|DAIMLER, LANCHESTER & BSA - A POTTED HISTORY|
Daimler and Lanchester are arguably the most significant names in British motoring history. Daimler was that country's first motor manufacturer, producing its first series-production car in 1896. These cars were, at first, virtual copies of vehicles being made by the patent-holders, Daimler of Germany (hence the shared name, although the British company was never owned by or connected with the German firm). Within a few years, however, British Daimler cars had gone their own way in design, and only the German name was retained. Lanchester was Britain's first indigenous car manufacturer, producing its first series-production car in 1900, after several years experimenting with various prototypes.
Where Daimler cars were entirely conventional in layout and design, Lanchesters were deliberately unorthodox. Daimlers, like most cars, used the traditional horse-drawn carriage as the starting-point for their design; Lanchester owed virtually nothing to past technology, and set about designing a horseless carriage from a 'clean sheet of paper'. The results were at once innovative, ingenious, and a little alarming to conservative buyers!
The Daimler Company made fine cars, which was one reason for the British Royal Family buying its first motor car from Daimler at the turn of the century. Daimlers (not Rolls-Royces!) became the universally recognised 'Royal Car' for the next half-century, and supplied gigantic and sumptuous limousines to heads of state and captains of industry throughout the world.
While cars of such enormous bulk could hardly go unnoticed, Daimlers were not noted for their ostentation…another reason why they were probably preferable among Royals to the flashy Rolls-Royces. Chrome was rarely seen (even radiator grilles were painted black), and the maker's name, if it appeared at all, was confined to a tiny plate, or a discreet 'D' on the hub-caps from the mid-thirties. The one feature by which all Daimlers were (and still are) instantly recognised was the fluted (or 'crinkle-cut') top on the radiator.
While it produced fine cars, the company was not so adept at financial management, and was the subject of many takeovers and fiscal re-arrangements over the years. Daimler came under the control of the Birmingham Small Arms (BSA) combine in 1910, and that company soon started producing 'mini-Daimlers' under the BSA name, alongside the larger Daimlers. In 1931 rival company Lanchester was producing magnificent cars, easily a match for Daimler, Rolls-Royce, Hispano-Suiza and the like, but financially it was struggling. The BSA group swallowed the company, adopting many of its best ideas, but generally reducing the Lanchester to a cheaper 'badge-engineered' Daimler thereafter.
All material reproduced herein is copyright, held by the writer (Tony Porter © 2002), but limited verbatim extracts may be used with due acknowledgment to the author and the Daimler Lanchester Club of Victoria Inc.