British cars have a history of becoming popular in America. This comes down to design, comfort and performance, with models like the Mini and Jaguar XK120 making a big impact. A British car that was designed for the American market was the Daimler SP250. Designed by Daimler, the car didn’t receive the positive attention the company was hoping for. The SP250 went on to be used by the British police and we’re looking into the history of the model.
In 1956, Edward Turner was appointed Managing Director of BSA’s Automotive Division. He was asked to build a saloon car with a V8 engine, so he set to work on designing a prototype. A committee was assigned to examine the prototype and they conducted a feasibility study on the SP250.
According to the study, the car would generate a £700,000 profit based on a projection of 1500 cars being sold in the first production year. Two-thirds of the sales were expected to take place in the US. The study suggested that the car needed to be made of fibreglass in order to make production more cost-effective. An estimated £16,000 would be used to construct the fibreglass bodies as opposed to £120,000 to use steel bodies.
Construction went ahead, with the first car being called the A-Spec. It utilised a V8 engine and a chassis that was based on the Triumph TR3. The SP250 also used four-wheel Girling disc brakes and was described as a 2+2, though the rear seat had limited legroom.
Launched at the Daimler Dart, the car debuted at the 1959 New York Motor Show. However, it was unofficially voted as the ugliest car at the show. Chrysler also threatened legal action against Daimler because they owned the trademark to the Dart model name. Daimler were forced to change the name to the project number SP250.
Back in the UK, the SP250 found popularity among the London police force. Between 26 and 30 black cars were utilised by the officers in high-speed chases. The Daimler’s V8 engine could crank out a top speed of 120 mph, making it an ideal chase vehicle. Police in Liverpool, Manchester and Surrey also used the car.
The SP250 might not have been as successful as Daimler hoped, but it’s still an important British classic car.