay Leno has restored one and proudly maintains it in his collection.

Daimler
The interior pf the Daimler has been restored

“The car is an absolute joy to drive,” according to the ad. “For anyone who has never experienced a Turner hemi-head V8, it entirely makes the car. An incredible throaty engine tone out of the dual exhaust recently redone with factory components from England is the first indication upon turning the key, followed by incredible force when its driver finds some open road.”

The fiberglass body and interior are in excellent restored condition, the seller adds, and the underbody and engine compartment are clean and fresh. Attractive alloy wheels have been added. 

A Daimler Dart in such nice condition is a rare find, and the roadster is priced accordingly at $53,700. But at the next British car show, among the sea of Triumphs, MGs, Healeys and Jaguars, the SP250 will definitely be a standout, and for all the right reasons.

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To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day

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Bob Golfen is a longtime automotive writer and editor, focusing on new vehicles, collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle. He is the former automotive writer and editor for The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com, the website for the SPEED motorsports channel. He has written free-lance articles for a number of publications, including Autoweek, The New York Times and Barrett-Jackson auction catalogs. A collector car enthusiast with a wide range of knowledge about the old cars that we all love and desire, Bob enjoys tinkering with archaic machinery. His current obsession is a 1962 Porsche 356 Super coupe.

3 COMMENTS

  1. You can also see one of these little roadsters on the silver screen…a little feature starring Elvis Presley, Cesare Danova, and Ann-Margret called "Viva las Vegas". The scene which introduces Ann-Margret’s character…there’s a Daimler in the background in several shots!

  2. I do not ever recall hearing an SP250 called a "Dart" in period. You learn something new here and there. Anyone wanting to see what these cars were really made of should look up Duncan Black.

    Also be mindful that this cars’ direct competition was the "big" Healey, the 3000, and a decent SP250 didn’t have a lot of trouble seeing one off….the Daimler just never had anything like a decent dealer network.

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