A Daimler DB 18 That Is 75 Per Cent Of A Rolls-Royce At 25 Per Cent The Cost
Images: Pablo Chaterji
On a cloudy, damp morning in Bangalore, I finally got to see Kuppanda P Subbaiah’s much talked about Daimler. I had waited all night and morning to see it. She approached in silence, without a fuss and passed by me to park. I was excited. After all this particular car was once part of the fleet of the Maharaja of Mysore and was used by the Maharani!
The Daimler DB18 was manufactured very briefly just before the breakout of WWII and production continued for a few years after the end of the war. I was very eager to see this particular car, which had been very recently restored, and it was obvious that the restoration was of a very high standard. But this was not a restoration on a basket-case of a car as so many in India are. This Daimler was lovingly cared for by the previous and second owner who had it in his custody for decades. The current owner therefore decided that the restoration would be sympathetic.
He pointed out that none of the external chrome has been re-plated; it has been left factory original—a good thing too given that the quality of chrome plating in India is appalling in general. The trademark fluted Daimler grille leaves no doubt as to the manufacturer. An interesting feature is a miniature Daimler grille mounted in the centre of the rear bumper blade. The car is resplendent in black and ivory with a gold coachline to add a bit of drama and it suits the car well.
The Daimler is well proportioned—it doesn’t look too big from far, but once you get close to it you realise that it is a rather large car. I first had a look at the engine area and the level of painstaking research is obvious. The valve cover and block have carefully been redone to the correct Daimler light grey shade.
The firewall is polished aluminium. Small details like the knurled knobs on the Lucas ignition coil, Bakelite covers and caps and period decals in the right places are a delight to see! The owner explains that apart from the Daimler in-built jacking system to make life easier in case of a tyre puncture, the car features an automatic system of lubricating the oiling points.
Moving into the cabin, the first thing that struck me was the proud coachbuilder’s plate under the doors: “Mulliners Birmingham”. The interiors are so very upmarket British in the best possible sense. Polished wood and leather abound. The dashboard and door caps have just the right amount of gloss and not overdone, whilst the leather is just the way it should be—soft, supple and pleasant to the touch. The rear seat is like a living room sofa. There is no doubt that the restorer and owner have got it spot on. There is no over embellishment, no overdoing things in any area. The Daimler feels like it’s been done just right.
Since a drive was planned, the owner proceeded to explain to me the basic principle of the Wilson pre-selector transmission, a Daimler favourite. It made sense to me after a while. The dainty shift lever with clearly marked speeds on an almost nautical-like quadrant is interesting. The instrument gauges in white contrast nicely against the polished wood dash. It was time for a drive!
I was surprised at the refinement of the 2.5 litre inline 6 motor. The owner flicked of the pre-selector lever and depressed gear change pedal and the Daimler proceeded in silence. The pre-selector works like a charm, pity that so many of them in India were replaced with manual transmissions due to their complexity.
One can feel that Daimler is a powerful car with a lot of low-end torque. A massive sunroof makes touring all the more pleasurable. The city’s roads are not in the best shape, and it was evident that the elegant Daimler was a pre-war design, a coachbuilt car with a body-on-frame layout with stretched steel and aluminium on wood frames.
The Daimler is not a car to be hustled through busy city traffic with poor road conditions. She is a graceful, elegant lady with the very best that Britain had to offer.
As I was enjoying the drive, a quote from a friend who had a long history with various Daimler models came to mind and it goes something like this, “the Daimler was a car which was 75 per cent of a Rolls-Royce at 25 per cent of the price”.
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