Often unfairly overlooked as a 'scaled-down Daimler Conquest', the Lanchester Fourteen (known as the Leda in its export form) was a highly significant car for the BSA combine in the early fifties.
The Lanchester marque had already led the way in postwar production for the company, being the first all-new model to come out of the works after the devastation of the Coventry blitz. The Leda not only followed this trend of original design, but served as a test-bed for the highly successful Daimlers that were to follow. Far from being a scaled-down Conquest, the Leda was first off the drawing board by several years, and was in effect a Conquest prototype.
The engine was all-new, being a two-litre four-cylinder unit; it would later be extended to six cylinders for the larger Daimler Regency range. Similarly, the body was all-new, having the rounded lines that were characteristic of so many British cars into the mid-fifties. The early versions (Fourteens) were built from 1950 on traditional fines, with panelling over a wooden frame. The export version (Leda), which followed two years later, was a trend-setter in its field, with its all-steel construction - the first Daimler product so constructed. In both cases the bodywork was almost identical to the Daimler Conquests that came along in 1953, only the wings and bonnet differing greatly because of the Lanchester's smaller engine; some say the Lanchester grille actually suits the styling better.
The Leda was the fast large-volume product from Lanchester. A 1.5 litre engine was developed for an all-new model in 1954, with an automatic gearbox designed by Australian H. F. Hobbs, but this car (the Sprite) never saw production; an attempt to develop a Mk II version was equally unsuccessful. By 1957 the Lanchester name was all but dead.
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.