THE DAIMLER DE36 STRAIGHT EIGHT

Summary

This web-site is dedicated to our Daimler DE36, registration number VOG 299 (now: AL-60-51) and chassis number 52825. It describes our fortunes with this great classic car, which we purchased in non-running order early June 2002. The web-site is a simple, one-page document plus nine photo galleries and two separate pages for respectively the DE-register and for the sales brochures. You can reach us via e-mail at pruifrok@online.nl

Last update is March 2014 (the chapter on the time line / history of straight eights was adapted).

Contents:

First part

·         Summary

·         Introduction

·         After the purchase

·         The first driving experiences

·         The torsional vibration damper

·         Dutch adventures

Second part

·         Diary of happenings

·         History of VOG 299

·         Expenses thus far

·         Seller

·         Import into the Netherlands

Other information

·         Time line / history of straight eights

·         Green Goddess

·         The fluid flywheel

·         Other web-sites

·         Daimler promotional sales brochures

·         The DE-register

 

Picture galleries

Pictures of our Daimler DE 36 as found

Pictures of our Daimler DE36 from February 2003

Pictures of other Daimler DE36 's

Pictures of Daimler DE27/DH27's

Pictures of Daimler DC27 ambulances

Pictures of the DE36 landaulette belonging to HM the King of Thailand

(and if you like contrasts, look at this sad DE36 recently pictured in London)

Visits to Gawsworth Hall (May '03), the JDHT (May '03), Wales (July '03) and Cholmondeley Castle (August '03)

 

What would become Britain's last straight-eight passenger car entered production in 1946. The DE36 featured a 5460cc eight-cylinder engine, which developed enough power and torque to haul its mammoth, 2.8-ton body along at a reasonable pace. A variety of different bodies graced the DE36 chassis including saloon, limousine and drop head coupe styles. The "36" stands for 36 horsepower (RAC-rating), as compared to its little sister, the "27", with a six-cylinder engine and a slightly shorter body.

Production of the DE36 finally ended in 1953, marking the end of a great era in British motoring. In total 216 were made and it is unknown how many currently survive. Ours is a limousine, which means that there is a division between the chauffeur's area and the passenger area. The size is pretty daunting with an overall length of 564 cm and an overall width of 188 cm.

Performance (from www.motorbase.com)

Top Speed

0-60mph

SQM

Engine Power

83mph

21.4s

22.7s

150bhp@3600

 Back to top

Introduction

Getting the bug

After we moved to Chester in the UK early 1999 we started visiting historical places in our region. One day in the summer of that year we went to Tatton Hall, where also a big classic car show took place. That's where we got the bug. We saw what we at the time thought was a RR Cloud II, but must have been a Wraith. You see how inexperienced we were! Anyway I got a subscription to C&SC for my birthday and slowly started to focus down on style, era, type and most importantly budget.

Selecting a type

Era was relatively easy: we really liked the early post war types, say 1946 to the early fifties, after that the styling got too modern. Being foreign, we are Dutch, it should be a famous English mark. Furthermore in view of the English climate it had to be a saloon or a limousine. I know a lot of English people would disagree, but an open car or a DHC didn't somehow seem appropriate. And the family should fit in, which ruled out the sportier types and FHC's. So my first target became a Bentley R-type or the slightly earlier MK VI.

Finding a decent example

Now we were really in to it. More classic shows followed. We went to the big Rolls-Royce and Bentley happening in Towcester and I started attending auctions. I visited some dealers and became a member of the RREC. Looked for and found good advice on how to buy a classic car, the pitfalls, the costs. The Internet, the club and magazines appeared good help and over the months I became a reasonable amateur on judging cars and finding their problems.

Kicking the tyres

I don't have a mechanical back ground, but with some common sense, a good torch and astute questioning one gets a fair way. Don't be afraid to kick the tyres, rock the doors, and look at the body fluids and underneath the car. Inspect wings, sills and all the other rust traps. Because the usual problem on early post war cars is rust. For obvious reasons it was difficult to find good quality steel in those years. Go pre-war and it is a different story: much better materials were used.

Depression enters

Early 2002 I got depressed and tired after having seen too many over-priced sad examples. We extended the search to contemporary cars and cars from the late thirties. An Alvis grey lady, a Sunbeam and even a Delage crossed my path, but nothing materialised. And then I saw a Daimler DB18 advertised. Until then I had discarded Daimlers, because I thought they were just upmarket Jaguars. My daily driver is a Jaguar XJ8 and although I love it, I wanted something different as a classic. Stupid me! Daimler became only part of Jaguar in 1960, before that they made for eighty years exactly what I had been looking for: well engineered, old fashioned styled saloons and limousines.

But the solution was near

The web-site of the DLOC and a few others told me all I needed, including cars for sale and the possibility to leave a "wanted" advert even by non-members. As we speak I have canceled my membership of the RREC and am a member of the DLOC now, but at that time, May 2002, it was a great help. We looked first at an advertised DB18 Empress and then inspected a DE27 from the former registrar of the club, who had at the time 14 Daimlers all in different condition. I had also left an "interested in a straight eight Daimler" advert on the web-site, but didn't get any reaction for some weeks.

An incredible find

And then suddenly by e-mail a one-liner: "I might be of help. Ring Peter at so-and-so". I thought, this must be a trader, but what the heck, let's phone. And then something happened, which can only happen in England. Peter appeared to be the executor to a will. And had only checked the DLOC web-site by chance. Part of the will was a dilapidated little garage in Trafalgar Street in the middle of Brighton, which hadn't been used for over a decade. But all garage items were still there from the time that an undertaker 11 years ago for the last time had maintained and stored his cars (and coffins) in it. So imagine a 25-year-old Wolseley, a pre-war Buick ready for scrap, coffins, two petrol pumps and other automobilia, rusted parts and machinery. And in the middle of all this what would become our Daimler DE36. Structurally sound after over 10 years of untouched dry storage and with good bodywork and relatively low mileage (74383 miles). But it was immediately evident that engine and brakes would need an overhaul, some of the leather was crap, new tyres were needed, the chrome was heavily pitted, the exhaust had to be replaced, and I wasn't too sure about the front and rear springs. And then a number of smaller items such as non-original front lights (reflectors missing), rear lights which didn't look right, a filler cap inside the car, etcetera. We could turn the engine around by hand, but that was about it.

The buying process

We saw the car for the first time on a Friday and a week later it was ours. I organised transport back to Chester and to my delight a bit of force and some air in the tyres was enough to tow it. I got a basic insurance and found a nearby good mechanic in Chester prepared to give it a try. And that was the beginning of the first expenditures and of a real adventure. I don't need a car to be concourse, but it has to be reliable and in good running order. We did not only want to potter to the occasional club venues, but also to do longer trips in it to the continent.

Back to top

After the purchase

Inspection

The first thing we did was cleaning the inside and the outside, which confirmed that all woodwork, rubbers and even floor mats were in good to very good condition. This includes the roof, which has a kind of inlay made from some synthetic rubber or leather with wood. Some of the chrome is still very good and returned to its original shiny state with a bit of polish, but the door handles need re-chroming or renewing all together and we are not sure about the bumpers either. Also most of the leather only needed cleaning, and/or a bit of reconditioning. The original blue has faded a bit over time and we will have to do some colouring later on the bare spots. The front bench will need new upholstery. All windows move freely and the mechanics of opening and closing only needed a bit of oiling. Body rust is minimal (aluminum over a wooden frame), but the car will need a re-spray later, since the black paint is flaking of. That will also be the right moment to decide on the final colour (royal blue?). The first priority is getting it through an MOT (engine, battery, electrics, tyres, brakes, jacks, exhaust) and the local garage has started doing just that. I've made some photocopies of the handbook to help them. Decisions to take are amongst others, should we re-instate the trafficators, should we install an extra fan, and generally how original should the car become?

To the garage (July, August, September, October and November 2002)

July 2002 was dedicated to taking the engine, the brakes (including master cylinder and servo's), the gearbox, the exhaust, wheel bearings and you name it, literally all moving and non-moving chassis and motor parts apart and checking what replacements were needed. Luckily the springs and the chassis itself appeared to be fine, but oil from the rear half shaft leaked into one of the brakes. Also other components of the braking system appeared not right, and we ended up with a complete overhaul, which delayed things considerably. The car has received basic maintenance over the years, but obviously not from an official Daimler dealer. Mind you, that might have been difficult anyway in view of the few DE36's made and in view of the fact that Daimler was taken over by Jaguar in 1960, only three years after the car was registered. Grand Parade Garage, the previous owner for some 35 years, did the servicing in-house. The first owner (from the mid fifties to the mid sixties), now known as the Birmingham Co-op, did the same. Unprofessional repairs from the past were amongst others the master brake cylinder. It must have been serviced before, but was then put together in such a way that it could hardly function. Other items, which had not been serviced correctly, were the securing of one of the back axle bearings, even the oil filter and the hydraulic brake cylinders at the front.

Then came the time consuming task of either locating the replacements or having them made. This list wasn't very long, but in view of the limited availability of parts difficult (and pricey!) enough. In addition, not all suppliers of parts appeared equally reliable, which didn't help and which was another source for major delays. In a number of cases the wrong items were supplied, despite us ordering the correct part numbers. In other instances our interpretation of "re-conditioned" was quite different from the supplier's. Anyway, we found two new reflectors for the Lucas P100 headlights (£ 150) and decided to fit an oil pressure gauge (£ 35). An oil pressure gauge is not standard on these cars, but I like to have a bit more than only a warning light. Another important replacement was the steering box (£ 375 plus £ 75 for getting it to us), which was the main source of the play in the steering wheel. In the end we had to look at three different steering boxes, before we found a decent one. The speedometer and the other dials were serviced by a local watch maker (£35).

The front bench was handed over to Martrim in Middlewich for new padding and new leather (£ 329 incl. VAT). A new exhaust is for the time being not needed and the petrol filler cap can also stay inside the car, an outside ventilation appeared not to be necessary.. Everything has been cleaned and where necessary greased before putting it together again and all body fluids have been replaced. These lubricants are: motoroil 20W50, fluid flywheel and gear box SAE30, steering box & back axle EP90.

Two new tyres (Dunlop cross ply) have been bought as spares at £ 214 each (excluding VAT and transport), although the current front ones will do for the MOT. For the rear we will use one tyre which was still in reasonable condition and one new tyre which came with the car. Of course a new heavy-duty battery (£ 75) was installed.

Tyres are on hindsight the main problem with this car. The original 8.00 - 17 cannot be purchased anywhere anymore. Originally we ordered Firestone 7.50 - 17, since on paper these should come closest. The price seemed reasonable as well (about £ 140 each excluding VAT). However, when they arrived it was a major disappointment. They were far too small by any measure. Even to the extent, that I feared for insufficient clearance between car and road. They were returned and Vintage Tyres (0044 845 1200711) delivered two Dunlop Fort 7.00 - 17, which are specially made in batches of about 30 at a time.

The total height of the original cross plies (rim plus tyre) is about 85 cm (17 inch plus twice 8.00 inch as the width/height ratio for cross plies is 100%), and is reduced to 80 cm with the new Dunlop cross plies. The tread (width) is reduced from about 20.5 to 18 cm. Just a week after having them installed Sod's Law struck: I saw 2 new unused 8.00 - 17 advertised in the Driving Member for just £ 150. Too bad. To keep it simple radials (below) are expressed with the width in millimeters and the height as a percentage of the width, while the rim diameter is still in inches: 8.00 x 17 thus translates into 205/100 x 17. And equally 7.00 x 17 becomes 180/100 x 17.

Other alternatives are:

1. General 225/90 x 17.5 radials. These should be readily available as they are small truck tyres. Although they are slightly larger (17.5 instead of 17) they have been tried successfully on a DE36 and were a very good fit

2. Michelin XCA 750R x 17 which is a radial, these tyres were still made in 2000 and would probably be a special order from a Michelin importer/dealer

3. Hanksugi HS06-1 750 x 17 which is a Japanese company that have their tyres made in Mexico, email: manuel@hanksugi.com, web: www.hanksugitires.com

 

A trip to Newby Hall in Yorkshire, the Golden Jubilee Rally (classic car show) on 21 July, brought us for the first time in face-to-face contact with other DLOC members and their cars. The result? A friendly and helpful reception, a very useful contact for investigating the missing history of VOG299 and a decision on the future colour, which is now all black. She will become Oxford blue over black which means that the wings, the side mounted spare wheel covers and the footboards will stay black, the rest (doors, bonnet and engine bay sides, the rear and the roof) will become Oxford blue. A fine gold line from front to rear just below the door handles will give an extra touch to the blue. We also found out that the lighting at the rear of every car is different, which means that we can choose almost anything as long as it is contemporary and looks the part.

During August, September, October and November 2002 we collected most of the necessary items and everything was put together again, after which the underneath got a nice coat of underseal. Also some cosmetic work was done to the chrome and the leather and we bought two trafficators. The successful MOT on 5 December was merely the spin off from much more elaborate work done. The car was re-insured and we got the (free) road tax disk on 6 December. The garage has done a perfect and thorough job, which includes most of the sourcing for parts. I can really recommend them, and not many in the UK will know as much about a DE36 as they do now. One might argue at our cost, but that would be unfair. I am not aware of anyone else who could have done the same job better, though of course I'm not an expert. And I'd like to think that Sir Henry Royce's saying in this case would be appropriate: the quality remains long after the price is forgotten. The forgetting might take us a while, but at last we will soon be enjoying the car!

Back to top

The first driving experiences

Steering at normal speeds is unexpectedly light. Crossplies give a different road feel than radials, but roundabouts and corners are a doddle. Only maneuvering in confined spaces is a bit difficult for two reasons. The car is big and consequently has a large turning circle. And secondly at low speeds steering is heavy. The car also keeps up nicely with modern traffic. Cruising at 60 mph on Cheshire's rather winding A-roads is no problem whatsoever and engine noise is limited. Maximum speed is above 80 mph, and the car holds well at that speed. There is no rattling, shaking or anything else worrying, but maintaining that speed for too long will cost petrol dearly, hence 70-plus seems appropriate on the motor way. There is no sign of the wheel-wobble mentioned in "Daimler Days", when Hooper tried to build a DHC on this chassis (see below under "History of VOG299").

Driving in the city is fine as well, but watch the space, this is a BIG car after all and I still need to learn its dimensions. Driving in reverse requires some practising, as the side mirrors don't give you any clues about where you are going, they are just too tiny. Overtaking must be done with care for the same reason. The fluid flywheel is miraculous. On level areas one can drive away in 3 (2 is recommended in the driver's handbook) and this is also my favourite setting for roundabouts and corners. A steep hill needs 2, and cruising is best in Top. The brakes work like a charm. Engine temperature settles at a nice 170 degrees Fahrenheit and oil pressure is about 70 psi when warm. An extra fan for cooling will not be needed. However, passengers in the rear compartment do complain about the absence of any heating, so we might consider an extension of the heating system. A better windscreen heater would do no harm either.

I filled the petrol tank, which had been cleaned by the garage but which wasn't entirely empty when I collected the car, to the brim with 70 liters of unleaded, it should contain about 20 gallons. I have read at length about the choice between LRP, unleaded or unleaded plus "lead from the bottle". But I fell for the argument that a) petrol was pretty awful in the early days after the war anyway, and b) these engines are not required to make a lot of revs. I can set the ignition control, and as long as the engine doesn't pink, it's fine to me. Also the petrol tank contains something called "Carbonflo" (£ 100). Carbonflo was apparently developed during the Second World War to enable the Russians, who had only low-octane fuel available to them, to fly Spitfires and Hurricanes supplied to them by the British. Carbonflo are domed-shaped cones of 22mm diameter. They are an amalgam of metals, the majority constituent being tin. They come in a ferrous metal "sock", which must be put on the bottom of the fuel tank, and they last for ever. Don't ask me how they work, that's hidden in history. But a number of people were quite positive about it and it doesn't hurt to try.

The engine starts easily from cold, without hardly any choking, and it helps setting the hand throttle part way. After a few hundred yards the engine is warm enough to close the choke again and after a mile or so the hand throttle is closed as well. When the engine is warm, no choke or hand throttle is needed. Then the engine starts immediately and ticks over slowly, steadily and very quiet. The word that comes to mind is reliability. When we've done a thousand miles, I'll tell you the fuel consumption, but the miles per gallon probably will be written in a single digit, hopefully close to 10. The only small problems during the first few hundred miles appeared a few water leaks (some screws and bolts needed fastening) and a small oil leak from the rocker cover, which was cured with some sealant.

Classic car show at Gawsworth Hall near Macclesfield on 5 May 2003

On May 5 we went for the first time with VOG 299 to a classic car show. Gawsworth Hall is only an hour drive through country roads and we wanted to support this initiative of the North-West branch of the DLOC. While preparing the car on the Friday evening before, I noticed a small drop of water coming from the radiator hose connection. A proper inspection revealed a split hose. Where to find a new one at such short notice? Luckily the solution was only a few phone calls away and by Sunday morning a new hose had been fitted. With wife, two children and dog we set off in heavy rain and half way the wiper motor gave up. Not a good omen, really. But by the time we arrived, the weather had improved and it turned out to be a lovely day in lovely surroundings. More than a dozen DLOC-members turned up for one of those nice, relaxing happenings to which England appears to have exclusive rights. We met some nice people and we saw some beautiful cars (not only Daimlers). I was also able to help David Beales, who is restoring the engine of the JDHT "Green Goddess" (see below), with some useful contacts, and I had a really nice chat with the owner of the one and only Daimler Continental. This car was ment as a competitor to the Bentley Continental, but never was a success. I don't understand why, and if it ever is for sale, I'll buy it (if I have enough money and my wife lets me, that is). The colour, mistletoe green, really suits her. Our monster attracted quite some spectators, you obviously don't see many of them around, but she was rather dirty from the rainy journey and that shows on black! Another good reason for a re-spray, when the budget allows. And the mileage? Nine miles to the gallon. Hopefully we can pick up a new wiper motor on the next auto jumble.

Visit to the Jaguar and Daimler Heritage Trust in May 2003

On May 25 we visited for the second time the JDHT at the Jaguar plant near Coventry, also known as Browns Lane. They have a small, but rather nice museum there, a must for all Jaguar and Daimler lovers. It's open to public every last Sunday of the month and during weekdays on appointment. The first time visit was end June 2002, when we just had bought VOG 299. We were unlucky then, since most cars had been garaged elsewhere to create space for the official announcement of the new Jaguar XJ8 to the dealer network. This time a special display of royal Daimlers had been promised and because there are quite a few DE36's amongst them, a visit now was a must. Much to our regret however this display of old cars had been postponed due to the temporary non-availability of a few key cars. We must have looked very unhappy, because as a consolation we were shown a separate building in which most of the JDHT cars when not on display, are garaged. Packed with amazing cars, each with their own special history, amongst others the last car of the late Queen Mother. Especially interesting for me were DE36 chassis 51740 and 51753.

Chassis 51740 is a DE36 landaulette from 1949 and originally belonged to King George VI, but was afterwards exported to Australia and used by the government of Queens land. Thereafter a Mr. Anderson, Mazda dealer in Brisbane, bought the car and she collected dust in his warehouse until he died. Charles Lloyd Jones then became the owner, until he exchanged the car for the latest Jaguar XJS (!) and Jaguar moved the car to the JDHT. I wouldn't say, that the car is in running condition, but she does run and interior and exterior of the car are quite good.

Chassis 51753 is a DHC and one of the green goddesses. This car has been displayed on several occasions last year, but currently the engine is being restored by David Beales and hence she is going nowhere. Ford America had restored the coach work immaculately, but never touched the engine, which the happy few that have driven the car since (but on hindsight shouldn't have done that!) can witness. It must have been awful, but I can tell you, a car without her engine is also a sad view.

 A wedding, two trips in Wales and a breakdown

In June we attended with the old lady the Chester Festival of Transport on the Rowdee (the race course), parked next to an immaculate MG TD, which was dwarfed by our car. When returning from some sightseeing I noticed a youngish lad, who seemed in love with the black monster. Much to our surprise I received a week later an e-mail from him, in which he hesitantly explained that he was going to marry real soon and whether he could borrow the car? We obliged and the car performed flawlessly. Encouraged, we decided that she was now ready for a longer run and we planned a 200-mile trip in nearby Wales on 9 July 2003. We drove to Conwy (castle and harbor), Bodnant (gardens), Betws-y-Coed (walkers paradise) and headed via Capel Curig for Llanberis Pass to collect our son, who had been walking in Snowdonia. And that is where she broke down, just before the pass at the junction of the A4086 and the A498. A part of the pulley came of and with a lot of kloink-kloink noises and frightening vibrations I parked her at the side of the road, creating in my nervousness also a flat tyre. Mobile phones don't work out there, but luckily there is a pub at the junction with a pay-phone and 30 minutes later the RAC arrived with a lorry. And so the old lady was brought back home, having done about 100 miles on her own and another 100 in a taxi.

A proper inspection revealed, that a heavy metal disk, rubber mounted onto the pulley (which in turn is bolted onto the front crank shaft), had come of. This disk is "glued" with rubber onto the pulley, its only way of connection, by the factory. After some 50 years the rubber had perished and the disk came loose. The disk is a damper, to dampen out any unwanted vibrations of the crankshaft. These vibrations stem from the different forces exerted on the crank shaft by the engine. It must be rubber mounted, since otherwise the dampening effect is insufficient. This rules out any repair, by which the disk is bolted onto the pulley. DIY-glues are not effective, and moreover, the disk must be mounted perfectly centered, otherwise it will create its own forces on the crank shaft. A second hand pulley might have perished rubber as well, so the only good solution is to buy a re-conditioned pulley including the disk, which must be properly balanced as a whole. Now, for me the key question was, how important is this damper? Is it essential or is it a refinement? I asked a lot of people and I didn't get a clear answer. What did emerge was, that the risk for vibrations is biggest at high revs with a stationary car. People that run high revving cars or tune engines, told me that one shouldn't drive one yard without the damper with the risk of breaking the crank shaft. However, people running low revving pre-war classics were a lot less negative. So I decided to run the engine stationary at low revs, listened for any new noises and felt for any new vibrations. To my relief none were there. The next step was a few miles including a hill, to test the car under different circumstances. Still everything okay.

The final test was a rally in Wales of 75 miles on 20 July 2003 with a couple of friends having a Triumph Stag, a Morris Minor 1000 Convertible and a Riley 14/6 Alpine (open) Tourer. We drove all kind of roads, from a dual carriage way to unclassified, steep and very narrow ones. Needless to say, that the car performed flawlessly again. I drove the car in a normal way, which basically means low revs, and had taken the opportunity to replace the two fan belts, which were a bit worn. The rally itself was great. We went from Burton Green, which is near Rossett in North Wales, to the B5373 and then to Hope mountain. Then via the B5101 we took the A5104 until just before Bryneglwys. From there over unclassified roads to the river Dee and we had an old fashioned Sunday lunch in the Sun Inn in Rhewl. The next stop was at the Llangollen motor museum (worth a visit) and the amazing aquaduct near Trevor. Then again via unclassified roads to Eglwyseg Mountain and Worlds End. From there to Minera and Coedpoeth direction Wrexham onto the A483 and back to Burton Green. A wonderful journey which took us through some of the best parts of North Wales. The only burning question left: should I worry about the damper or not?

Classic car show at Cholmondeley Castle on 31 August 2003 and subsequent trip to The Netherlands

The North-West branch of the DLOC had chosen Cholmondeley Castle between Chester and Whitchurch, very near our home, as their second show for the year. And rightly so. It is a friendly happening in a very relaxing atmosphere next to one of the most beautiful cricket grounds in the UK, with the castle splendidly placed above this all. The weather was just right and sixteen cars turned up in an area which was meant for only twelf, so we were a bit cramped. But that didn't matter. Not only got a Lanchester 10 a second place in the category “cars from before 1950”, and became a Conquest third in the category “cars from the fifties”, also as a club we received a first price for the best display! Probably not because we had such a magnificent display (we hadn't), but since we managed to convince a lot of the participants to have their cars judged in the central area (which was much appreciated by the organizers). In comparison, the Jaguar Enthusiasts Club had a really professional area next door, but virtually none of theirs car went to the central arena. That's not on, is it!

As you may understand from the above, I had taken the brave decision to look upon the (in)famous damper as non-essential and we obviously attended the show with VOG299. Not only did we attend the show, subsequently we drove her 600 miles to The Netherlands, to our new home. In total, from Friday 29 August to Monday 1 September I drove 708 miles in total without a single flaw. Terribly un-eventful for a good story. VOG299 went on motor ways in the UK (yes, M6, M40, M25), through the channel tunnel, and again on motor ways through Belgium and the Netherlands at a steady 60 mph. And that at 14 miles per gallon, I was positively surprised. I will add some pictures about the journey, but I can tell you, it was quite a happening. Before the Cholmondeley show we stayed Saturday night at the Wild Boar, a pub annex hotel nearby which I can really recommend, and after the show on the Sunday we drove to the Chesford Grange hotel near Warrick to reduce the number of miles on the Monday a bit. We met a lot of interest on the road, were overtaken by most cars including lorry's, but managed to overtake one or two. Oil consumption was minimal, and no cooling fluid was lost, although I must admit that we were extremely lucky by avoiding all traffic jams (Birmingham, Heathrow). Between Gent and Antwerp in Belgium we encountered a severe accident, but I managed to take just in time an exit and we re-joined the motor way at the next exit without any problems.

Back to top

The torsional vibration damper

There is more to say about the damper on the front end of the crankshaft, which came loose during our trip to Wales (see above). Here follows my communication with Ian Clarke, which is of general interest and hence copied here.

Dear Peter:

I have just read with interest your comments in the DE Register article in the Driving Member Volume 40 No 6 (November 2003) regarding your Straight Eight crankshaft damper and feel I must respond with some urgency. I can confirm for you that this item is essential and has nothing to do with refinement - it is there to protect the crankshaft from breakage due to fatigue failure resulting from torsional vibration at the first natural frequency of the crankshaft assembly. This oscillation is excited at all revolutions due to the impulsive nature of the internal combustion engine, but there will be an engine speed at which the impulses are at the same frequency as the natural frequency, which will amplify the oscillation and result in stresses above those acceptable for a long fatigue life. Before the invention of the damper crankshaft failure at quite low mileage was a common problem, because it did not take long to clock up thousands of stress reversals, even in the 'low revving' engines of the early 1900s. The problem was especially bad on long crankshafts such as those used on straight sixes and eights and in the early days severely limited the revs that could be safely used. The inventor of the crankshaft damper was none other than Frederick Lanchester and he will be turning in his grave to see you running without one! The original Lanchester damper was a frictional device, comprising two heavy metal discs, spring clamped either side of a friction disc in a sandwich; the spring clamping pressure allowed slippage under vibration thus damping the crankshaft by converting the kinetic energy to heat energy. This device was fitted to all pre-war Daimler and Lanchester engines up to the late thirties. In the late thirties an improved and simpler design arrived, made by the Metalastik company, which is the rubber bonded metal disc type you have, and this remains standard on engines to this day. The Metalastik type is not just a damper, but rather a tuned and damped 'vibration absorber'. The Vibration absorber is a secondary inertial mass and spring stiffness, tuned to the first natural torsional frequency of the crankshaft assembly; this results in two new natural frequencies, one above and one below the tuned frequency, and a marked reduction in the amplitude of oscillation of the crankshaft at the original natural frequency. The inherent damping of the rubber ensures that the amplitude of oscillation of both the crankshaft and the absorber at the two new natural frequencies are within acceptable limits.

It is of course possible to run without a damper fitted if you do very little mileage, but I would emphasize the following:

1) because the oscillations are torsional within the crankshaft (rather than a transverse vibration), you are unlikely to detect them by feel or sound in a well balanced engine, but they will be there.

2) we do not know what engine revs coincide with the natural frequency of the crankshaft, so it could be within the rev range you are using, although it will be towards the top end.

3) fatigue is a cumulative effect and we have no record of how many fatigue cycles have already been completed, in that your damper may have been failing gradually and have become ineffective years ago - this means your crankshaft could last for years, or it could fail tomorrow.

I would strongly recommend that you do not run indefinitely without the damper as you are putting your crankshaft at risk. The cost of replacing the crankshaft (even if you can get a spare!) will far outweigh the cost of a new, or rebuilt damper. I hope the above is of some help to you. If you would like any further information or clarification, or would like me to write little more on the subject for the magazine, I will be pleased to do so. I hope you are settling in well in your home!

To be continued.....

Dear Peter:

You will I am sure be delighted to hear that you will not have to remove the crankshaft assembly for re-balancing. In a production crankshaft assembly each of the parts is separately balanced before assembly to allow for the likely need for replacement of one or more of the items at some time in the future. It is true that the complete assembly of items is also sometimes given a final balancing, but this only really matters if you are after the last ounce of refinement and frankly most of us would not notice any difference - although we often convince ourselves that we do! If each of the separate items is well balanced this final assembly balancing is minimal. If you were stripping the engine anyway it might be worth doing, but it is strictly a refinement. The crankshafts would have been dynamically balanced by large drillings in numbers one and eight crank webs and smaller drillings in others. The flywheel plate, fluid flywheel assembly and the crankshaft damper would each have been separately statically balanced, before assembly. We can be sure that Daimler would do this to a high standard! I do not know if the whole assembly was then check balanced at the factory, it is possible but one would need to look back at the factory records to be sure - if they exist! So, all you need to do is to replace the broken damper. A secondhand one may be suffering deterioration, but not necessarily, despite the age; with rubber it usually depends on whether it has been soaked with oil, or left out in the open too long. Some surface cracking is normal, but if it does not penetrate too deep is of no concern. If the rubber is dry and not peeling away from the iron it will give you many years of good service – I do feel there has to be a degree of pragmatism to running old cars! If a good secondhand one cannot be sourced then there is no option but to have the old one rebuilt, although this presents some obvious problems, like:

1) what is the specification for the rubber (to achieve the correct tuning);

2) will special tooling be needed, in which case this will add to the cost;

3) which firm will do the work.

It goes without saying that the rebuilt item will have to be statically balanced, but this is not difficult to get done. There are certainly firms out there who can do the job, so the main problem is likely to be finding out the original specification. Let me know if this is the route you are forced to take and I will see if I can help further.

This meant that I can still use the old iron disk, because it isn't damaged. All I need to find is a way to “glue” the rubber, which looks reasonably sound as well, onto the disk and onto the pulley on the crankshaft. John Hiscox had the same problem with his DE a couple of years ago and a garage did a quick repair job with a poly-urethane glue, which still lasts! I guess, that it won’t do any harm to try this. If not, I will have to take the pulley of the crankshaft to which the disk originally was connected with the rubber. The three items will then go to a specialist.

As a final note to the previous discussion on the (in)famous torsional vibration damper: in a further communication with Ian Clarke it materialised, that the critical revs are probably between 3000 and 4000 rpm, 3000 rpm being about 60 mph in top gear. As long as I stay at or below that speed and also keep the revs low in the lower gears, it will be all right to drive. Nevertheless I have started my quest for someone who can vulcanise the damper and the pulley together again. In the end this search wasn’t too difficult: with the help of the Dutch branch of the DLOC we found Egberts Rubber in Almelo, The Netherlands, capable and prepared to do the job professionally, and by the end of August 2004 the torsional vibration damper was back on.

Back to top

Dutch adventures

So we have moved back to The Netherlands (August 2003), although I will continue working in the UK by commuting between Deventer and Wrexham. That sounds worse than it actually is. Door-to-door travel time is about 5 hours. Don't worry, I am keeping a phone and an address in the UK (see at the rear of the Driving Member), e-mail and website stay the same, and I will continue to do the register. You will notice, that I have updated the register accordingly, there is one more DE36 in The Netherlands and one less in the UK. We will be using the car at classic car shows in The Netherlands and may be occasionally also in the UK. And it will give me the opportunity to write a bit about the classic car scene in The Netherlands and compare it with the UK.

During Autumn 2003, Winter and Spring 2004 the car was occasionally used taking care not revving the engine too much, and in May 2004 I decided that it was time to get the torsional vibration damper back on to the pulley and the front crank shaft. Wout Voerman, the secretary of the Dutch branch of the DLOC, had located a company in Almelo, The Netherlands, who could vulcanize damper and pulley together again, and helped me. So at this moment (June 2004) the front and the radiator have come out to create enough space to take the pulley off. We needed two BSF bolts of 7/16 inch diameter with threads all the way (the official term is “fully threaded”), which were quite difficult to get in The Netherlands, while it was only a question of minutes in the UK. But I feel almost depressed without the car. No possibility to look, feel, smell or drive, but I must be patient. It is all for the better.

While the car was off the road I visited the DLOC International Rally 2004 in Warwick on July 13. It was good to see many old friends and make a couple of new ones. The weather was fantastic, almost too good and there was a great selection of very different Daimlers. My favourites were a couple of pre-war DHC's and I have taken a zillion pictures. I will try to put them on the net, if my provider and the remaining space permit, since they are almost 75 Mb together. It was a lovely day and no doubt a number of people will write about it, however I have one complaint: where were the DE's and the DH's? There was none! And I do know, that there are a few around in the UK in good running order. Shame on you, how can the annual event of the DLOC really be THE event without one of us? Next year we must have at least one DE/DH present!

One week later my first experience with a Dutch rally was a disappointment. In Lelystad the largest oldtimer show of the year was advertised with slightly over 350 cars and trucks no younger than 1970. Too many American “beauties” and still too many “young” classics despite the age limitation. There were a couple of really beautiful Rolls-Royce's (including the wedding car of Prins Willem-Alexander and Prinses Maxima), an interesting Isotta-Fraschini, some nice Citroen Traction Avant's, but the rest (sorry) was run-of-the-mill. The trucks were good though.

Finally end of August 2004 I could collect my car again with the torsional vibration damper fitted. That same weekend we did in nice weather a well-organised picnic tour with the Dutch section of the DLOC in the picturesque area of the river Vecht near Ommen: one Conquest, one (pre-war) ELS, one Jaguar MK1, four Daimler V8’s and our DE36. The car performed flawlessly and the company was great. Lovely! As was the classic car show at Cholmondeley early September, where I attended obviously without my car. And where I fell in love with a beautiful red, a two-tone Jaguar MK VIII with incredibly gorgeous lines (sorry boys, this can happen to all of us. Sex-appeal, hormones and so on), the best right-hand hooker I’ve ever met, I’d love to have an affair with her (if my wife would allow). On the serious side, the DLOC had a very nice stand with 16 representative models. Beautiful weather and a nice turn-up of a fairly usual mixture of different pre-jaguar Daimlers and one Lanchester. But again no DE/DH’s. Where are you lot?

The year 2005 saw a couple of rallies in the Netherlands: one in the typically Dutch scenery (rivers, windmills) around the old fortified cities of Heusden and Woudrichem, and including the Dutch National Auto Museum in Raamsdonkveer (worth a trip). And another one touring the nice country side of the Achterhoek (cottages and castles). I also visited the DLOC International Rally 2005 in Grantham (without car), but found it a disappointment: I’ve seen nicer locations and the weather was cold and wet. On top of that no DE/DH’s. Hence no photo gallery of this event. In July I decided to waste some serious money on the car. About a £ 1000 was spend on a thorough service (including new battery, wiper blades, plugs, engine oil, fuel lines and filter, inner tyre), on replacing the not-functioning automatic lubrication system by 17 grease nipples (very necessary!) and on repairing the pitman arm, which due to malfunctioning of the automatic lubrication system was completely worn. The effect of this repair on the road holding was amazing.

Back to top

Diary

16/05/02 "wanted straight eight" on DLOC web-site.

24/05/02 first e-mail of seller (reply to my "wanted" on DLOC web-site).

31/05/02 first actual inspection of VOG299 based on pictures e-mailed previously. Bid accepted on 05/06/02.

08/06/02 second visit to Brighton and payment to owner. Collection of car, small items and handbooks. E.A. Downes & Sons from Shrewsbury (01743 368271) did a good job in bringing the car to our home for a decent price.

18/06/02 the engine runs fine, and the car was moved by its own power a meter forward and a meter backward. The petrol tank was still full with fuel. Basic engine and driving checks and lubrication.

22/06/02 the tyres were inflated to the right pressure and the car was driven a few miles on private grounds. We definitely need to do something to the play in the steering wheel.

23/08/02 the front bench was collected from Martrim in Middlewich with new padding and new leather (phone 01606 834480 for quick and friendly service).

05/12/02 the car passed the MOT. We changed the insurance to comprehensive cover with mileage up to 3000 annually and collected the (free) road tax disk on 6 December.

12/12/02 the car returned from the garage All that's left doing now, is some cleaning, a little bit of bodywork, mainly a re-spray, installing the trafficators and deciding on the rear lights.

28/04/03 a new stainless steel exhaust was fitted by Peco Exhaust services (Birkenhead, tel. 0151 647 6041, recommended).

05/05/03 visit to classic car show at Gawsworth Hall near Macclesfield.

June 2003 visit to the Chester Festival of Transport and subsequent wedding.

09/07/03 trip in Wales and breakdown at Llanberis Pass (damper separated from pulley).

19/07/03 decision to drive without damper. Installed two new fan belts.

20/07/03 second trip to Wales.

31/08/03 visit to classic car show at Cholmondeley

01/09/03 trip to The Netherlands

03/12/03 car imported in the Netherlands as AL-60-51

13/06/04 visit to the DLOC International Rally in Warwick (without car)

28/08/04 torsional vibration damper re-furbished. Car had been not running since May.

29/08/04 picnic tour with the Dutch section of the DLOC

05/09/04 visit to the classic car show at Cholmondeley (without car)

01/05/05 rally around Heusden and Woudrichem, visit to the National Dutch Auto Museum in Raamsdonkveer

12/06/05 visit to the DLOC International Rally at Belvoir Castle, Grantham (without car)

26/06/05 rally in the Achterhoek (cottages and castles)

07/05/06 seven miles rally Overijssel

And obviously many more afterwards.........

Back to top

History of VOG 299

Registration number VOG 299 (validation character E) and chassis number 52825. The car had not been used for 11 years; the last tax disk was from 1991 and was for a restricted HGV. Genuine mileage appeared to be 74,383. VOG is a Birmingham number. The outside colour is now black, but there is clear evidence of grey underneath.

Help from the JDHT and the DVLA

According to the Vehicle Registration Document that came with the car, the date of first registration is 03/08/57 for a black car. However the chassis number relates to July 1950 as confirmed by the JDHT. So what happened between 1950 and 1957? The JDHT also confirmed that this chassis was only dispatched by Daimler on 26/10/55 as one of the very last and thus should have received its body between October 1955 and August 1957. Actually only two other DE-36 chassis were dispatched after 52825, being numbers 52854 and 52855 (these two chassis were the last built, in November 1953, and were dispatched in December 1955).

Our VOG 299 had been (slightly) converted for dual use as limousine and occasional hearse, but again rumour had it, that the car started her life as a normal limousine. Furthermore the VRD stated under "number of former keepers": "none since January 1978". This VRD (number M5268252) was dated 24/01/84. I have now taken the conversion out and it was obviously a later and not-original addition.

When our new VRD returned from Swansea, it showed "Grand Parade Garage" in Brighton as the first owner from 03/08/57 until 08/06/02, which is the date we indeed purchased it from this enterprise. It thus also proudly shows, that we are only the second owners from new. But that cannot be true. Neither 1957 nor the Birmingham registration number fit with this. A very helpful DVLA, we even received free of charge a microfilm copy of the very first (Birmingham!) registration document of 3 August 1957, couldn't shed more light on the situation. They also sent me a copy of the 24/01/84 VRD, which I already had, and another VRD (number D5058904) with probably January 1981 as date and also "Grand Parade Garage" as owner. Careful analysis of the two new copies didn't tell us a lot, apart from the fact that originally the very first 1957 registration document did not have an owner mentioned and was indeed for a grey car. However, somewhere later in time a little note was glued to it with the name and address of "Grand Parade Garage". This probably explains why the DVLA thinks that they were the first owners, but it doesn't reveal anything on who actually was the first owner.

Related to the "green goddess"

Looking through "Daimler Days" by Brian E. Smith my initial impression was that Mulliners Ltd. of Bordesley Green Road, Birmingham could well have made the body, but I couldn't find a body plate. On a hand written list of all Daimlers sold, of which the registrar of the DLOC had a copy, chassis number 52825 was sold in January 1951 as a drop head coupe. However at some later time this entry was scratched out. Brian Smith on page 734 mentions chassis 52825 as the one on which a Mr. James Melton of New York in 1950 had a two-door open-car produced by Hooper, of the Green Goddess type. The Hooper job number (or body number) was 9642 and the car was to be delivered to Mr. Melton in January 1951. On road-testing this drop head coupe was found to develop a wheel-wobble at around 50-60 mph. Other similar DHC's had too shown a similar problem. Some adjustments were made, but these did not bring about a complete cure. Sadly the records do not exist to provide clear evidence of the outcome.

On inspection our Daimler chassis 52825 showed to have received the benefit of modifications otherwise only available to other cars late 1952. These modifications effect improvements to the handling, steering and suspension and consist of telescopic dampers replacing the standard front shock absorbers (see also Brian Smith, page 752). The last note on file suggests that the body would be transferred from chassis 52825 to 51233. This must indeed have happened, and Daimler will have found a different future for 52825. According to the Hooper files James Melton took delivery of a DHC in January 1951 on chassis 51233. Chassis 51233 had previously belonged to Sir Bernard Docker, who had a DHC on this chassis delivered to him in June 1949 with body number 9352 (that is actually the original 1948 Earls Court Green Goddess). Elsewhere the history of all 8 "green goddesses" made, is being described.

My hypothesis at the moment is that Daimler kept chassis 52825 -with the improvements and after taking the Melton body of- in the factory until October 1955, when someone bought it and had the current body made on it as a limousine for weddings and funerals. In view of the registration number this someone probably lived in the Birmingham area. It is likely to have been the Birmingham Co-operative Society Ltd., which supplied funeral, wedding and transport services and is still in existence, actually one of the largest now in the West Midlands. I found copies of their traffic department with instructions for funerals in December 1960 and July 1962, when cleaning the car. Also the seller (see below) confirms this: the only surviving brother appeared to remember that the car was bought somewhere in the mid-60's from Stratstones of London after previous use by the Birmingham Co-op. Stratstone was the main Daimler distributor in London. "Grand Parade Garage" continued the use for hire out in the Brighton area.

We probably know now why the vehicle registration document seems wrong, but still do not know for sure the first owner and who built the body. It could have been a Midlands coach builder specialising in these vehicles such as Startin in Birmingham, but that remains pure speculation. A chance meeting with a DLOC member who has access to the early files of the Birmingham Co-op, will hopefully shed some light on this.

The Birmingham Co-operative Society Ltd.

Being a bit impatient and not having heard from our fellow DLOC member for a while, I decided to start ringing around. The Midlands Co-operative Society now incorporates the Birmingham Co-operative Society and via their head office in Lichfield I found their transport department. As I expected no files that old were in existence anymore, but they advised me to contact Dave Clayton, now 55 and the oldest ex-Birmingham Co-op employee around. He was very helpful and I spoke at length with him over the phone. He joined the Birmingham Co-op in 1964 at the age of 17, so even after my two copies from their traffic department found when cleaning the car. But he remembered the drivers mentioned well, Harry Clive and Jack Stuart.

The Birmingham Co-op would always buy from new, usually one hearse and two limousines at a time, which would then have the advantage of three consecutive number plates (which indicates that very likely two other Daimlers have existed or still exist with a registration number around VOG 299). After about ten years the cars would be sold on and new ones bought. When Dave Clayton joined the Birmingham Co-op they had a fleet of about 8 hearses and 25 limousines, all Daimlers, although he does not remember how many of which type. Gradually these were replaced by more modern Daimlers. All hearses and limousines were sprayed in a dark grey, deep silver metallic colour. Not as dark as gun metal, but more a granite look. The Birmingham Co-op had also one or two white cars for the bride and the groom with a driver in an all white uniform, but the following limousines would always be silver, as would be the hearses. They had no black cars at all. The limousines were equally used for weddings, funerals or as hire cars for transporting celebrities. Weddings or funerals would never be after 4 p.m., thus this was an excellent way to improve the use of the fleet during evening hours.

Dave also confirmed the suggestion of the JDHT. All cars came from Thomas Startin in Birmingham. At that time Startin's garages were at 1 Holland Road, Aston, Birmingham 6 (there is a motor way now) and as far as I am aware the company no longer exists. Startins would buy the chassis from Daimler and build the body, hearse or limousine, and the Birmingham Co-op would then register the vehicles, three at a time. A vehicle, whether a limousine, so passenger transport, or a hearse, hence goods transport, would always be registered as a HGV in view of the weight of these cars. Basic service of the cars would be done in-house by the Co-op, more elaborate work by Startins.

I described our VOG 299 with its vertical rear side and not with a normal boot but more like a shooting brake, and the double rear doors, one opening up and the other down (see pictures). He concluded that the car originally would have been built as a limousine and only later by Stratstones might have been converted for dual use. Hence the double doors and the rear lights, which look much more mid sixties than 1957. At the same time the colour would have been changed from silver to black. A genuine hearse as bought by the Birmingham Co-op would not have had folding seats nor a rear bench. Neither would it have the 6-light arrangement of the side windows. All leather and floor mats in the car are of the same blue colour and of the same age and look original, which also proofs that the (now removable) rear bench is not a later addition and that VOG 299 indeed started her life as a limousine.

Back to top

Expenses thus far

Purchase

Transport £ 300 (E.A. Downes & Sons from Shrewsbury)

DLOC membership £ 35

DEC membership £ 16

Basic insurance (laid up cover only) per 8 June 2000 £ 65.90 (Hall & Clarke, as advised by the DLOC), which was changed to comprehensive cover with mileage up to 3000 annually for an additional £ 21.65.

Cleaning, dying, conditioning of leather; chrome polish £ 38.16

Hammerite £ 12.80

Other bits and pieces £ 25

A few new tools £ 10

"Daimler Days", the 2 volume standard on Daimler history by Brian E. Smith, for sale at the JDHT (the museum is open on the last Sunday of the month or during the week by appointment only) £ 45

Great help from the JDHT and the DVLA £ free

Getting it ready for MOT, which includes much more. Checking and servicing really everything to the very last part: excluding VAT about £ 7200 for all labour and £ 2400 for all parts (tyres & tubes, battery, headlight reflectors, bulbs, steering box, brakes, servo seals, trafficators, number plates, clock repairs, all kinds of fluids, fire extinguisher, gaskets, bearings, oil pressure gauge, oil filters, spark plugs, "carbonflo", etc.).

Membership of the RAC (roadside, recovery, at home, onward travel and European) £ 223. This is a personal membership, so it will also cover our other cars.

Front bench new padding and leather £ 329 incl. VAT (Martrim in Middlewich, Cheshire)

New stainless steel exhaust £ 425 incl. VAT (Peco Exhaust Service, Birkenhead)

Import duties in the Netherlands € 190

New registration plates € 39.27

Valuation report for Dutch insurance policy € 110 (to be repeated every 3 year!)

Dutch insurance for a limited mileage comprehensive cover € 325 (note how much more expensive than the £ 85 in the UK)

A wonderful sales brochure of the Barker bodied DE36 hearse and limousine from Brian Smith £ 20 (I will put the brochure on the web site)

A book about Chester with two wonderful pictures showing respectively Queen Elizabeth (the later Queen Mother) in October 1949 and Princess Elizabeth (the later Queen Elizabeth II) in April 1951 visiting the city in the DE36 landaulette 51732, which was the Queen Mothers private car (I will put them on the web site) £ 10.99

Vulcanizing the torsional vibration damper back onto the pulley: € 960 for the vulcanizing by Egberts Rubber BV in Almelo, The Netherlands, plus € 400 for taking the pulley off and putting the re-assembled damper and pulley back on. Egberts Rubber kept the mould, in which the pulley and the damper were vulcanized, in case other DE36 owners would have the same problem. Egberts did a good job and can be recommended.

Service, replacement of automatic lubrication system, repair of Pitman arm € 1564.45

More work to the front and rear breaks to prepare for the December 2005 MOT € 897.93 (including VAT)

More wonderful brochures £ 45 (Also now on the web site)

MOT December 2006, including a new petrol filter and a new main electric switch Euro 483

A new radiator in April 2007 Euro 2167.11 (including VAT)

Obviously regular services (once a year) but furthermore worth mentioning:

                    another new tyre (in order to have one 7.00 x 17 spare)

                    a new petrol pump, a revision of all brakes and a new ball bearing (rear, passenger side)  in July 2009 at € 1028

                    a new rear half axle in June 2013 at € 1741

                    repair of one of the two exhaust manifolds, a complete check-up of the car (tappets, cooling system, all several oils, grease points, filters, bracket on the steering column, new sparking plugs, etc., etc.) in July 2013 at € 2687

Back to top

Seller

The seller was the executor to a will. The garage and its contents once belonged to two brothers and a sister following the death of their parents many years ago. The sister was already deceased some time ago, one of the brothers lived above the garage and died recently, the other is still alive. The brothers carried on the garage business as "Grand Parade Garage", 16 Trafalgar Street, Brighton, BN1 4EQ.

Back to top

Import in the Netherlands

This was relatively simple, although governmental admin fees amounted to a hefty Euro 190 (£ 135). She obviously had to be tested by a dedicated testing station about an hour drive away, but classic cars get a special treatment, as a number of modern requirements (front lights!) don't apply. The main thing missing, and for that I had to return on a different date and pay an extra fee, was a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), since a chassis number “the old way” on a copper plate was deemed insufficient. So now someone has etched for ever 52825 in one of her main chassis rails! I did get a couple of good advises on repairs to be done before the next MOT one year from now, and that was it. From now onwards VOG299 has been re-named as AL-60-51, which is a contemporary number. Old fashioned number plates, white letters on a blue background, have been ordered. Like in the UK for cars of this age you don't pay road tax and there are no import duties, just the costs of the test.

Insurance is however much more expensive: compare £ 80 for a limited mileage comprehensive cover in the UK with € 325 in the Netherlands! Not taking into account that the valuation in the UK was free, while in the Netherlands I was charged € 110, to be repeated every 3 years!

Back to top

Time line / history of straight eights

Daimler developed the poppet valve straight eight in 1932 / 1933 as a replacement for their slightly old-fashioned 6-cylinder 25hp sleeve valve engine. Announcement was on 13 March 1933. With 3.746 liters it developed 95bhp@3600rpm (RAC-rating 25.7hp). Hooper delivered two experimental limousines on a V26 chassis in July 1933 to Daimler and in October of the same year the first test car was ready for the road. The project received a considerable boost, when in December the Daimler Hire Company ordered 10 cars for delivery early March 1934. Daimler Hire was by then no longer part of Daimler. Chassis weight was 31 3/4 cwts, chassis price on introduction £ 900.

On the first of October 1935 the light straight eight was announced. Power of this 3.421 liters engine was 100bhp@3600rpm (RAC-rating 25.72hp). Chassis weight was 35 cwts 26 lb and the price at introduction was £ 775. This engine obviously could replace the older straight eight at considerably lower cost and hence end 1935 a revised version of that straight eight was introduced. The main external difference between cars with a light straight eight engine and the "normal" straight eights, are bonnet side vents on all (pre-war) light straight eights, which are thus lacking on the pre-war straight eights. This difference continued, when revised versions of both the normal straight eight and the light straight eight became available.

The revised version of the normal straight eight had 4.624 liters and developed 104bhp@3600rpm (RAC-rating 31.74hp). Chassis price on introduction was increased to £ 975 for the short version, respectively £ 1050 for a long version.

Finally in September 1938 also the light straight eight was revised into a 3.960 liter version, with an RAC-rating of 29.8hp. The chassis price was £ 795. This engine is also known as the "4-liters" straight eight.

After WW II Daimler introduced end 1945 the DE36 with 5.460 liters having 150bhp@3600rpm (RAC-rating 35.91hp). Chassis weight was 37 cwts and price at introduction £ 1300, although this increased rapidly. Also the DE36 had bonnet side vents, although its engine is not really related to the pre-war light straight eight. DE36's became famous for their use in the Royal Tour to South Africa in 1947 (Royalty for a long time favoured pre-war 4.6 liter straight eighths and post war DE36's). And of course a number of (in)famous cars related to the Docker-name were DE36's: the Green Goddess of the 1948 Earls Court exhibition (chassis 51233), a sedanca de ville in 1950 (chassis 52823), the Gold Car of 1951 (chassis 52830) and Blue Clover in 1952 (chassis 52842). Classic & Sports Car of July 2002 has an excellent article on this subject. The final moment of fame came in 1953/1954 during the Royal tour of Australia and New Zealand, but by then production of straight eights had already ended.

The origin of the DE36 engine is as follows: during WW II Daimler produced two different armoured cars. Firstly the well-known Dingo with a 2.5 liter 6-cylinder in-line engine producing 55 hp, which seems to me a motor similar to the one in the DB18. And secondly the Daimler Armoured Car with a 4095 cc 6 cylinder in-line engine mated to a fluid flywheel and a pre-selector gearbox producing 95 hp, which seems identical to the motor used for the DE27 although the latter produced 110 hp. By adding another two cylinders (each with 85.09 mm bore and 120.15 mm stroke) the engine became 5460 cc delivering 150 bhp.

The naming of the DE36 and the DE27 comes from their RAC-rating. This measure was instituted by the RAC in Britain and was used to denote the power of early 20th century British cars. Many cars took their names from this figure (hence the Austin Seven and Riley Nine), while others had names such as "40/50 hp", which indicated the RAC figure followed by the true measured power. Later the RAC-rating became the taxable horsepower. Taxable horsepower does not reflect developed horsepower; rather, it is a calculated figure based on the engine's bore size, number of cylinders, and a (now archaic) presumption of engine efficiency. As new engines were designed with ever-increasing efficiency, it was no longer a useful measure, but was kept in use by UK regulations which used the rating for tax purposes.

RAC h.p. = D x D x n / 2.5

where

D is the diameter (or bore) of the cylinder in inches

n is the number of cylinders

This is equal to the displacement in cubic inches divided by 10π then divided again by the stroke in inches.

Since taxable horsepower was computed based on bore and number of cylinders, not based on actual displacement, it gave rise to engines with 'undersquare' dimensions, i.e. relatively narrow bore, but long stroke; this tended to impose an artificially low limit on rotational speed (rpm), hampering the potential power output and efficiency of the engine. The situation persisted for several generations of four- and six-cylinder British engines: for example, Jaguar's 3.4-litre XK engine of the 1950s had six cylinders with a bore of 83 mm (3.27 in) and a stroke of 106 mm (4.17 in), where most American automakers had long since moved to oversquare (wide bore, short stroke) V-8s.

Brake horsepower (abbreviated bhp) or net/crankshaft horsepower (power delivered directly to and measured at the engine's crankshaft ) is the measure of an engine's horsepower without the loss in power caused by the gearbox, generator, differential, water pump, and other auxiliary components such as alternator, power steering pump, muffled exhaust system, etc. "Brake" refers to a device which was used to load an engine and hold it at a desired RPM. During testing, the output torque and rotational speed were measured to determine the "brake horsepower". Horsepower was originally measured and calculated by use of the indicator (a James Watt invention of the late 18th century), and later by means of a De Prony brake connected to the engine's output shaft. More recently, an engine dynamometer is used instead of a De Prony brake. The output delivered to the driving wheels is obviously less than that obtainable at the engine's crankshaft. Hundred and fifty bhp equals about 112 kW.

Back to top

The Green Goddess (es)

Recently the JDHT has acquired a drop head coupe on DE36 chassis number 51753, body number 9613. This car was described in the July 2002 issue of Classic & Sports Car, in the November 2006 issue of the German Motor Klassik, and was shown in 2002 at the DLOC international rally in the Netherlands and at the nostalgia show in Wroughton. This has tempted me to the following text.

According to the Hooper files eight DHC's were produced of this green goddess type. The first was body 9352 on chassis 51233 (rhd) exhibited at Earls Court in 1948 and previously owned by John Sweeney in Franklin, Massachusetts, USA. John Sweeney passed away in July 2009 and the car was subsequently auctioned via Bonhams. The current new owners are the JWR Automobile Museum in Frackille, Pa., USA. The other cars were according to the Hooper files:

Body    chassis                   date         first customer                       (current owner, lhd/rhd)
9537    51724                     05/49        F. Neild
9538    52802                     09/49        unknown                              (restored by S. Frisbee in the early 19990s. LeMay collection, Tacoma, Washington)(rhd)
9539    51745                     1949/1950    unknown                              (Clive Cussler, Cussler Museum, Arvada, Colorado)(rhd)
9540    51752                     03/50        New York show 1950                   (lhd)
9613    51753                     06/50        Fergus Motors, New York              (JDHT, lhd)
9641    51754                     11/50        J. Conroy/Eaton family of Canada     (Jim Walters, lhd)
9642    51233(wrong, see below)   01/51        James Melton, New York               (this body number never made it into a road worthy car, see below)

 

At least 5 were sold to the USA, of which 3 left-hand-drive. For a proper understanding of the story below one should realise that Hooper body numbers were more assigned like job numbers.

Although there are 8 body numbers, there are only 7 chassis numbers: chassis 51233 could according to some Hooper files both have been used for body 9352 and for 9642. The background is disclosed in Brian Smith's "Daimler Days" on page 734. Originally Mr. Melton's car was built on chassis 52825. However, on road testing it developed a wheel-wobble at 50-60 mph. Daimler couldn't cure this entirely and according to Brian Smith there is documentation to suggest that body 9642 was intended to be transferred to chassis 51233 (I’ve personally seen this documentation).

John Sweeney of Franklin, Massachusetts, USA owns #51233 since 1996 and is in the process of a complete restoration (note: John Sweeney sadly passed away in July 2009. The car was subsequently auctioned by Bonhams in the USA and is now in the possession of the JWR Automobile Museum in Frackville, Pa. USA. They will start a full restoration). John Sweeney writes the following: "The original #51233 car with headlights recessed into front wings, right hand drive, and curved dash was continuously changed and up-graded by the week since 1948. The Dockers and their chauffeur brought the car back to Hooper every week or two for modifications. The half moon bumper over-riders were added, the louvers on the rear wheel spats added, the angle of the steering column changed, the gear change lever re-worked, the inner fire walls ventilated, etc. Then in 1951 or so, when the car was no longer "news worthy" it was scheduled to be modified and sold as new to Mr. Melton. I also have documentation of the driving instability. While there may have been a subsequent body number - the chassis number remained the same - but the body was certainly not replaced overall. There are patches of the original green paint showing underneath in places. I think the doors and trunk/tail were re-worked. I could see on the inside of the front wings where the recessed headlights were welded over, and new tubular lights added as per a Jaguar XK 120, the dash changed, and some seating re-worked in the front in 1951. It remained right hand drive, and my best guess based on everything I've seen on paper and in taking the car apart is that Mr. Melton got another car in the end, the #51233 stayed in the UK for a decade or so. Some of the body was replaced, some remained as the original body. In the early 1950s it was two toned, dark on the lower half. I have re-fitted the original recessed headlights in the front wings with fluted chrome surrounds over perspex lenses. Generally, I have brought the car back to 1948 standards. The exception is that in the early 1950s, perhaps still under Docker's control, there was an applied chrome strip added, running from the front grill (1/2 inch wide) running all the way back at the waistline to the rear bumper. At the rear the strip is about 7 inches wide. When I got the car, the strip was painted over the chrome. I've seen one or two other Goddesses with these chrome strips, and like the look. So that stays. The less curved dash (from 1951) will remain the same. I tell people that mine was the first and the eighth Goddess to be made, and there were six others in between. One of the other goddesses is in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, one in the US author's collection (Clive Cussler), one beautifully restored in the Portland, Oregon area, one recently returned to the UK to JDHT, one for sale last spring in London, I've heard, returned to the US, and mine".

There is documentation available to show that #51233 was advertised as the ex-Docker green goddess in 1956 in the UK, and again re-sold by Frank Dale Co of London in the late fifties to someone in Los Angeles. It is therefore believed that #51233 only went to the US then. While recently investigating the history of #51233 John Sweeney came across a picture dated 24 June 1950 of Mr. Melton and his (left hand drive!) car at a motor show in the USA plus several others taken in the early 1950s. All pictures show a left hand drive car with front features that are clearly different from the car currently owned by John Sweeney. Furthermore people remember having seen Mr. Melton’s Daimler a few times at his place in Connecticut and elsewhere. And he apparently maintained a private car museum in Florida later, with his Daimler as part of the collection. Mr. Melton indeed ended up with a green goddess on a different chassis number. I now know he ended up with the very car that is currently in the possession of the JDHT, body 9613 on chassis 51753 (Fergus Motors being Daimler’s dealers at the time).

The one in Victoria is chassis 51754 with body 9641 and is in the hands of Jim Walters of Bristol Motors (see www.bristolmotors.com), which was under restoration, but early 2004 regretfully destroyed in a fire and probably beyond salvation. Mr. S. Frisbee (in the Portland, Oregon, USA area) probably restored body 9538 on chassis 52802 which is now in the LeMay Collection in Tacoma, Washington, USA. Clive Cussler in Arvada, Colorado, USA owns 9539 / #51745. The other two bodies are "lost".

Also the fate of chassis 52825 is known. It was only sold by Daimler in October 1955 and was registered as a limousine by the Birmingham Co-op in August 1957 as VOG 299 with a body build by Startin. It is now in my possession. The body work originally commissioned by Mr. Melton is probably lost or may have been used in part for one of the many "upgrades" of  #51233.

To describe the JDHT car as "the green goddess" is actually not correct. The "green goddess" is the right-hand-drive 1948 Earls Court car. The JDHT car would be described more correctly as "a 1950 DHC of the green goddess type". It isn't green either, but grey and dark blue. And it is of course left-hand-drive.

And to prove that the human mind is a source of useless information (we have invented the bin called "internet" to share this information with each other): there are four other famous "green goddesses". The first one is a steam locomotive build in 1925, which still runs on the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch railway. The second are of course the old Ministry of Defense fire engines made by Bedford, used during the strike of the fire fighters and already between 30 and 50 years old. The third is a salad dressing, created in the 1920's in honor of the famous British actor George Arliss, for both his play (1923) and his movie (1930). Finally the green liqueur absinth is also known by this name. It does give you a terrible headache however.

Back to top

The fluid flywheel

The following has been taken from "Daimler & Lanchester, a century of motoring history" by Brian Long. The fluid flywheel was an adaptation of an old engineering principle, introduced into the world of the motor car by Laurence Pomeroy. Pomeroy, who had been the Company's Chief Engineer for some time, was appointed Managing Director following Percy Martin's resignation in 1929. Pomeroy made the most of the 1926 patents of a Mr. H. Sinclair. It was basically a scaled-down version of the German Vulcan-Föttinger coupling, already used fairly extensively on diesel-engined ships, but totally new to the motoring public (Föttinger invented the fluid coupling around 1905 and this had been used on bus transmissions since 1926. The fluid coupling is also known as the Vulcan-Sinclair coupling. Other sources refer simply to Föttinger, Foettinger, Fottinger or Sinclair). This flexible drive was originally intended for use with an ordinary cone clutch and a conventional gearbox. The effect of this combination meant, that it was unnecessary to declutch when the car was stationary. It was largely due to the encouragement of Dr. Lanchester and Percy Martin that experiments were made with a Wilson epicyclic pre-selector gear, as used by Armstrong-Siddeley. It soon became apparent that in this combination, a striking advance in power transmission was to be found. This advance, linked with a gear that was not only foolproof, but practically unbreakable even by the very worst of drivers, resulted in Daimler adopting the system for all of its cars in 1931. Needless to say, this new form of transmission brought about a certain amount of armchair criticism. Pomeroy was told, that it would be impossible to design an oil tight joint, and that there would be considerable slip between the driving and the driven member of the fluid flywheel, resulting in a loss of power and an increase in fuel consumption. All critics were silenced in August 1933, when the RAC carried out an independent test. An 18hp Lanchester was fitted with a device that could lock up the flywheel, thus allowing the driver to have it fluid or locked. In the hill-climbing test, the fluid flywheel performed 15% better and fuel consumption overall was less than 1 mpg worse. Its only real drawback was that it did not allow push starting, as the fluid flywheel can only transmit power one-way from the engine to the wheels. Daimler were destined to be the only real supporters of the fluid flywheel, even after it had proved its worth. It continued to be a feature of the Daimler range right up until the mid-1950s. On page 128 of Brian Long's book the principle is explained with a number of simplified pictures. I have attached a drawing, but I am afraid, that it is not very good. Click here for the drawing. There is also a better picture, but beware, it is 5.5 MB. Right click and select “save target as” here for the better picture. View then the picture with a proper picture viewer on your computer.

Back to top

Other web-sites

·         http://www.dloc.org.uk

the official web site of the Daimler and Lanchester Owners Club

·         http://www.daimler.co.uk

a site dedicated to Daimler and its history

·         http://www.jdch.nl

the Dutch web site for Jaguar and Daimler lovers

·         http://www.jdht.com/

the Jaguar and Daimler Heritage Trust

·         http://www.myds420.info

a private web site dedicated to the last real Daimler ever made, the DS420

·         http://www.vandenplas.com

another site with Daimler history

·         http://www.dlcentre.com/forum/default.asp

the forum for Daimler and Lanchester owners. Help and info at the touch of a button!

Back to top